Brazil is the fith greatest state on planet earth and the biggest on the south American continent. The only portuguese speaking country in the region differs from its neighbours in culture, economy and military set up. On the first glimpse, Brazil seems to be the first candidate to be an outsider, especially after improving military force facing strong neighbours. Here one might rise the question, why and how does Brazil live in peace with its neigbours? If there are treaties or organisations Brazil runs memberships with, one must ask, how do they affect the political climate on the continent?
a) Military improvement
Decades ago, the military had no real possibilities to join a high intensity conflict but today the situation has changed. During the last decades Brazil improved its military's quality and is now owner of the biggest airforce in the region. It runs a german built submarine fleet and an aircraft carrier, which underlines its ambitions to be the regional hegemon.
The equipment of the army improved, too. Newest projects will concentrate on higher qualities of mobilty and tanks. Even a programm for nuclear weapons was run by the goverment but was closed shortly before becoming a success. All in all, one could talk of a significant improvement which could provoke mistrust on the continent. But there has not been a hegemon war on the south american continent to contest Brazil. After all, the south american militaries seem to be more busy with natural desasters, repairs and police missions than classical military duties. Even if for example, United Nation Missions are supported with personal and material.
Then again, who could be a contestant for Brazil?
b) Contesting powers in Latin America
Brazil shares its border with all states of the continent, but Chile and Ecuador. Therefore, one could assume that there is a lot of potential for conflicts. However, only Argentinia runs an army which has the possiblity to operate in greater scales on the continent.
Argentinia runs german-argentinian TAM Main Battle tanks and three high class german built submarines, highly outnumbered by the brazilian submarine fleet. Lacking of an aircraft carrier and an air force strong enough to face Brazils, the hegemonial position is clearly dedicaded to Brazil.
Although, on the long run, a coalitioned combined attack could endanger the position of Brazil, this has never happened and the country is uncontested until today. How could that be explained?
c) International partnerships
The explanation lies within Brazil's international relations and partnerships. Brazil is member of a number of international organisations, regulating the relations between the south american states and beyond. Memberships are runned within the United Nations and BRICS on the global scale. Important for the region is the Communidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribenos, because one of its functions to reduce colonialism as well as the influence of the USA in the region. The Cumbre Latinamericana is the second important organisation Brazil is a member of, because it was founded to stabilize the region. On the top of this, the most important treaty would be the Inter - American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, because this organisation was founded as a hemisphere defense system: If one member should be attacked, every other member would take this as an attack against them all.
One could state that the main reason why there has not been a case of a major war in south america and no real contest of Brazil's power exists, is the carefully created system of treaties and memberships.
d) Reasons why powers from outside the continent may contest the position of Brazil
The fact that Brazil is rich in certain natural resources like oil, ethanol, wood and natural gas is the reason why the United States and the EU, amongst others may be interested in contesting its position. The majority of fossil ressources are on the coast and sea sides and this makes it necessary to show force at the outer borders even at sea with a strong navy and a capable air force.
In South America we have the very special situation of a country gaining military power and becoming the hegemon of the region without being contested. On the one hand we have an actual militarily strong Brazil which could not be contested easily by its neighbours anymore. On the other hand there are very strong international organisations and treaties pacifying the whole continent. The secret of a peacefull hegemony may be found in the unity of the members in their interest not to fight each other but to help each other in the case of an attack from outside and may be in the colonial experience they all share. In the end there seems to be a common sense to keep out a too strong US influence in the region. One can state that strong extern interests can justify the development of stronger military capabilities without frightening the direct neighbours or Brazil.