If there’s one thing you should know about geopolitics or military studies, it’s that provoking the U.S. is probably not the smartest of decisions, especially when it comes to war. However, it seems that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro might have forgotten this, as during the week he threatened Washington with the use of “gunpowder” were U.S President-elect Joe Biden to interfere with Brazil’s environmental policies, especially with regard to Amazon deforestation.
Still hopeful of an extremely remote turnaround for U.S. incumbent Donald Trump, Mr. Bolsonaro did not even acknowledge Joe Biden by name, saying that a “major candidate for head of state” had threatened to slap commercial sanctions on Brazil were it to continue to allow deforestation to run out of control.
“How do we face this? Diplomacy is not enough […] when the saliva ends, there has to be gunpowder.”
The following day, Vice President Hamilton Mourão publicly tried to smooth over the controversy, saying that Mr. Bolsonaro’s words were just a “figure of speech.” But by that time, Brazilian internet users had already gone into hysterics, producing hundreds of memes lampooning their country’s chances in a military campaign against one of the world’s most powerful armed forces.
Indeed, there was much truth in these jokes. According to the Global Firepower 2020 World Military Strength Rankings, a hypothetical Brazil-U.S war would be even more one-sided than the national football team’s 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup. While Brazil has only 437 tanks and 334,000 active soldiers, their perceived allies in the U.S. have 6,200 and 1.4 million, respectively. Parody news website Sensacionalista suggested it would be the “30-minute war.”
Despite Mr. Bolsonaro’s bluster, it is near impossible to imagine Brazil taking an aggressive stance toward the U.S., a country upon which it is so economically reliant. The U.S. imports almost 10 percent of everything Brazil sells abroad each year — only China buys more.
And, speaking of economics: Brazil spends 27 times less on defense than the U.S. But, were the president to make peace with his left-wing enemy in Venezuela, who knows, he could get a little helping hand against the Yanks.