Will the bear and dragon soon dominate the region?
In recent years, China and Russia have been dancing with increasing vigor to the rhythms of Latin American trade and diplomacy. The two eastern giants want business allies, resources and friends who share their desire to close the curtain on the era of United States dominance. As they foxtrot across Latin America, they are finding all three in abundance.
The U.S., apparently indifferent to the Chinese and Russian advance into its backyard, is sitting out more and more Latin American dances. But there is another global power whose salsa shoes won’t be coming off any time soon; this rising power bloc will check the advance of Beijing and Moscow into Latin America.
China’s Cha Cha
As the U.S. has retreated from Latin America, China has been the main player to cha cha its way into the void.
From 2000 to 2009, trade between China and Latin America increased by a staggering 1,200 percent. If current trends persist, China will surpass the European Union next year to become Latin America’s second-largest trade partner. Within 10 years, trade between the two sides is expected to reach $500 billion per year.
In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a six-day tour of Latin America, visiting Cuba, Argentina, Brazil and Nicaragua, and meeting with 11 regional leaders.
In Cuba, Putin signed several major oil and security contracts and forgave 90 percent (about $32 billion) of Cuban debts that stood unpaid since Soviet times. For a relatively poor nation such as Cuba to have so much debt forgiven is no small event. Putin said the remaining 10 percent would be reinvested into Cuba’s infrastructure. After the visit, reports emerged that Cuba had even agreed to reopen Soviet-era bases to Russia.
The Bear and Dragon Samba in Lockstep
China and Russia do not feel threatened by one another’s moves in Latin America. Instead, the two are dancing hand-in-hand through key steps of their advance.
To support the China-funded Nicaraguan Canal project, Russia has promised military backing to ensure safety during construction. Starting this year, Nicaragua will host a Russian base, and Moscow’s fleets will patrol the country’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts, making sure no one interferes with China’s mammoth project.
In July, Putin and Xi crossed paths in Brazil to unveil a massive, new-world “development bank” to challenge U.S.-dominated financial institutions. Russia and China will operate the bank with the help of Brazil, as well as India and South Africa.
Will Europe Sit This One Out?
The United States is indifferent to the Russo-Chinese advance into its backyard. But what about Europe? Will the Europeans allow their sister continent to become ever more aligned with Moscow and Beijing? Will Europe allow the waltzing bear and dragon to steal the show?
But be assured that Europe will not stand by passively and allow Beijing and Moscow to elbow it off the dance floor.
Around the time Putin visited Cuba, Pope Francis sent letters to the leaders of Cuba and the United States. These letters played a key role in thawing U.S.-Cuban relations, which was announced in December. The pope’s role in that deal gives the Catholic Church—whose stronghold is Europe—renewed influence over Cuba. Will that influence be to the exclusion of Russia? For a time, Cuba’s Communist regime may be in a position to play both sides against each other. But even still, the pope’s maneuver significantly reduced Putin’s sway over the island nation.
Then, in January, the pope appointed five new Latin American cardinals, saying the move would “manifest the indissoluble links between the church of Rome” and the nations the men came from. Also in January, Germany took a major step toward strengthening cooperation with Mexico.
At present, the lack of cohesion among European nations hinders Europe’s efforts to reign supreme in Latin America. But the deepening inroads that China and Russia are making will actually serve as a catalyst for the European Union to unite. As China and Russia continue mamboing through the region, European nations will increasingly work together, under German leadership and under Vatican guidance, to bolster Europe’s own position on the great Latin American dance floor.
To understand why the Trumpet adheres to this forecast, read our article “Europe’s Inroads Into Latin America.” ▪
Full article: Russia and China Dance Across Latin America (The Trumpet)