New Defense Deal Signals Brazil's Growing Might

Foreign-policy experts sat up and took notice in mid-April when Brazil and the United States signed a broad-ranging defense treaty--their first in three decades. Lately the two hemispheric giants have been feuding over just about everything else. Brasília is currently weighing measures to retaliate against U.S. cotton subsidies, while Washington is manifestly unhappy about President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's cozy relations with nuclear scofflaw Iran--as well as Brazil's opposition to a planned U.S. air base in Colombia.

But with the new U.S.-Brazilian defense treaty, Washington is recognizing that its cosigner has grown too big to ignore or bully. Washington is all too aware of rising competition with Russia and China over aid, trade, and arms deals in its backyard. Though U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates praises the treaty, which calls for technical assistance and shared training, as a step to "deepen cooperation," the bottom line may be much more basic. In a globalized world, geopolitics is ultimately a marketplace. And with wealth and influence shifting to emerging nations like Brazil, not even the ranking superpower has a monopoly anymore.