Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Russia Expands its Reach in South America

Just a few days ago, President Trump hammered Colombia President Iván Duque:

"I'll tell you something: Colombia, you have your new president of Colombia, really good guy. I've met him, we had him at the White House. He said how he was going to stop drugs. More drugs are coming out of Colombia right now than before he was president — so he has done nothing for us," Trump told reporters in Florida.
This is the same language he used to verbally abuse Mexico and Central America:
“Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country,” he tweeted. “They are all talk and no action. Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing.”
It shouldn't surprise us too much, then, that shortly thereafter Russia saw its opportunity to flex its rhetorical muscle.
The Federation Council, the Russian equivalent of a senate, wrote a letter to Colombian Congress in which it accused the country’s government and other allies of the United States of trying to “provoke a civil war” and a possible “military intervention in this state” whose disputed President, Nicolas Maduro, is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A lot is happening at once here, and all of it emphasizes U.S. weakness.

First, Russia is expanding its influence in South America without being countered. Mike Pompeo tweets just don't count.

Second, U.S. domestic interests aren't just influencing foreign policy, they are obliterating it. Intermestic policy is the norm, especially with drugs, but in the past it has not actively undercut allies. Trump's tweets are talking to his core U.S. base. Vladimir Putin saw the insults as an opening to assert Russia's interests.

Third, it is a reminder to Latin America that the Trump administration demands quick and easy solutions to long-standing and complex problems and does not recognize slow and steady progress. This further reduces U.S. influence.

Fourth, it comes on the heels of constant Trump administration threats toward Venezuela that are not followed through. I am in fact glad that the administration is not using force, but it should never have issued threats to begin with. It is now hamstrung--either invade (which would have disastrous consequences) or look weak to Russia (which would have negative consequences).


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