Saturday, July 20, 2013
A Rumor of War
As Chile and Peru await a court ruling on their disputed Pacific Ocean border, officials in both countries are downplaying the possibility of heightened tensions or even armed conflict. The presidents of both nations have pledged to abide by the ruling of the International Court of Justice, and indications are that the two neighbors will keep their cool. Yet, rumors are swirling that Peru and Chile have already mobilized troops around the border, and that their armed forces are rushing purchases of military equipment ahead of the court decision. El Mostrador reported that Chilean Army and Air Force commanders are not convinced the reaction to the ruling will go as calmly as the diplomats characterize, and have been reinforcing their northern bases. The Chilean Navy, though, has been trying to strike a friendly tone with its Peruvian counterparts. El Mostrador cited a weapons buildup occurring in Peru that includes upgrades to its MIG 29 fighters, its helicopters and submarines, plus acquisitions of anti-tank missiles (the Russian-made Kornet-E) and other weapons apparently aimed at countering Chile's formidable armored brigades. To be sure, some of the Peruvian acquisitions are long-term projects, such as the construction of about a dozen warships and the planned acquisition of tanks. (A deal for Chinese MBT 2000 tanks apparently fell through.) In Peru, there's concern about wargames Chile has conducted near the border. Chile calls these routine exercises. The International Court of Justice is not expected to rule until at least September. When it happens, the two countries will face a test like they haven't seen since the mid-1970s, when a political flare-up threatened to unleash a war.