Putin’s government increases weapons sales, military cooperation as U.S. reduces aid to the region
Recent reports that Cuban military personnel are on the ground in Syria to support the alliance between Russia and the Assad regime underscore Moscow’s efforts to establish its most significant foothold in Latin America since the Cold War, analysts say.
A U.S. official told Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special operations forces arrived in Syria to assist Russia, which has deployed troops and equipment and launched airstrikes in recent weeks to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Cuban troops could be there to advise the Syrian army or operate Russian-made tanks. The White House said in response that it has seen no evidence that Cuban forces are actually in Syria.
However, Russia has now courted several other authoritarian governments in Latin America that comprise the so-called Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a bloc of nations formed by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to oppose U.S. policies in the region.
“Given its current positioning, one could argue that Russia now has more influence in Latin America than ever before, even including at the height of the Cold War,” said Doug Farah, president of IBI Consultants, in his testimony on Thursday to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This will likely remain true despite the recent announcement of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and Russia’s ongoing economic turmoil.”
Farah said that, “all of the main elements of the doctrine are being carried out in Latin America,” including weapons sales, military and intelligence assistance, financial cooperation, and the creation of a counter-narrative in the region that combats U.S. “imperialism” with Russian-backed institutions.
Russia sold more than 3,000 surface-to-air missiles to Latin America nations between 2008 and 2011 after not selling any in the preceding three years, with Venezuela as one of the primary clients. Farah’s consulting firm also uncovered an “opaque network of former senior military and KGB officials operating in Central America, primarily running front groups for the Russian military and intelligence services.”
In the realm of information warfare, Russia has portrayed itself as defender of the region against a U.S. policy that envisions “pillaging the region’s natural resources, toppling the revolutionary regimes leading the march to Latin American independence, and subjugating its citizens,” Farah said.
Moscow has established a regional counter-narcotics training center in Nicaragua that Farah said will have 130 Russian trainers, a potential rival to longstanding U.S. anti-drug initiatives in Latin America. Russia also sends officials to the meetings of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a body that Chavez created and that excludes the United States.
Full article: Cuban Alliance with Russia Highlights Moscow’s Expanding Influence in Latin America (Washington Free Beacon)