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Russia and Mexico: friendship against Trump or mutually beneficial cooperation?

Since the beginning of the 2000s the Russian-Mexican diplomatic meetings at various levels take place quite often and intensively, but until recently there was no serious return from them. Nevertheless, in the past couple of years, Russia has been able to strengthen its political and economic presence in Mexico against the background of the deterioration of relations of this Latin American country with the United States. What interests does the Kremlin pursue in Mexico? What prospects does active cooperation between Russia and the North American state offer?

In recent years, in all meetings and consultations between the Russian side and Mexico, the strengthening of bilateral relations has been especially marked. During one of these meetings in June 2015, a plan for political consultations for 2016-2018 was signed in Moscow. Then the essence of this plan was that both parties fixed their intention to inform each other about the changes in the political situation in the world that are of mutual interest to them. Until now, such an interest, first of all, remains the Mexico’s relations with the United States, which both states have noticeably deteriorated after the arrival of Donald Trump (Donald John Trump) in the White House. Even during his election campaign, Trump often did not hesitate to insult the Mexicans, calling them “criminals and rapists”. Despite the fact that later he made a reservation that he did not mean everyone, but he refused to apologize, despite the large-scale protests of the Mexican diaspora.

The main stumbling block between the United States and Mexico is still Trump’s promise to build a border wall on the border between the two countries to protect against illegal emigration from the south to the north. It is worth recalling that Mexicans make up about half of all illegal migrants in the United States, although their share is gradually decreasing. According to official statistics, there are currently 5.6 million illegal Mexican immigrants living in the United States.

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Russia is again trying to take advantage of such complex political relations between Mexico and the United States by proposing new economic projects to the country, as well as strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries. With the coming to power in Mexico on December 1, 2018 of the new president of the “left” camp, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Spanish – Andrés Manuel López Obrador), political rhetoric has become even more nuanced, aimed at drawing closer to the Kremlin. By the way, while drawing a parallel, during the “Cold war” times, Mexico had rather close relations with the USSR. This year marks 22 years since the date of the signing of another foreign policy document – a declaration on the principles of cooperation between Mexico and Russia. In particular, it stresses the importance of “establishing a political dialogue between geographic regions…in order to help expand the presence of the Russian Federation in the Latin American continent”.

However, the plan for the presence of Russia in Mexico is not developing so dynamically. Today, there are not so many joint projects between the two countries. Since 2015, the “LUKoil” company has its presence in the Latin American country, and after a series of attempts, the Russian oil and gas giant in June 2017 was able to win a tender to develop oil fields in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, equipment for some Mexican hydropower plants is supplied by the Russian company “Power Machines”.

At the end of May, the National Commission for Hydrocarbons of Mexico approved the plan of the Italian company “Eni” and the Russian company “LUKoil” about exchanging shares in three projects on the shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. In accordance with the agreements reached, the “LUKoil” will again give the “Eni” 40% in block No. 12 (while remaining the project operator with a share of 60%), the “Eni”, in turn, will give the “LUKoil” 20% each in blocks No. 10 and 14, remaining a project operator. The plan involves investment of these enterprises in the amount of about $ 226.5 million over five years. Earlier, representatives of the Russian oil company reported that this agreement would “expand the portfolio of the LUKoil’s exploration projects in the region, diversify risks and increase competence in geological exploration”. The “LUKoil” and the “Eni” have already received licenses for these units in 2017 based on the results of the first stage of the second licensing round in Mexico.

As before, tourism remains the main connecting economic element between Russia and Mexico. Every year, several hundred thousand Russian travelers visit this Latin American country.

Earlier this year, representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia announced that they were going to increase the supply of wheat to this country to 1 million tons per year, but it is not yet clear whether Russia can “take” such a bar. In turn, the Ministry of Agriculture of Mexico wants to resume the supply of beef meat to the Russian market, having passed the appropriate procedures with the Russian health services.

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In recent years, Mexico has become actively interested in the possibilities of purchasing Russian weapons. In 2017, the delegation of the military of this Latin American country for the first time participated in the Russian exhibition “Army-2017”. In 2018, Mexicans also took part in this event, noting that they were very interested in Russian developments presented annually at the exhibition, which can be introduced into the defense industry complex.

In the past couple of years, the topic of a possible increase in Russia’s presence in Mexico has been considered by American media commentators, although often in hypothetical terms. True, the White House’s view of Mexico as a country dependent on the United States is associated with an underestimation of the real situation. Under the conditions of the political crisis in Brazil, Mexico, which today is the second economy of Latin America, may well become the first. After all, its position as the nearest US neighbor gives this Latin American state many opportunities, and this should be taken advantage of.

Despite the fact that political contacts between Moscow and Mexico City are rather cautious, the new Mexican leader has already accepted the invitation of the Russian president to pay an official visit to Moscow. In his numerous statements, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sees cooperation with Russia as one of the main priorities of his government, and he is also interested in the abolition of visas between the two countries.

After the administration of President Lopez Obrador came to power, the Russian side became more interested in expanding the dialogue with Mexico. At the moment, according to representatives of the foreign ministries of the two countries, there is a question of improving the legal framework. In turn, we are talking about a number of agreements that are at the stage of analysis and elaboration, including the draft agreement on visa-free travel for citizens, cooperation between the prosecutor general’s offices, the agreement on maritime shipping, the mutual recognition of diplomas and documents on scientific degrees and others.

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