Since the early decades after independence, Chile has always had an active involvement in international affairs. In 1837 the country aggressively challenged the dominance of Peru's port of Callao for preeminence in the Pacific trade routes, defeating the short-lived alliance between Peru and Bolivia, the Peru-Bolivia Confederation (1836-39) in an international war. The war left Chile an important power in the Pacific. A second international war, the War of the Pacific (1879-83), further increased Chile's regional dominance and international prestige, while adding considerably to its territory. In the twentieth century, although Chile did not become involved in an international war, it continued to maintain one of the largest standing armies per population size in the region.
Because of the prestige of Chile's democratic institutions, Chile's diplomatic service is well respected, and Chile has influence far beyond the country's size or geostrategic importance. Over the years, Chile has played an active role in promoting multilateral institutions and supporting democratic and human rights principles. Because of its strong ideologically based multiparty system, Chileans have widespread contacts with counterpart parties in Europe and are present in the international federations of Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Communists. These contacts contribute to Chile's European orientation.
During the nineteenth century, Chile's commercial ties were primarily with Britain, a country that had a decisive influence on the organization of the navy. Culturally and intellectually, Chileans felt close to France. The French influenced Chile's legal and educational systems and had a decisive impact on Chilean culture, including the architecture of the capital in the boom years at the turn of the century. German influence came from substantial German immigration to southern Chile and the organization and training of the army by Prussians. Aside from important markets for Chilean wheat in California, the United States played a decidedly secondary role.
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