ENTREVISTA AL CORONEL RICARDO JARA
Publicada en la Revista Military Diplomat, del mes de Diciembre 2005.
«From intentions to practical action»
Our country has seen different stages of relations with Chile, from exultant brotherhood in the 1970s to a complete freeze in the 1980s–1990s. Today Russia’s foreign policy is guided not so much by ideological positions as by common sense. Nevertheless, it does have special relations with this Latin American country. At the APEC summit in November 2004 in Santiago, Russian
President Vladimir Putin thanked President Ricardo Lagos Escobar for the warm reception and added, «We have great prospects here, including using Chile as a foothold to establish relations with other South American states.»
At present, Chile is seen as one of the most dynamic and strongest arms exporters in Latin America. Having started work with the country almost from scratch a few years ago, Russia is now preparing some important military and technical cooperation projects.
Chilean Defence Attachй in Moscow Colonel Ricardo Jara Endress commented on these and other issues for our magazine.
– Colonel, could you please tell our readers about yourself
– where you studied and how your career progressed before your appointment to Moscow?
– First of all, I would like to thank the magazine’s editorial board for choosing me to be the first Latin American defence attachй to address its readers. I am an infantry colonel of the Chilean Army. I have been in service for 30 years and before my appointment to Moscow I was a regiment commanding officer in central Chile. During my years in service I have held different posts, commanding different units, from a platoon to a regiment. This allowed me to improve my professional skills of a commander and a leader.
I graduated from the Military Academy of the Chilean Army and also underwent different courses, including parachute jumping, a course for task forces, one for translators from English and Portuguese, etc. After the Academy I graduated with honours from the Master’s degree program “Planning and conducting strategic operations.” My education enabled me to hold the positions of a commanding officer and an advisor in the Army. I hope that my service in Moscow will further improve my professional outlook and will allow me to move tothe next step in the military hierarchy, to the post of a division commanding officer. I am married for a second time. My children from the first marriage and my wife’s children from the first marriage are grown up and live separately. Our grandchild David is living with us in Moscow.
The Moscow appointment came as a nice surprise to me. It has given me a great opportunity to learn the history and traditions of your country, as well as its culture,political and public life and Armed Forces. After all, Russia has always been one of the key players on the international stage.
– Chile has shown interest in many types of Russian arms and military equipment: helicopters, air defence, armoured and amphibious vehicles, hydroacoustics means, small arms, and so on. What, in your opinion, hinders signing of contracts for supply of these products from Russia?
– When planning the Chilean budget for a new year, related to arms purchases, all related characteristics are studied thoroughly. The idea is to buy arms and equipment with the maximum operating period. For example, if we buy a tank, it must last for 20–25 years. Such countries as Chile have to optimize their defence spending as much as possible.
As globalization has set in, we have the opportunity to learn about the great potential and a huge range of military products manufactured by the Russian defence industry.
Products of MiG, Sukhoi and Russian helicopter-makers have now a greater presence on the Latin American market than before. I believe that Russians should engage in a more aggressive modern marketing instead of doing it occasionally,for example, participating once in two years in the FIDAE air show. I can point to the example of the Lada car that used to be popular in Chile. For lack of good service centers and proper maintenance services, only few Ladas are now left in the country, and other cars have taken their place. So I believe that with a market approach to advertising and marketing Russian arms will be quite competitive on the Chilean market.
– The Kazan helicopter plant has an office in Chile. This is a different level of marketing.
– Russian helicopters have generated a great deal of interest both in Chile and other Latin American countries, especially after the natural calamities and catastrophes we have seen in the past year. No matter where these helicopters have worked, whether in South-East Asia or in New Orleans, their performance has been excellent. The entire world has seen them not just doing demonstration flights, but engaged in real hard work, which, as you will agree, is much more impressive.
At present, Chile is in the process of certifying Russian helcopters and I hope that very soon we will see them not only in the Chilean army, but also in agriculture, tourism, in fire-fighting and emergency management.
– In 2006, Santiago will host the regular air and space show FIDAE, which Russia will attend. Can we expect a breakthrough in Russia’s military and technical cooperation with Latin American countries?
– I am positive that it will be so. FIDAE is an ideal site to demonstrate aircraft, all the more so as Russian products are already fairly well known in Latin America and the show is attended by companies from all over the world. I have recently talked to Colonel Arturo Merino, FIDAE executive director. He said that much had been done to prepare the event, the work was ongoing and that the 2006 show might outmatch all previous events for the number of participants and sums of contracts. The organizers hope that Russia’s participation will be a commercial success.
– During the APEC summit in Santiago in November 2004, President Putin said that Chile could become a foothold for establishing Russia’s relations with other countries of the continent. How do you see your country’s role?
– I am proud that in recent decades Chile has shown that it is a country with a high degree of economic, political and social stability. Huge sums have been invested in Chile to make it a doorway to the Latin American continent with a population of about 500 million people for all APEC member states. Chile has well-developed infrastructure – technologies and communications (seaports, airports and roads) – that can be used for the benefit of all South American countries and APEC members. At the APEC summit in South Korea in November 2005,
Chile signed a free trade agreement with such giants as China and India. This testifies to our country’s great interest in integration, mutually beneficial cooperation and trade turnover with all APEC member states. Economies are becoming increasingly open, traditional forms of business are changing and we are shifting from intentions to practical moves. So I believe that President Putin’s words are quite realistic and Chile is ready to serve as a platform from which all APEC members will launch close cooperation for the benefit of the region and the world.
– How do you get along with the Russian Defence Ministry?
What do you think should be changed or improved to step up your relations for the benefit of our countries?
– I would describe our relations with the Russian Defence Ministry as rather formal. They mainly boil down to protocol events and good wishes. Many of my colleagues are of the same opinion. I believe that interaction should be more flexible and open.
For example, why not arrange not just excursions, but study tours to see the educational process and teaching plans of the Combined Arms Academy and the General Staff Military Academy, where future commanders of the Russian Army are studying? This can help to find more contact points to give an incentive for a constructive dialogue between the military of different countries.
In Chile, relations between foreign military attachйs with the military ministry are closer, including between their wives, who feel involved in their husbands’ work. For example, the wife of General Juan Emilio Cheyre, Chilean Commanderin-Chief, arranges receptions and other events for military attachйs’ wives, which allows them to feel involved in a great cause and adjust themselves to the realities of a foreign Country.
I am not trying to criticize. I just want to make our coopertion with the Russian Defence Ministry closer, to give it a new impulse. After all, the better we know each other, the closer the understanding between our countries and the closer their interests.
– Do Latin American defence attachйs in Moscow have any organization that helps them to establish contacts with their colleagues and guides their work?
– Formally, we do not have one. But it so happens that, having a lot in common, we meet quite often, both on formal occasions and at leisure. These meetings bring our families closer and help us to overcome difficulties, to exchange opinions and share experience. This makes our life here much easier. After all, Moscow is a huge megalopolis, and people who have come here for the first time may have a hard time.
– This issue goes out before Christmas and the New Year. What would you like to wish our readers and your colleagues?
– At the end of the year, when holidays are approaching, homesickness is always strongest, you begin thinking more often about your dear ones if they are not with you. On these days, I would like to wish your readers and my colleagues harmonious and fruitful work, strong friendships links and trustworthy relations. It is quite possible that soon I will meet my colleagues on a peacekeeping mission, at an international congress or we may just visit each other. Moscow has given us a unique opportunity to make new friends and we should take full advantage of it.
Interview by Andrey Alekseyev