Stacey Casas, Jhamil Moya, Daniel Ruiz, SOUTHCOM Team
Maisie Beavan, Editor; Demetrios Giannakaris, Senior Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff
Week of Monday, March 7, 2022
Putin's influence and Russian business in Latin America
The war between Russia and Ukraine has caused a division among Latin American countries, which likely has implications for diplomatic ties, commercial agreements, and public opinion in the region. While some governments in Latin America support Russia, others openly condemned its actions against Ukraine. A deepening division among Latin American countries' positions will likely have repercussions at the political level, such as difficulty strengthening diplomatic agreements. The political implications of the division caused by the Russo-Ukrainian conflict will likely have adverse economic effects on Latin American economies, very likely impacting the civilian standard of living. Information warfare has likely contributed to differing opinions among the Latin American people, leading to increased tension, misinformation, and divided civilian support for the conflict. The international community, such as NATO and the EU, have taken swift action by imposing severe sanctions on Russia. The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends Latin American countries cooperate in economic and social matters to mitigate the economic and social impacts of the war on the region's population.
The war between Russia and Ukraine has divided opinion among Latin American countries.Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua show open support for Vladimir Putin, likely due to similar political ideologies, such as authoritarian governance. Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Honduras remain neutral in their statements, which is likely related to each country’s personal economic and political self-interest. For instance, Brazil has likely chosen to remain neutral in the Russo-Ukraine conflict to advance its economic trade agreements with Russia. However, the rest of the countries in Latin America have openly condemned the Russian military advances in Ukraine, likely due to political ties with the United States and the European Union, or because of the human rights violations and war abuses from the conflict. The diversity of Latin American countries' positions on the Russia-Ukraine conflict almost certainly demonstrates that economic and political relationships play an important role in defining strategic alliances.
On March 5, 2022, a US delegate visited Venezuela proposing energy deals to meet energy demands on its economy, following sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine. Eventual agreements between Venezuela and the US will likely lead to Venezuela's economy benefiting from oil sales and the lifting of economic sanctions. The US will likely mitigate the impact of sanctions on Russian oil by acquiring Venezuelan oil to satisfy its energy needs. A US-Venezuela oil agreement will likely improve relations between the two countries, likely leading to better economic, diplomatic and military cooperation. If US and Venezuelan relations improve, Russia will likely decrease its collaboration with Venezuela. Russia will likely seek new allies in the region using oil deals, trade agreements, and political and military assistance to replace its alliance with Venezuela.
In February 2022, the presidents of Brazil and Russia met in Moscow to strengthen economic relations. Brazil and Russia will likely improve their relations, leading to Brazil becoming a strategic Russian ally in Latin America. If Brazil becomes a strategic Russian ally, US-Brazil relations will likely decline, prompting the US to strengthen its alliances with other Latin American countries. The US and Russia will likely enhance agreements with their allies and create new cooperative ties with Latin American states to gain geopolitical advantages, given the region's resources such as oil, tin, copper, and silver, and access to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.For example, the United States is likely to strengthen its oil agreements with countries such as Colombia, Argentina, and Guyana to mitigate the impact of rising gasoline prices on other goods and to seek to increase food imports from countries such as Mexico and Chile so as not to be affected by a likely food crisis caused by the Russo-Ukrainian war. Meanwhile, in order for Russia to sustain the war effort, it will likely seek to increase fertilizer and meat exports and imports with Brazil, continue its defense and military-industrial agreements with Nicaragua and Cuba, and maximize military, oil, and trade agreements with Venezuela in order to remain its strategic ally in the region.
The Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America (PROSUR) are international organizations of Latin American countries that enact various agreements on international trade, tariffs, and aid social and cultural integration in the region.A division among Latin American countries is likely to cause a decline in diplomatic relations that will likely weaken regional integration processes provided by MERCOSUR and PROSUR. A decline in diplomatic connections will likely make public policy agreements difficult, reducing the possibility of implementing solutions to regional problems. Decreasing cooperation between Latin American countries will likely lead to adverse financial and social implications for the region.
Escalating tensions among countries with opposing views on the Russo-Ukrainian war could damage the global economy, particularly in regions where people already suffer from high inflation. Since Latin America is one of the regions most affected by the pandemic, rising inflation and lower than average economic growth make it difficult for countries such as Chile and Argentina to raise living standards for citizens. If political divisions between Latin American countries continue to escalate, diplomatic and economic relations among nations that differ in support will very likely decline. Countries with commercial and financial ties to the US and its allies, such as Colombia, will likely continue seeing foreign direct investment increase, while any possible trade agreements with Russian-aligned countries, such as Venezuela and Cuba, will very likely stall. Declining regional trade in Latin America will almost certainly reduce the monetary funds needed to raise living standards and reduce job opportunities, education, and healthcare access.
The spread of disinformation can be attributed to human action. A growing number of governments are spreading disinformation, and disinformation campaigns such as this are manipulating public opinion. Technological advances and globalization have almost certainly given disinformation a broader audience through social media platforms in Latin America. Information is very likely to quickly spread across social media platforms, leading to malicious persons employing the necessary means to distribute biased or false information. Disinformation is likely to guide and transform public opinion, as has been the case in Nicaragua, where Russia has received open support. Significant division in the Latin American population will likely deepen the ongoing political crisis in the region, likely making it harder to govern within countries efficiently.
NATO, EU, and other partners have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by imposing severe sanctions and new export control restrictions, explicitly targeting Russian financial institutions. Latin American countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador also condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by calling for a swift withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and an end to the fighting. If Latin American countries impose economic sanctions, Russian investments will almost certainly be affected in the region, likely exacerbating the economic conditions in Russia. The US will likely seek to create political ties with Putin's remaining allies such as Venezuela and Cuba, these bonds will likely further isolate Russia from the rest of the world. Sanctions by Latin America will likely affect future trade agreements with Russia and its trading partners, likely reducing Russian influence in the region.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recommended that Latin America and the Caribbean unite to promote renewed international cooperation for development. The division caused by the positions of Latin American countries in the war between Russia and Ukraine will likely hinder the partnership recommended by ECLAC. If the region's countries fail to reach multilateral agreements to address Latin America's economic and social issues, the socio-economic conditions of its inhabitants will likely decline. With cooperation, ECLAC will likely negotiate free trade agreements, infrastructure agreements, and social programs for the Latin American population. Greater diplomatic and financial bonds will likely improve the socio-economic conditions of Latin American citizens, decreasing the risk of protests against their governments. Lower risk of protests, better social conditions, and a higher degree of multilateral partnerships will very likely lead to better regional stability.
CTG recommends that the countries in Latin America increase their international cooperation as this will likely mitigate the impact of the division caused by support for Russia or the US. Relations between the countries of the region could likely be of an economic nature in order to not provoke further political tensions. CTG recommends following past initiatives such as MERCOSUR to boost trade and financial deals, provide a healthier environment for countries to trade, reach agreements, and promote development.
The SOUTHCOM Team will continue to work closely with the EUCOM Team to monitor the evolving nature of the Russo-Ukrainian war. The SOUTHCOM Team will continue collecting and analyzing data on how the conflict between Russia and Ukraine affects countries in the Latin American region. Through its Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) Officers, CTG continuously tracks all events to provide a current, fact-based analysis. The SOUTHCOM Team will continue utilizing Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to ensure that key stakeholders are provided with optimal recommendations.
The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)
 América Latina en la crisis de Ucrania: un convidado de piedra dentro de la estrategia de la Rusia de Putin, Real Instituto El Cano, February 2022, https://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/analisis/america-latina-en-la-crisis-de-ucrania-un-convidado-de-piedra-dentro-de-la-estrategia-de-la-rusia-de-putin/ (translared by Daniel Ruiz)
 Rusia y Ucrania: cómo se han posicionado los países de América Latina ante la invasión rusa, BBC News, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-60651863 (translated by Daniel Ruiz)
 Guerra en Ucrania: ¿quiénes son los aliados latinoamericanos de Rusia?, La República, February 2022, https://larepublica.pe/datos-lr/respuestas/2022/02/25/rusia-ucrania-aliados-de-rusia-en-latinoamerica-peru-a-quien-apoya-guerra-rusia-ucrania-guerra-en-ucrania-ucrania-atmp/ (translated by Jhamil Moya)
 Russia may have committed 'war crimes' in Ukraine, says U.N. rights boss, Reuters, March 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russian-shelling-attacks-cities-may-amount-war-crimes-says-uns-bachelet-2022-03-30/
 Una delegación estadounidense de alto nivel visita Venezuela para proponer acuerdos energéticos, El PAÍS, March 2022, https://elpais.com/internacional/2022-03-06/una-delegacion-estadounidense-de-alto-nivel-visita-venezuela-para-proponer-acuerdos-energeticos.html (translated by Daniel Ruiz)
 Bolsonaro y Putin se reúnen en Moscú para afianzar la cooperación económica, France 24, February 2022, https://www.france24.com/es/europa/20220216-bolsonaro-putin-reunion-economia-ucrania (translated by Daniel Ruiz)
 CEPAL publica: "Recursos naturales: situación y tendencias para una agenda de desarrollo regional en América Latina y el Caribe", ECLAC, March 2014, https://www.cepal.org/fr/notas-informativas/cepal-publica-recursos-naturales-situacion-y-tendencias-para-una-agenda-de#:~:text=Am%C3%A9rica%20Latina%20y%20el%20Caribe%20cuenta%20con%20un%20tercio%20de,de%20cuantiosos%20recursos%20ligados%20a (translated by Daniel Ruiz)
 La integración de América Latina, una tarea pendiente, Portafolio, January 2022, https://www.portafolio.co/internacional/la-integracion-de-america-latina-una-tarea-pendiente-561090 (translated by Daniel Ruiz)
 Global markets plunge due to war in Ukraine, France 24, February 2022, https://www.france24.com/es/programas/econom%C3%ADa/20220224-mercados-desplome-guerra-ucrania-rusia
 Latin American and Caribbean Region Among Hardest Hit by Covid-19, LAC-Urban Health, June 2021, https://drexel.edu/lac/media/news/2021/June/latin-america-and-caribbean-hard-hit-by-covid/
 Inflation Is Raging Everywhere, But It’s Worst in Latin America, Bloomberg, November 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-23/inflation-is-raging-everywhere-but-it-s-worst-in-latin-america#:~:text=Price%20surges%20are%20busting%20through,a%20whopping%2052%25%20in%20Argentina.
 Why do people spread false information online? The effects of message and viewer characteristics on self-reported likelihood of sharing social media disinformation, Plos One, October 2020, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0239666
 A growing number of governments are spreading disinformation online, The Economist, January 2021, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/01/13/a-growing-number-of-governments-are-spreading-disinformation-online
 El régimen de Nicaragua manifestó su respaldo a Rusia en la invasión al territorio ucraniano, Infobae, February 2022, https://www.infobae.com/america/america-latina/2022/02/23/el-regimen-de-nicaragua-manifesto-su-respaldo-a-rusia-en-la-invasion-al-territorio-ucraniano/ (translated by Daniel Ruiz)
 U.S., Allies Impose Further Sanctions, New Export Controls on Russia as Military Advances, Holland & Knight, February 2022, https://www.hklaw.com/en/insights/publications/2022/02/us-allies-impose-further-sanctions-new-export-controls-on-russia
 Some Latin American nations call for Russian withdrawal from Ukraine, Reuters, February 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/some-latin-american-nations-call-russian-withdrawal-ukraine-2022-02-25/
 América Latina y el Caribe debe unirse para promover una renovada cooperación internacional para el desarrollo después del COVID-19, Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), December 2021, https://www.cepal.org/es/noticias/america-latina-caribe-debe-unirse-promover-renovada-cooperacion-internacional-desarrollo (translated by Daniel Ruiz)