President Donald Trump designated Brazil a “major non-NATO ally” on Wednesday, making good on a pledge he made to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in March of greater military cooperation.
The move, announced by the White House on Wednesday, will give the Brazilian military preferential access to American weaponry and training facilities that other nations outside of NATO cannot access. The announcement comes four months after Trump publicly promised Bolsonaro greater security cooperation.
“I intend to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally, or even possibly, if you start thinking about it, maybe a NATO ally,” he said at the time. “I’ll have to talk to a lot of people but maybe a NATO ally – which will greatly advance security and cooperation between our countries.”
Brazil joins 16 other countries in attaining major non-NATO ally status in a list that includes South Korea, Australia, and Argentina. Colombia is the only other Latin American nation affiliated with NATO as a “global partner,” meaning they are not required to participate in military action.
During a visit to Buenos Aires in April to discuss shared geopolitical aims with Argentina, Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo said that designating Brazil an extra-NATO ally “would represent a huge change for the region in terms of stability, security, and technology.” As well as priority access to unused, outdated, or excess military equipment, the designation will also make it easier for Brazil to purchase space technology.
The designation comes as the Trump administration continues to challenge Germany’s failure to meet defense spending targets demanded by NATO. Despite being Europe’s largest economy, Angela Merkel’s government has repeatedly refused to meet the two percent spending target, a failure that U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grennell has denounced as “woeful.”
One of the core tenets of Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign last year was strengthening the country’s military, which he argues is essential for the preservation of liberty and democracy. The 63-year-old former army captain was also an outspoken supporter of Brazil’s military dictatorship, describing it as “20 years of order and progress.”
Trump and Bolsonaro have already developed a close relationship since the latter’s election last year, with his campaign also pledging to greatly expand trade and diplomatic ties with the United States. “He’s a great gentleman,” Trump said of Bolsonaro on Tuesday. “In fact, they say the ‘Trump of Brazil.’ I like that. That’s a compliment.”