Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua: the US-Russian conflict enters a new phase
By Ramzy Baroud
As soon as Moscow received an American response to its security demands in Ukraine, it responded indirectly by announcing greater military integration between itself and three South American countries, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.
Washington’s January 26 response to Russia’s demands to withdraw NATO forces from Eastern Europe and end talks on Kiev’s possible membership of the US-led alliance United, was evasive.
For its part, the United States has spoken of a “diplomatic channel”, which will respond to Russian demands through “confidence-building measures”. For Russia, such elusive language is clearly a failure.
On the same day, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, announced before the Duma, the Russian parliament, that his country “has reached an agreement with the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to develop partnerships in a range of areas, including strengthening military collaboration,” Russia Today reported.
The timing of this deal was no coincidence, of course. The country’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, did not hesitate to link the decision to the simmering conflict between Russia and NATO. Russia’s strategy in South America could potentially “involve the Russian Navy”, if the US continues to “provoke” Russia. According to Ryabkov, it is the Russian version of the “American style (of having) several options for its foreign and military policy”.
Now that the Russians are no longer hiding the motivations for their military involvement in South America, going so far as to consider the option of sending troops to the region, Washington is forced to seriously consider the new variable.
Although US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan denied that a Russian military presence in South America had been considered during recent security talks between the two countries, he called the deal between Russia and the three South American countries of unacceptable, promising that the United States would react “decisively” to such a scenario.
The truth is that this scenario has played out before. When, in January 2019, the United States increased its pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to cede power to US-backed Juan Guaido, a coup seemed imminent. The chaos on the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities, massive blackouts, lack of food and basic supplies, all seemed part of an orchestrated attempt to subjugate Venezuela, which for decades has defended years a political discourse based on independence and well-being. integrated South American countries.
For weeks, Washington continued to tighten the pressure valves by imposing hundreds of sanction orders against Venezuelan entities, state-owned companies and individuals. This led to Caracas’ decision to sever diplomatic relations with Washington. Eventually, Moscow stepped in, sending two military planes full of troops and equipment in March 2019 to thwart any possible attempt to overthrow Maduro. Over the next few months, Russian companies poured in to help Venezuela out of its devastating crisis, sparking another US-Russian conflict, where Washington resorted to its favorite weapon, sanctions, this time against Russian oil companies.
The reason Russia is keen on maintaining a geostrategic presence in South America is because a stronger Russian role in that region is coveted by several countries desperate to loosen Washington’s grip on their economies and their political institutions.
Countries like Cuba, for example, have very little trust in the United States. After some of the decades-long sanctions on Havana were lifted under the Obama administration in 2016, new sanctions were imposed under the Trump administration in 2021. This lack of faith in Washington’s political mood swings makes Cuba is Russia’s perfect ally. The same logic applies to other South American countries.
It is still too early to speak with certainty about the future of the Russian military presence in South America. What is clear, however, is that Russia will continue to rely on its geostrategic presence in South America, which is also enhanced by the greater economic integration between China and most South American countries. . Thanks to the double political and economic war of the United States against Moscow and Beijing, the two countries have strengthened their alliance like never before.
What options does this new reality leave Washington with? Not much, especially since Washington has, for years, failed to defeat Maduro in Venezuela or convince Cuba and others to join the pro-American camp.
However, much of the outcome also hinges on whether Moscow sees itself as part of an extended geostrategic game in South America. So far, there is little evidence to suggest that Moscow is using South America as a temporary card to trade, when the time comes, for US and NATO concessions in Eastern Europe. Russia is clearly digging its heels in, preparing for the long haul.
For now, the message from Moscow to Washington is that Russia has plenty of options and is capable of responding to US pressure with equal or greater pressure. Indeed, if Ukraine is Russia’s red line, then South America – which has fallen under American influence since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 – is the United States’ own hemispheric red line.
As the plot thickens in Eastern Europe, Russia’s decision in South America promises to add a new component that would make a win-lose scenario in favor of the United States and Russia nearly impossible. NATO. An alternative outcome is for the US-led alliance to recognize significant shifts in the geopolitical map of the world and simply learn to live with them.
– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Dr. Baroud is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net