As Trump’s international policies have fenced the US apart from their American neighbors in the South, the Eastern giants of Russia and People’s Republics of China have made their own path to strengthen relations with fast-growing Latin America, performing delicate movements that have been seen as unthreatening by Washington.
It is undeniable that, in our century of diplomatic subtlety, global political tensions among world powers have softened since the fall of the Wall. Despite occasional exceptions of Vietnam-like interference (see Kremlin and Whitehouse’s participation in the Ukraine and Syria conflict), fights for territorial dominance have apparently lessened. But the keyword is apparently.
The fact is that in a context of an almost pacified Third World, in which countries have evolved away from the likelihood of bursting into social revolutions, financing guerilla warfares is no longer an option to make new friends. This is a lesson that the Eastern Giants have understood very well by making international trade the modus operandi of their seeming geopolitical plan in the Latin Sphere.
China and Russia: The Early Approaches
In February 2014, while the water was boiling due to the Ukraine issue and the starring role of Russia, Moscow announced that it was considering agreements with some Latin American nations for military access to airfields in Central America and the Caribbean. This was a milestone for Russian diplomacy on the continent, which arose since 2012 in an advantage of the geopolitical context of the region.
This period was a very interesting phase for the economic relations between the eastern bloc and the Latin region due to the apogee of left-wing democracies in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Nicaragua. Plus Cuba, whose reluctant position against the US eased the strengthening of intercontinental networks, through several presidential visits from both Putin and Xi Jinping’s representatives.
However, In spite of the intrusive achievements, and the huge amounts of money that the Asian couple invested (around $260 billion from China since 2005), their privileged position was affected as 2015 unfolded. The year when massive changes happened in Latin American geopolitics: from the reconnection of Cuba and the US to political scandals in Brazil and Venezuela.
Latin America: An Opportunistic Crusade
After a year of restrained diplomacy from China and Russia within Latin America, Trump’s election and his early protectionist and separatist attitudes within the Americas was the key factor to start a new wave of approaches from the eastern couple to the region.
Xi Jinping couldn’t wait to start his tour throughout Latin America after Donald Trump’s denial to keep working with the Transpacific Asociation, a resolution of Obama’s governance that aimed to help the penetration of US inside Asia-Pacific economies, at the expense of the segregation of China.
The Beijing administration seemed fully willing to fill the gap of an international trade proposal, and to take advantage of the US, by making a counteroffer for an issue that had passed several years under discussion.
On the other hand, Russia, hasn’t missed the opportunity either, no matter how forward China might be (Russia’s bilateral trade with the region amounted to $18.8 billion, by contrast to the $257.9 billion in bilateral trade between the region and China), the giant entered the race with technological, military, and security leanings to the Latin sphere.
Mapping everything up, interesting facts can be discovered regarding the penetration of Russia and, especially, China in the region. As diplomatic relations between US and Latin American countries get weaker due to nationalist and insulating promises from Trump’s governance, China increases its popularity among this fast-growing section of the World.
For sure both Russia and China have understood, in opposition to Trump’s beliefs, that building new walls is not the way to go. Opening and broadening connections is the factor to success in a globalized World dynamic in which Latin American producers are looking for new trade partners in a panorama of uncertainty driven by the unwary businessman in the White House.
Though the memories of the split of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China leads us to look upon a complete reunion with much skepticism, yet their behavior during the last decade proves that their interests might be aligned.
A global China has invested trillions in the reinforcement of its economic dominance over Asia Pacific while Russia has put a big part of its military machinery into becoming the almighty protector of the continental section of the East. Both have spent the past year on making a big effort to consolidate themselves as the world powers of the Eastern Hemisphere and have recently met in their respective approaches to Latin America.
Although an effective pact is not yet a fact between them yet, their coordination of international issues has been an alarm signal for analysts that suggest it might be related to a geopolitical plan that, by now, looks like a game to dethrone the United States.
Regarding Latin American concerns, their aims are still unclear, but the increasing participation of the couple with mainly economic issues of the Latin hemisphere shows their endeavors of forming better relations with the region and rooting their clout among its countries. In the meantime, US interests seem to have driven the country to other targets.
What once were delicate and demure movements from Beijing and Moscow, have become obviously concerning positions toward Latin America and the Caribbean. An attitude that, whether it looks to turn the World table in favor of the eastern bloc or not, is helping both giants gain international importance and positioning.
With China having already overshadowed the EU as the second most important trade partner for several Latin American countries and Russia becoming the official protector of the Latin hemisphere, it is undeniable that the image of both countries in the region have changed from being the distant enemies of the civilized Western World to close friends and amazing allies.
Without rifles and guerrillas, the strategy for this century has been even more productive. An even colder war seems to have started and as Europe and US are mostly concerned about internal issues, China and Russia have taken advantage to make their aspirations of becoming leading faces of the developing world a reality by taking their international policies global.