On February 5, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov began a new tour of Latin America. This time Lavrov visited Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba. This trip was the second in a row over the past six months, which again underlines the growing importance of the Latin American region. It’s worth starting to cover this tour with Lavrov’s visit to Mexico City. What is the significance of the meeting between the head of the Russian foreign ministry and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Marcelo Ebrard? What areas of Russian-Mexican cooperation will determine the future of bilateral relations?
The next Latin American tour of Sergey Lavrov began on February 5 and lasted three days. After the announcement of the agenda of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the main question of the media was: Why are these countries of the region? What journalists asked directly to Lavrov at a press conference in Mexico City on February 6. According to the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the purpose of the visit has become very prosaic. When Sergey Lavrov met with the Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard (Spanish – Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón) in New York City in September 2019 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, he invited him to visit his country. According to Lavrov, he accepted the proposal of his colleague, because in diplomatic practice it is customary to respond to an invitation with consent.
However, it is worth noting that there are a number of reasons that guided the Russian Foreign Minister. Mexico is the second country after Brazil in the Latin America region in terms of trade and economic cooperation with Russia. As part of the UN work, the Mexican side supports most of Russia’s initiatives, including the inadmissibility of the glorification of Nazism, the non-deployment of weapons in space, and the development of arms control agreements. In addition, as Cuba, Russia and China, Mexico did not recognize the self-proclaimed president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido (Spanish – Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez), therefore, approaches to understanding the Venezuelan internal situation also unite the two sides.
Since the Cold War, Mexico and Latin America as a whole have always considered partnerships with the USSR, and then with Russia, as an instrument to strengthen their positions in relations with the regional leader – the United States – in view of the ongoing political pressure from the White House. In the current climate of political turbulence experienced by the Latin American region over the past year, Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela helped balance international relations in Latin America and balance Washington’s policy, which continues to consider international relations through the prism of the Monroe Doctrine of a hundred years ago, as recent events have shown.
Turning in more detail to the results of Lavrov’s working visit to Mexico City, it is worth noting first of all that he went through an anniversary year for bilateral cooperation – 130 years ago (December 11, 1890), diplomatic relations were established between the countries. A few days before the Russian minister’s trip to the Mexican capital, the Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized that bilateral talks with the Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard are designed to intensify both political dialogue and economic cooperation.
One of the main topics discussed on February 6 at the meeting of the two Foreign ministers was the political crisis in Venezuela. In a joint statement, Russia and Mexico stressed that they are in favor of resolving the problems of this country through a dialogue of all political forces and exclusively peaceful means. According to Lavrov, Moscow and Mexico share a common approach to normalizing the situation in Venezuela and believe that “all attempts to reanimate neocolonial doctrines such as the Monroe Doctrine, to repeat the scenarios of the infamous color revolutions are fraught with a dangerous increase in tension”. The Russian Foreign Minister emphasized that positive shifts are already being observed in Venezuela, a dialogue was launched between the government of the President Nicolas Maduro (Spanish – Nicolás Maduro Moros) and patriotic oppositionists. In addition, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Moscow does not consider a productive initiative aimed at removing Maduro from power.
Another important topic of the Russian-Mexican negotiations was the close cooperation between Russia and Mexico at the UN. According to Lavrov, nothing prevents the adoption of a resolution on the membership of Mexico in the UN Security Council. It is worth noting that on December 18, 2019, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the inadmissibility of the glorification of Nazism. Mexico supported the initiative of the Russian side, however, Ukraine and the United States voted against the final resolution.
As part of Lavrov’s visit to Mexico City, the deepening of Russian-Mexican economic cooperation was discussed. Russia and Mexico agreed to resume the work of the Joint Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation and Maritime Navigation, which has not been held since 2011. The sides decided that the next meeting of the Commission will be held this year in Mexico City. The exact date is agreed by the economic ministries of the two states. Today, the Russian corporation PJSC “Lukoil” is expanding its presence in Mexico, in the Ulyanovsk region (in Russia) the Mexican company “Nemak” is successfully operating, which manufactures automotive components, and the factory of the “Gruma International Food Corporation” has already opened in Moscow. These companies are just examples of close bilateral cooperation, in fact, there are much more joint projects.
Summing up Lavrov’s working trip to Mexico, it is worth noting that the head of the Russian foreign ministry expressed the opinion that his visit to the Latin American country was very fruitful, and the negotiations with the head of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard were “constructive and useful.” In the final statement, the sides reaffirmed their mutual interest in strengthening bilateral cooperation in all, without exception, areas, discussed the tasks of developing and intensifying political dialogue, including at the highest levels. One of the new topics in bilateral cooperation has been the expansion of military-technical cooperation. In addition, there are already some good groundwork in this area: about 50 Russian-made helicopters operate in Mexico, a service center is working, and a pilot training center and staff development center are based on it. In addition, Lavrov again raised the question of the advisability of introducing a visa-free regime for travel of citizens of the two countries on a reciprocal basis.
The meeting of the heads of the foreign affairs ministries of the two countries again demonstrated that Russia and Mexico continue to take an active part in the development of a multipolar world order. Their positions on key issues coincide in many respects; in global politics, Moscow and Mexico City have many points of contact. The overall potential for interaction is being realized in a number of ways, however, important projects are still in an embryonic stage. Of course, in the conditions of a real alignment of forces in the region, much will depend on Mexico’s ability to completely abandon the stereotypes of perceiving Latin America as the “backyard” of the USA.