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Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

martes, 22 de julio de 2014

Putin y su gira sudamericana.

 

 

Putin’s South American Trip Hides Russia’s Strategic Weaknesses

By , , Column

       
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to South America earlier this month was overshadowed by events in Ukraine and the Middle East, it did garner considerable attention in the South American and Russian media. Even in Washington, commentators saw Putin as seeking to circumvent the Western opposition to his policies in Ukraine as well as retaliate for U.S. involvement in Moscow’s neighboring states with a tit-for-tat display of influence in Washington’s strategic backyard.

Putin began his visit in Cuba on July 11, where he finalized plans to eliminate 90 percent of Cuba’s Cold War-era debt to Russia—more than $30 billion out of $35 billion—and convert the remainder to a special joint development fund to support new Russian-Cuban projects. After a brief stop in Nicaragua, he then traveled to Argentina, where he oversaw a nuclear energy cooperation agreement and other deals. In Brazil, his last stop, he watched the World Cup soccer final, signed new economic measures and attended the sixth annual BRICS summit—later joined by other South American leaders—before flying home on July 16.

But a false report that Russia planned to restore its electronics listening post at Lourdes in Cuba, like earlier U.S. fears that Russia planned to build permanent military bases in the Western Hemisphere, reflects unrealistic expectations of Moscow’s capabilities and willingness to confront Washington in a region of peripheral concern to most Russian policymakers. Putin has since indicated that Russia has no plans to relaunch Lourdes as a signals intelligence center, while the government has clarified that the Russian navy only wants access to temporary support centers and not permanent bases in the hemisphere.
 
This underscores the need to keep Moscow’s machinations in South America in perspective. Russia is presenting a number of challenges to important U.S. global interests, but its activities in South America are not among them. Russia’s actions in the former Soviet republics and the Middle East are far more threatening than its modest engagement in Latin America. Even within South America, more serious threats to U.S. interests exist, including narcotics trafficking, illegal immigration networks and other transnational threats. Moreover, some of Moscow’s involvement in Latin America, such as recent counternarcotics initiatives with Nicaragua, is arguably beneficial to U.S. security.

Despite the attention paid to Putin’s visit, which follows a trip earlier this year to the region by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and one in October 2013 by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Russian activism in South America arguably peaked in 2008. That November, then-President Dmitry Medvedev led an impressive delegation of Russian government officials and influential business leaders on a trip to Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Lima, Peru. Medvedev used the APEC meeting and tour to meet his foreign counterparts, consummate economic and defense deals and reaffirm Moscow’s strengthened presence in South America.

The parallels between this most recent visit and the 2008 tour are instructive. The November 2008 APEC summit came on the heels of Russia’s August 2008 war against Georgia. As it did last week, Russia exploited the regional summit to engage in diplomatic outreach in South America at a time when Western governments were curtailing contacts with Moscow due to Russian aggression in a former Soviet republic. Not coincidentally, several South American countries declined to support U.N. resolutions criticizing Moscow’s actions in Georgia in 2008 and have done the same regarding its annexation of the Crimea this year.

For various reasons, South American governments have welcomed Russia’s renewed attention. Those leftist regimes most alienated from the United States saw Russia as a potential diplomatic balancer to Washington. Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have also sought Russian military support since the United States has denied them U.S. weapons and discouraged its European allies and Israel from selling their own arms to these countries; Venezuela reportedly purchased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons before its economic collapse a few years ago. Russia has also provided debt relief to Cuba and energy technologies to Venezuela.

Other South American countries have tried to develop modest economic ties with Russia as a means of enhancing their competitive leverage with the United States and other economic partners. In particular, South American governments seeking to modernize their militaries are attracted by Russian weapons, which normally cost less than Western ones and are often accompanied by Russian loans and more-flexible technology transfer provisions. Some countries, such as Peru, had purchased Soviet arms in the past and therefore seek to acquire Russian systems based on those earlier familiar Soviet systems.

For a country such as Brazil, eager to elevate its global diplomatic status within a multipolar world order, expanding ties with Russia was a natural step in this process. Although President Dilma Rousseff has scaled back the quest for global status begun under her predecessor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, she has sought to distance herself from Washington due to popular outrage over revelations of NSA cyber surveillance in Brazil. As a result, the government awarded several major arms contracts to Russian firms that might easily have been won by U.S. companies, helping Russia diversify beyond Venezuela, which has bought three-quarters of all the Russian arms sold in South America since 2001. Brazil is also a special case in that it belongs, along with Russia, India, China and South Africa, to the BRICS, a group of countries whose global economic importance is predicted to rise according to various economic forecasts.

Most South American countries, however, have declined to develop or deepen ties with Moscow. In particular, Mexico has remained within the U.S. economic and security orbit, as have Colombia and most of the English-speaking nations of the Caribbean. Russia has proved unable to expand its close partners beyond a group of marginal leftist regimes with troubled economies and constrained diplomatic potential. Even in these countries, Russian influence has suffered from the passing from power of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, who have been replaced by lesser acolytes lacking the charismatic appeal of their predecessors. Many of the energy and economic deals announced a few years ago have yet to develop into concrete realizable projects. Moscow’s $16 billion in annual trade with the region, as well as its $25 billion in aggregate direct investment, is dwarfed by the triple-digit trade figures for China, Europe and the United States.

The U.S. policy of essentially ignoring Russia’s aspirations in the Western Hemisphere makes sense given that the main regional concerns of narcotics trafficking, crime and immigration are unrelated to Moscow’s activities, which present much greater challenges elsewhere in the world. 

Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a World Politics Review senior editor. His weekly WPR column, Global Insights, appears every Tuesday.

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