Reuters has recently reported that, according to government sources, Brazil is very likely to choose France’s Rafale fighter jet to refurbish its air force, a decision that would award one of the emerging-market world’s most coveted defense contracts to a jet whose future was in doubt only two weeks ago. The question is why, considering there are better, more advanced AND cheaper jets (like the F18) in the market?
Well, Julian Assange responds. Wikileaks has recently exposed more than five million e-mails from Stratfor, a Texas-based company which is considered a “global intelligence” for US matters – sort of a private company supporting the CIA’s activities. And among the emails, some explicit conversations about Brazil. In October 2010, by the end of Lula’s government, a U.S. official in Brazil talked about the impending purchase of combat aircraft by Brazil and told a Stratfor’s employee, Marko Papic, the following:
“Asked a good source of mine in Rio what he thought about our internal discussion on Brazil and its military purchases. This was a phone conversation from Sunday, so I am going from memory on a lot of this. This was his answer: You are correct to be asking yourself what in God’s name Brasilia is doing. Look, Brazilian navy is shit. It is a joke, and I would know because I talk to our military personnel at the consulate all the time about this. That they went for nuclear subs makes no sense. In fact, the fact they want the Rafale’s and Gripen’s is a joke too. The F-18 is the best piece of hardware. We even gave them as much tech transfer as we give anyone, short of the Israelis. We literally gave them a package that said “you get everything, shade under the Israeli deal.” It is a great deal and anyone would love to have it. Instead they’re looking at the Rafale, which is overpriced even with price cuts, and the Gripen which is just shit. You purchase Gripen’s if you’re Slovakia.
Our thinking, and we are pretty unified on this view, here at the Consulate and in the wider diplo community is that there are some serious kick backs going on. Brazil is an astonishingly corrupt country. However, our Treasury Department forbids us to pad their wallets the way the French can. That really is it. Remember that deal in Pakistan that led to the deaths of a bunch of French officials? Guess what that was about? Sale of three French submarines for $1 billion. The French supposedly had a kick back deal with Pakistan, which is why Pakistan bought the subs in the first place. [MP: later the French reneged on paying the kickback, which — the theory goes — resulted in the deaths of French engineers in 2002].
I can’t prove anything, and don’t quote me on this, but the purchase of the submarines is so singularly stupid that it has to be part of some kickbacks. Lula is probably looking for retirement money. And look, the purchase came interestingly close to the end of his term. Same with the jets. Our Treasury Department is really vindictive on bribes. We can’t do any real business because of it in a corrupt place like Brazil. The French have no such problems [MP: not saying I disagree, but I believe the French have also made bribing illegal].
So I am sorry that I can’t give you some grand explanation that talks of Brazil’s grand strategy. It is our assessment that this is purely about bribes and the French using strategies they have applied in the past here in Brazil. The only difference is that Brazil now has money, lots of it, so it can do this stuff. I mean is it a coincidence that they are buying so much French stuff? The French know how to bribe.“