Saturday, December 27, 2008

Russia in Latin America

Andres Oppenheimer interviewed Thomas Shannon, and I was particularly struck by the following:

''The Russian thing needs to be understood more broadly,'' said Shannon, who is to visit Moscow this week. ``The presence of Russian warships has allowed some people, especially the Venezuelans, to try to project the Russian presence as aimed at the United States. But in a strategic sense, the Russian presence may really be an effort to match China's presence in the region.''

Analyses of the Russian presence in Latin America have not focused on China. I have to say that I am unconvinced. No doubt that Russia always keeps an eye on China, and is paying attention to China's growing ties to Latin American countries. However, I don't think we can understand the entire warship exercise without focusing squarely on Russia's desire to make a statement about U.S. policy. I see that more as Occam's Razor than as some Venezuelan "projection."


Bruno Quadros e Quadros 9:11 PM  

The commercial dimension of this maneuver shall not be forgotten as well.

Apart from its symbolic meaning, the Russo-Venezuelan military exercise in the Caribbean displays Moscow as a reliable and cheaper arms supplier for the Latin American countries than traditional ones, like the United States. Besides Cuba, Peru has some Soviet-made weapons purchased during Velasco Alvarado's left-leaning regime in the 70's, as well as Chávez's Venezuela and Brazil, which has just bought some Russian helicopters.

In Brazil's case -- the largest Latin American market --, two facts must be considered: a) the country is also a great weapons supplier (from small arms to fighters); b) a decisive factor for Brazil to reach an arms deal with any country is how eager this country is to transfer sensitive technology to the Brazilian defense industry. This makes the "French lobby" very strong among Brazilian military, since French manufacturers such as Dassault have historically been more willing to do it than American or Russian weapons suppliers.

Warmest greetings from Brazil!

Bruno Quadros e Quadros

Greg Weeks 8:42 AM  

Interesting point, though I would separate the economic relationships from the show of force with warships. The warships themselves are more about sending signals.

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