U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Brazilian War College

James N. Mattis spoke to students and instructors of the traditional Brazilian military school.
Taciana Moury/Diálogo | 21 August 2018

International Relations

U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis spoke at the Brazilian War College, in Rio de Janeiro, August 14, 2018. (Photo: Brazilian War College)

On August 14th, U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis visited the Brazilian War College (ESG, in Portuguese), in Rio de Janeiro, on his first trip to Brazil. The objective was to learn about the academic institution’s procedures to adapt programs at U.S. schools.

Brazilian Army General Décio Luís Schons presents a gift to U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis to thank him for his visit to the Brazilian War College. (Photo: Brazilian War College)

Mattis said he would visit three other war colleges in 2018: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defense College in Rome, as well as schools in Canberra, Australia, and Singapore. “It’s a chance to learn from each other,” he said.

For Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) General Décio Luís Schons, commandant of ESG, being selected was an honor. The visit, he said, revives an old relationship ESG has with U.S. institutions.

“The U.S. National Defense University inspired the creation of ESG,” Gen. Schons told Diálogo. “However, they’ve changed over time, and there is much to share. We can exchange views, and analyze how defense matters are approached.”

A delegation of U.S. military school leaders will travel to Brazil to carry out activities together with local institutions, Gen. Schons said. The decision was made during Mattis’s visit. “The goal is to improve knowledge and boost the academic exchange between both countries,” he said.

For Gen. Schons, the visit from the defense secretary, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, was among the highlights of the 2018 academic year, not only because of his leading position, but also because of his experience as a marine and service member. “James Mattis’s journey is a great example for all service members and civilians,” he said.

During his speech to ESG professors and students, Mattis recognized the Brazilian institution as a top university in the professional military field. On September 20th, the school will receive the 2018 Perry Award from the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes individuals and institutions that contributed to the knowledge base of defense and security professionals, advanced a cooperative international security environment, and promoted sustainable institutional capacity in the Americas.

Partnership with Brazil

U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis met with Brazilian Defense Minister Joaquim Silva e Luna and the Brazilian military commanders in Brasília, August 13th. (Photo: Brazilian Air Force Technical Sargent Alexandre Manfrin)

In his speech, Mattis highlighted Brazil’s historic partnership with the U.S., which dates back to World War II, and the importance of cooperation with Latin American countries. “We remain today focused on strengthening our military-to-military relationships because we seek that collaborative, prosperous, and secure hemisphere,” he said. “One where we individually and collectively maintain situational awareness in all domains: air, land, sea, certainly in outer space today and cyberspace. It’s a time when we share information about our environment with our neighbors.”

Mattis highlighted the importance of reenergizing the defense relationship with Brazil, while building transparent, trusting, and stable strategic cooperation on existing solid bases. “We see a bright future ahead for Brazil and for our hemisphere,” said Mattis.

When asked about the future of strategic relationships between both countries, Mattis said the United States will continue to contribute toward Brazil’s growth. “The country has a leading role in the Americas, both because of its vast territory and its economy, and despite recent problems, the country will continue to lead in South America,” he said. “We have a profound respect for this partner nation.”

According to Brazilian Navy Captain Levi Alves da Silva, an ESG student of Advanced Policies and Strategic Studies, Mattis’s speech gave him a better understanding of current U.S. foreign policy in South America on defense matters. The speech, he added, allowed him to envision the creation of new partnerships.

Bilateral agreements

Mattis kicked off his visit in Brazil with a meeting with Brazilian Defense Minister Joaquim Silva e Luna in Brasília, August 13th. Topics discussed included cyberdefense cooperation and information exchange in the fight against transnational crimes.

The importance of Brazil as a partner in space defense and the U.S. government’s Space Situational Awareness Agreement signed with the Brazilian Air Force were also part of the meeting agenda. According to Silva e Luna, it was a fruitful meeting. “It allowed us to align some concepts of defense in this part of the American continent,” he said.

Defense leaders also addressed the Technology Safeguards Agreement concerning the U.S. use of the Alcântara Launch Center. “The terms of the safeguards agreement are being fine-tuned. The goal is to finalize it this year,” said Silva e Luna. Brazil’s Congress must approve the final version of the agreement. Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira, commander of the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese); General Nivaldo Rossato, commander of the Brazilian Air Force; MB Admiral Ademir Sobrinho, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces; and EB General Walter Braga Netto, representing the EB commander, attended the meeting.

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