South American Re-armament: From Balancing to Symbolizing Power

Villa, Rafael A. Duarte and Weiffen, Brigitte (2014). South American Re-armament: From Balancing to Symbolizing Power. Contemporary Security Policy, 35(1) pp. 138–162.



Since the year 2000, several South American countries strongly invested in armaments. At the same time, they increasingly resorted to diplomacy and cooperative institutions to maintain peace. This paper establishes a nexus between motivations for re-armament and recent debates on regional security governance and the emergence of regional powers. Most traditional theories have considered armament to be a function of either the perception of external threat or the availability of economic means. In contrast, this article contends that the rise in arms spending cannot be understood without taking into consideration: (a) the coexistence of a stable power balance, security community thinking and practices in regional security governance; and (b) the desire of emerging states to increase their regional or global roles. This analysis emphasizes non-conflict-driven external motives for military procurement as a new and vital determinant, largely neglected in previous research on the region's military spending. Case studies of three major South American spenders, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela, underscore the significance of non-conflict-driven external factors in military procurement. Their experience shows how emergence of regional powers has the potential to offset the contradictions between conventional security logics, as the tendency of states to purchase arms for non-conflict-related reasons equally supports balance of power and security community thinking.

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