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General News    H2'ed 6/3/09

NATO Of The South: Chile, South Africa, Australia, Antarctica

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NATO Of The South: Chile, South Africa, Australia, Antarctica
Rick Rozoff

Two days ago Carolina Toha, spokeswoman for Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, stated that "Chile has developed strategic ties with the United States since long ago" and expressed her government's eagerness to expand them. [1]

Employing the standard rationale of sharing "more similarity with the Obama administration" than with its predecessor, a pose adopted by world politicians of all stripes since the US presidential election of last November 4th - including conservatives like France's Nicholas Sarkozy - the Chilean statement could be seen as nothing more than desiring to be on the winning side and to curry favor with the new Planitarchis (lord of the planet) - as Greek demonstrators who curtailed a proposed three-day visit to Athens in November of 1999 of Obama's predecessor once removed, Bill Clinton, described the post of US president.

Even if so, however, Chile's stance is at variance with the prevailing trend throughout South and all of Latin America, with nations like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina and most recently El Salvador moving away from a "special relationship" with Washington, especially in the military sphere, and promoting multilateral international ties, notably defense agreements with Russia and a general orientation toward new multipolar international security and economic arrangements.

An equally revealing news report surfaced two weeks ago concerning an agreement signed by the foreign ministers of Chile and the Czech Republic on creating a legal framework for cooperation in Antarctica, to which Chile lays both longstanding and expanding claims.

The Czech Republic is no ordinary European nation but a post-Cold War zealot, full of new convert fervor, devotedly serving American and NATO interests in the Eastern and Central sections of the continent and acting as the intermediary for Washington and Brussels in several international capacities, from waging information and diplomatic offensives against countries like Belarus and Cuba to offering to host US a third position interceptor missile radar and providing troops for the war in Afghanistan, there serving under NATO (International Security Assistance Force) and direct US (Operation Enduring Freedom) commands.

A battle royal is in progress for securing control over the vast Antarctic region and its hitherto untapped oil, gas, mineral, fresh water and fishing resources and potential. The Antarctic's strategic military value is increasing in importance commensurately, as is that of the Arctic Circle on the opposite end of the earth. The subject has been explored in an earlier article in this series, Scramble For World Resources: Battle For Antarctica. [2]

The four countries directly north of the Antarctic Ocean are Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and all four are to varying degrees being integrated into Western military alliances; all four have bilateral military ties to the United States and with other NATO states, three directly with NATO itself.

With Britain filing a claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on May 11th of this year for one million square kilometers of the South Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans and Australia being granted 2.5 million more square kilometers in the Antarctic Ocean by the same UN Commission last year (the Australian Antarctic Territory takes in 42% of Antarctica) the region is now arguably one of the most closely contested territorial - and resource and strategic - disputes in the world.

Seven countries have formal claims to Antarctica: Three NATO states in Europe, two British Commonwealth nations in the South Pacific and two South American countries, respectively Britain, France and Norway; Australia and New Zealand; and Argentina and Chile. The Argentine, British and Chilean claims all overlap at places.

Peru, Russia, South Africa and the United States have reserved the right to future claims on Antarctic territory and Brazil has designated what it refers to as a zone of interest in the region.

Of the seven official claimants, five are members of what is generally considered the Western world, geography aside, leaving only Chile and Argentina as rivals to them.

Latin America: Chile And Argentina

Two months ago Argentina and Chile united their efforts to counter the unprecedented million square kilometer British claim, based largely as it is on the disputed Falklands/Malvinas Islands. In early March of this year Argentine and Chilean parliamentarians visited the Chilean Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva and the Argentine Jubany military bases on the Antarctic continent to demonstrate their mutual resolve not to cede either the continent or its outlying shelf to British claims.

But Argentina and Chile have had and still have their own territorial conflicts of interest. In 1978 a dispute over three islands in the Beagle Channel led to both countries dispatching troops to the Patagonia border where a war was narrowly averted.

Boundary issues in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field are still a bone of contention between the two nations. In 2006 Argentine President Nestor Kirchner offered Chile a plan to define the border, which the Bachelet government declined.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at:
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