How come Brazil and Mexico aren't superpowers, but Russia is?

Both Mexico (123 mil) and Brazil (209m) have more or less as much population as Russia (145m), well Brazil has a lot more.

Brazil has a even higher GDP than Russia and Mexico isn’t trailing that far either.

Surprisingly enough, even their GDP per capita (which pretty much decides how a average citizen lives) is more or less equal with all three countries (around 9.800 usd)

So, if all these countries make about the same about of money in total, same amount of money divided per capita and have comparable population levels, how come only Russia is considered a superpower, and how come only they have a decent army? Don’t Brazil or Mexico have their geostrategic interests that they wish to protect?

Brazil has a “air force” consisting of around 40 F-5 fighters, which were produced at the same time when MiG 21’s were. Brazil supposedly has 28 modern J-39 Gripens on order, so that’s something, but still it’s nothing for a country of that level.

Mexico on the other hand doesn’t have a single fighter plane, whatsoever! Poor eastern European countries, 10 to 15 times smaller and weaker than Mexico have usually around 12 fourth gen MiG 29 fighters and Mexico doesn’t have even a third gen fighter, how and why?

Probably because Russia has enough nuclear ICBMs to wipe out any country on earth.

I think you just answered your own question. Russia is a superpower because they have an army; Mexico and Brazil don’t have an army so they’re not a superpower. In a similar vein is the quip - “A language is a dialect with an army and navy.”

Yeah, Mexico and Brazil have never invaded anybody.

What country is going to invade Mexico? There’s only one country that could do that, and if that country does decide to invade Mexico, a couple dozen third rate fighters aren’t going to do squat.

I would say history is the main reason. Prior to the 20th century, Russia was part of the European imperial world. In the mid-20th century, the USSR was very instrumental in winning WWII. Because of these historical factors, Russia established their status. Other countries of similar population and GDP did not have the same level of participation in world events.

Well why doesn’t Brazil have any? Pakistan has them, Saudi Arabia was thinking about getting them, even South Africa had them at one point, or was close to getting them at least. Brazil is a much larger and more serious country than any of them, so shouldn’t they have a respectable army as well?

Except Paraguay, where Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay fought with Paraguay and the end result was 70% of adult paraguayan males being killed, which makes it one of the worst wars in history. It did happen in the century, but it still happened.

Brazil has a lot of neighbors, smaller and stronger ones, maybe they are in ok relations with them now, but what if things change over time? Same goes for Mexico, sure, if would get “rekt” in a war with USA, but what about neighboring countries on the south, maybe separatists of some sort and so on?

My country of Serbia is a living example of this, we had all scenarios, separatists and neighbors that are both smaller, equal and stronger than us and over different periods of history we were either allied, neutral or enemies with them. Now inflate that by at least 10 times and you’d get Brazil, wouldn’t you want a big army in that situation?

Maybe its a relic of the cold war and a relic of how important the USSR was to the WW2 effort (most fighting was on the eastern front).

Also Russia has the ability and willingness to project military power internationally. They support military agendas all over the world in the middle east, Africa, Latin America, etc. During the cold war not only did USSR troops get sent to lots of places, but so did military aid to insurgencies all over the world.

Brazil and Mexico do not. They do not project geopolitical power or military power. The USSR and the US are global military powers, places like Israel and Saudi Arabia are regional military powers. Mexico and Brazil aren’t even regional powers.

Also during the height of the cold war, the USSR prioritized science. As a result the level of human capital (at least at the top) was pretty good. I do not believe Brazil or Mexico have that level of high end human capital that the USSR did during the cold war when the USSR was winning the space race for a while.

Mexico’s military is to prevent civil unrest and perhaps prevent minor border incursions along its south, not prevent a full-bore invasion. They don’t have to worry about invasion because what country exactly would want to invade Mexico that the US would want to see in charge of Mexico? I can’t think of any off-hand and it’s pretty reasonable to assume that the US is not going to let an apparently bellicose country set up shop on its southern border.

To answer the OP’s question. Russia is not considered a superpower. A superpower is a global power that everyone needs to worry about (worry in the sense that they need to at least ponder their actions in light of potential responses from that power. Not worry in the sense that the Theodore Roosevelt is going to steam (nuke?) into their port with a few thousand angry marines - although some countries might worry about that as well.) Russia is not such an entity. Russia is a regional power. People in Mexico or Singapore don’t give a fig about what Russia thinks about their affairs and there’s not much Russia can do about it. Russia’s sphere of influence is largely limited to countries that rely on it for energy and a few that it props up militarily (I’m sure Assad loses a ton of sleep over what happens when Putin decides he’s not worth keeping around.) It has also used its rather formidable skills in ‘The Cyber’-as our President would say-to project more power than one would typically think they should have (not that you can blame them for it, but you can certainly blame us for letting it happen.)

Pakistan has India (with nukes). Saudi Arabia has Israel (with nukes) and Iran (wants nukes). South Africa was a pariah state at the time with few friends and lots of enemies; they developed nukes for the same reason North Korea has them - to stave off any attempt to oust those in control. And what the heck does “more serious country” mean?

Brazil gets excited about soccer. They have no regional rivals and no realistic military threat. Why would they invest in nukes or a major military?

Yeah, I didn’t know what to say about ‘more serious.’ That’s a strange turn of phrase. How does one become a serious country exactly and what is the opposite? Goofy? or Chill? Where are the ‘chill’ countries? I vote for New Zealand. They seem to just be chilling down there. They’ve got their sheep, their pretty scenery, a few nice beaches. I can see New Zealand as your hippy uncle who never got married. You don’t really know where he’s going in life, but he sure looks happy doing it.

If someone can explain what the geopolitical interests Mexico and Brazil have that would require them to threaten or use military force, then we have a starting point for this discussion.

Russia has a long, long history of either threatening its neighbors or being threatened by its neighbors, with tens of millions of dead Russians as the price. Of course they are interested in tools that help them project influence and strength outside their borders.

I’m not strong on the history of Mexico and Brazil, but I don’t see anything even remotely on the same level (save for a foolish dalliance with the Zimmerman Telegram and some stupid wars with the U.S. that people barely remember). Why should countries invest more in their armed forces if they are doing just fine? It’s sort of like me telling you that you need to get a boat. No, I don’t really care if you have any water near you: you need a boat. For the status. So go get a boat, or you’re weak.

Russia isn’t a superpower, the USSR was but that broke up. Russia is a regional power and would probably be a great power if that word wasn’t more suited to a century or two ago, but the US is currently the world’s only superpower. Russia does a lot more military ventures than Mexico or Brazil because it’s capable of doing so and wants to do so - Mexico is a wreck internally from what I understand, and Brazil just doesn’t see any benefit to throwing its weight around. Russia is much closer to a lot of significant areas (Middle East, Europe, China and Japan are all on its borders) so has a lot of places within easy reach that it likes to project power and use force, Brazil and Mexico just don’t have that kind of thing going on in their neighborhood, and if they did the US would probably be too interested to let them decide what happens.

  1. True, also the Cisplatine War, Brazil v the United Provinces (proto-Argentina) in the 1820’s within South America. And Brazil played a more active role in the world wars than most other Latin American countries though some others nominally entered WWI and more WWII on the side of the Entente/Allies. Brazil contributed naval forces in both WW’s, and a reinforced division sized expeditionary force which fought in Italy in 1944-45.

  2. The basic difference is a completely different history. In one case it’s an area, the Balkans, which was contested by major empires and countries for centuries. In the other it’s a place with a long history of indigenous peoples but where Europeans came in recent centuries and concentrated on dominating or pushing out the natives in each separate area, and less on fighting with one another, especially in South America where almost all the colonies were of one country, Spain, and the big exception Brazil a colony of a country, Portugal, sort of a rival of Spain’s but which maintained more often than not tolerable relations with Spain back in Europe. Then with the rise of the US in the 19th century the whole area became somewhat of a US sphere of influence.

Which is the big reason why Mexico for example has never had much of a military. It applies a bit less to the ‘southern cone’ South American countries which have more of a tradition of capable military forces* but is still a different situation than countries in Europe with a long history of constantly invading/being invaded by opponents from near and far. The history of South America is of culturally similar countries, mainly a single mother country Spain, and again a not greatly incompatible mother country in Portugal, and also generally limited non-US overseas interference in the area because the US saw it in its interests, and mainly within its abilities especially from the late 19th century on, to prevent it.

*navies particularly from the late 19th century. Brazil’s navy was at times superior at least on paper to the US Navy when the latter was allowed to go to seed after the US Civil War and prior to the modernization during the 1890’s. And more recently Argentina and Brazil both had covert nuclear weapons programs they definitively abandoned in the 1990’s.

I think it’s safe to say that, even if Russia isn’t a superpower today, Putin would certainly like his country to be considered one again.

I mean, Putin’s influence goes way beyond the region. He has placed puppet rulers in countries like Syria and…


Some… other… place…

So, the thesis here is that having a strong military is a requirement of being a superpower. And that Russia is a superpower because it has a strong military, which was a necessity given it’s location with regard to Euro-Asian history of conquest among neighbors. In the New World, with it’s shorter modern history (since 1521) and more homogeneous ruling societies, such a military build-up did not occur, except in one case (the US.). Interesting.

Russia isn’t a superpower any more. Sure, they have a bunch of nukes and a bunch of rusting old equipment and a large military. But their economy can’t support a modern military, their economy is smaller than South Korea’s, and somewhere between a tenth and a quarter the size of China’s depending on what numbers you believe.

Russia is not a rich country, it is a middle income country. It’s a bit better off than Mexico and Brazil, but not dramatically so.

Russia does have a much more capable military than either of those countries, due to the factors everyone has talked about. In the fairly recent past the economic disparity between Russia and other European countries was not so great. Russia has a tradition of centralized authoritarian government and a nationalistic population. World War II thoroughly militarized the USSR, they fought a desperate war for national survival and won, and then conquered their invader. That left a mark on the national character. World War II left the USSR with a confidence in their military powers.

It’s one thing to have a military that mostly stands around and puts down some revolting peasants, it’s another to have a military that has fought real wars, even though World War II was a long time ago, and the record of the Russian/Soviet military since then has been mixed.

In 1842 Mexico invaded Texas.

If you ignore the Spanish Conquistadors, Brazil doesn’t have a history of invasion or being an invader. Russia, OTOH, has been a cross-continent battleground for centuries – much back and forth action, primarily in the Eurasia area. Hard to remain isolated if you’re in the center of a continent. The ocean, the jungle and the Andes have been Brazil’s friends in this regard.

So there’s a good reason for Russia to develop a militaristic attitude and bristle at any perceived threat; Brazil, not so much.