Russia and Latin America: Stirring up trouble in the “US backyard”

Status: 06.02.2022 10:19 a.m

Russian missiles to Latin America? This idea was brought up several times by Moscow representatives – and brought back memories of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Is this more than just a tactical move in the Ukraine crisis?

By Anne Demmer, ARD Studio Mexico City

The message over the past few days has been clear, and has been repeatedly spread by high-ranking Russian government officials: If the US and NATO insist on their activities near Russia, then the government in Moscow could station troops and offensive weapons in allied Latin American countries, they said Warning.

Cuba and Venezuela would be good options, explains international relations expert Ana Teresa Gutiérrez from Mexico’s Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana. She recalls that military cooperation between Venezuela and Russia already existed under the late President Hugo Chávez.

Venezuela has also bought arms from Russia in the past, and current President Nicolás Maduro has said he is ready to provide military support to Russia. Talks were also held with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Relationships deepen

After the conversation, there were initially no rockets, but medical supplies for the care of the Cubans in the corona pandemic. The fact is, however, that the government in Moscow has been expanding relations with authoritarian states such as Venezuela and Cuba for years.

Both countries are suffering from the embargo and sanctions imposed by the US. The Russian government canceled Cuba’s $35 billion debt. In the midst of the 2018 political crisis, when US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó sawed off the Venezuelan president’s chair, Russia sent two supersonic nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela. In the past twenty years, the country has expanded its air defenses with Russian help.

In 2018, long-range Tu-160 bombers landed at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas (Venezuela). At the time, Russia demonstratively backed the authoritarian President Maduro.

Bild: picture alliance/dpa

Kubakrise 1962 reloaded?

According to the Mexican scientist Ana Teresa Gutiérrez, however, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the then Soviet Union stationed medium-range missiles on the socialist Caribbean island, is a long way off. The development at that time marked the climax of the Cold War and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

At the moment, Cuba is keeping a low profile, explains former Cuban diplomat and professor of international relations, Carlos Alzucaray. Nobody is interested in an escalation.

The discretion with which Cuba is reacting seems to be the right way to go. Russia has made it clear that the country has allies in the Caribbean, including Cuba. The message to the US was: ‘Stop this nonsense.’ The overriding Cuban interest in this crisis may be that the whole thing does not end up in a unipolar world controlled by the US.

US aerial photographs show Soviet missile launch pads in Cuba in 1962 – bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Bild: picture alliance / dpa

Just a threat for now

For the Mexican scientist Gutiérrez, it is currently nothing more than a threat from the Russian government to increase pressure on the United States.

The United States should be brought to a different attitude. But there are no concrete agreements. Of course, it can happen behind closed doors, at a diplomatic level. But what is clear is that Cuba and Venezuela are doing very badly economically and depend on such alliances.

Muscles twitch these days. In any case, the Russian government has no official plans to station missiles in the region at the moment.

Russian missiles in Latin America?

Anne Demmer, ARD Mexico, 4.2.2022 · 10:55 p.m.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.