Following a request made by President Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan parliament decided on June 14 to renew authorization for Russian troops to participate in joint military exercises in the country. The decree also provides for the participation of the US, among other countries, but the measure displeased the US administration.
The head of US diplomacy for Latin America, Brian Nichols, said last week that inviting the Russians to Nicaragua was a “dangerous provocation”, even for humanitarian exercises.
The move was also taken after US President Joe Biden declined to invite Daniel Ortega to the Summit of the Americas, held June 6-10 in Los Angeles. During the event, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken questioned the Nicaraguan leader’s motives for giving Russian troops access to the country. In the same week, the US adopted sanctions against Ortega.
Petersburg University professor of International Relations, Victor Jeifets, in an interview with Brazil de facto, highlighted that Nicaragua’s authorization concerns the temporary stay of foreign troops and not the installation of military bases in another country. According to him, this authorization had already been in force before, but “the point is that the Nicaraguan authorities chose a peculiar moment to affirm their position in relation to Russia”.
“This is more of a reason he (Ortega) has to provoke the US, especially in the context of the Summit of the Americas, to which Nicaragua was not invited, than to create a military base. place, it will not install any military base in Nicaragua”, opined the researcher.
According to the analyst, a real presence of a Russian military base in Central America would be a kind of “red line that Washington might not be able to bear, and Moscow understands this perfectly.”
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Victor Jeifets recalls that the authorities of the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia take a position similar to the one they adopted in January of this year, when Russian diplomacy said that Moscow could deploy military infrastructure in Cuba and Venezuela, if its demands were met. against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were not met: “they neither deny nor confirm”.
For the professor of international relations, it would be a way for Moscow to show that if the US military “can participate as volunteers in a military conflict on the territory of Ukraine, the Russian military can also appear” in the vicinity of the US.
If high-ranking Kremlin officials did not make comments raising tensions about a possible escalation of military presence in Latin America, the provocation was picked up by the country’s state media, which, in their opinion programs, daily presents the defense of Russia’s actions. in Ukraine.
“If American missile systems on Ukrainian territory are just a short distance away from hitting Moscow, then it’s time for Russia to deploy something heavy closer to the ‘American town on the hill’ (Washington),” said the presenter of the main television channel. State TV Rossiya 1, Olga Skabeeva.
The news also sparked a backlash for Costa Rica, Nicaragua’s southern neighbor, which has not had its own armed forces since 1948.
“It is clear that Costa Rica, as a peaceful country that has made the historic decision not to have an army, is concerned when a neighbor across the border begins to muster military forces,” said Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chávez.
Last Tuesday (21), Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada classified as “baseless speculation” the assertion that the routine authorization for the entry of Russian troops into his country is aimed at the installation of foreign military bases. in the context of the war in Ukraine.
“These are pointless, baseless speculations, because even our Constitution establishes that foreign military bases are not allowed in Nicaragua,” the chancellor declared in an interview with Russian channel RT.
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For Victor Jeifets, Russia will not pursue the idea of promoting the installation of military bases in Latin America, as it assumes that “this idea will not be very well received in many Latin American countries”.
“Many Latin American governments, including leftist governments that related and relate more favorably to Russia, have adopted and are adopting a great deal of skepticism towards Russia’s actions, in particular on issues related to compliance with international law and of not using force,” he said.
War in Ukraine changed Russia’s strategy for Latin America?
Russian President Vladimir Putin participated this Wednesday (22) in the Brics Business Forum, a preparatory event for the summit of emerging countries, which takes place on Thursday (23).
In his speech, Putin declared that, in the context of economic sanctions applied by the West, Russia is actively engaged in “redirecting economic flows towards reliable partners, first and foremost, the BRICS”.
The professor of International Relations at St. Petersburg University highlighted that after going through a period of reduced relevance, the BRICS group is now gaining more importance, considering the Russian platform of advocating greater multipolarity in the world.
He points out, however, that, in the context of the war in Ukraine, Russia will not have any great political alignment in the BRICS or Latin America, but what matters most to Moscow at this moment is the strengthening of economic ties.
“For Russia it is not political support that is most important, but that countries do not join sanctions,” he added.
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For the researcher, Moscow sought to promote in Latin America joint efforts to build a multipolar, polycentric world, based on the principles of international law, respect for United Nations institutes and other international organizations. But with the start of the war, this rhetoric would have become more fragile.
“After February 24, 2022, it became significantly more difficult to use this set of theses. Russia can talk about international law and a multipolar world, but not all Latin American countries that advocate a multipolar world are willing to believe these theses proposed by the Russian Federation today”, he adds.
On the other hand, the expert on relations between Latin America and Moscow points out that Russian strategy deals with this “very calmly”, considering that no Latin American country has entered the list of countries hostile to Russia, not even countries that do not supported Russia at the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine.
According to Jeifets, “Moscow assumes that in Latin America, in general, the level of understanding of Russian actions is higher and the level of negative reactions to Russian actions is lower.” From there, the policy for the region would be “to understand that there are different points of view and they are respected”, he adds.
Editing: Arturo Hartmann