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Russian-Mexican Interaction: New Directions and Prospects

In December 2020, Russia and Mexico celebrated 130 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. Russian-Mexican ties not only have a long history, but also have a unique character. How is Russia’s interaction with this Latin American country developing at the present stage? What are the most promising areas that open a new chapter in bilateral cooperation?

For a long time, Mexico has remained one of the key partners of Russia in Latin America, both regionally and internationally. Stable and constantly developing bilateral cooperation is based on long-standing interaction built on friendly principles, mutually beneficial cooperation, respect for interests, as well as proximity or coincidence of approaches to a variety of contemporary problems. The beginning of mutual contacts between the two countries dates back to the turn of the 18th-19th centuries. Bilateral diplomatic relations between Russia and Mexico were officially established in 1890.

After the October Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with Mexico on August 4, 1924. However, on January 26, 1930, they were interrupted and then restored in 1942. In the early 1930s, diplomatic contacts between the USSR and Mexico were formally torn apart, but in 1942 they were fully restored. It was in that year that the Soviet Union established the first USSR Embassy in Latin America.

During the Second World War, the degree of Russian-Mexican interaction increased. Mexico was the only Latin American state to officially condemn the fascist aggression against the Soviet Union in June 1941. After the end of World War II, the USSR and Mexico, together with their allies in the anti-Hitler coalition, initiated the creation of the United Nations.

In 1968, Russian-Mexican relations reached a new level. On May 30 this year, during the official visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Carrillo Flores to the USSR, Mexico and the Soviet Union signed an “Agreement on cultural and scientific exchange between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Mexican United States”. After the signing of this document, the bilateral legal framework was strengthened, which subsequently contributed to the development of cooperation in the field of foreign policy, trade, economics, science, culture and sports.

The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the USSR and dramatic transformations in the international arena in the 1990s became a test of strength for Russian-Mexican relations. Today it is safe to say that Russia and Mexico have passed this test, strengthening their role as important centers of world politics in a multipolar world.

Since the early 2000s Russian-Mexican meetings at various levels took place quite often and intensively. With the coming to power in Mexico on December 1, 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Russia was able to strengthen its presence in this Latin American country, Mexico City’s political rhetoric acquired shades aimed at rapprochement with Moscow.

Today, Russian-Mexican cooperation is dynamically developing in various fields. However, in this article it is necessary to dwell on the most promising areas of cooperation between Russia and Mexico, which have acquired a new meaning in recent years. One of them is cultural and educational exchanges. Another area that today occupies a very significant niche on the bilateral agenda is aerospace research and the peaceful exploration of outer space.

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Queue for the exhibition of the outstanding Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky “Small Worlds” at the Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City, November 2018. Source: El Universal.

In the last couple of years, educational, cultural and scientific exchanges between Russia and Mexico have been gaining momentum again. The most important event of the Russian-Mexican cooperation was the large-scale exhibition of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky in Mexico City. Exhibitions of works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Moscow and St. Petersburg (2018-2019) aroused great interest of the Russian public. Within the framework of cultural cooperation programs, the Days of Culture of Russia and Mexico, performances by leading masters of the arts, exhibitions and presentations of Russian and Mexican museums, scientific conferences, and film festivals are regularly held. In 2020, Russia, as a country of honor, took part in the 33rd International University Book Fair in Pachuca, which was held in digital format.

To date, the representative office of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States “Rossotrudnichestvo” in Mexico supports the Mexican Association of the Russian Language in organizing and maintaining Russian language courses, which operate in 15 university centers in the Latin American country. Russia annually provides state scholarships for Mexican citizens to study at Russian universities.

Another of the most promising areas is the exploration of outer space. The interaction between Russia and Mexico in the field of exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes is gradually strengthening. A draft agreement on bilateral cooperation in this area is being negotiated.

In April of this year, it became known that in the near future the state corporation “Roscosmos” and the Russian Foreign Ministry would hold negotiations with the Mexican side. In the framework of space cooperation, the countries will unite efforts in the field of “remote sensing of the Earth, satellite communications, navigation, manned flights, protection of the space environment and other issues”. It is planned that the interaction of countries involves various forms. This could involve both the exchange of information and joint experiments.

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Within the framework of space cooperation, Russia and Mexico plan to join efforts in the field of “remote sensing of the Earth, satellite communications, navigation, manned flights, protection of the space environment and in other matters”.

As part of the current activities, two successful launches were made from the Baikonur cosmodrome in October 2011 and March 2013 by the “Proton-M” series launch vehicles of the Mexican communications satellites “CatSat-1” and “Satmex-8”, respectively, which are currently located under the control of the customer.

On February 2, 2021, the Deputy General Director of the “Roscosmos” for International Cooperation Sergey Savelyev said that the Draft Intergovernmental Agreement on the deployment of a Russian station of an automated warning system for hazardous situations in near-Earth space (ASPOS OKP) in Mexico is in the final stage of preparation. According to the Deputy General Director of the “Roscosmos” corporation, it will be possible to speak about the direct placement of the station and its commissioning as soon as the aforementioned document is signed and ratified. Savelyev also reminded that the process of placing the ground complex “ASPOS OKP” is associated with the presence of an appropriate regulatory legal framework for cooperation with foreign partners.

It is worth recalling that an automated warning system for dangerous situations in near-Earth space has been created and has been operating since 2016. According to the data posted on the public procurement portal in 2019, the optoelectronic complex in Mexico was planned to be commissioned in 2020. Such complexes automatically detect spacecraft and space debris and determine their coordinates.

After the President Lopez Obrador came to power in Mexico, the Russian side became more interested in expanding dialogue with the Latin American country. At the moment, as noted by 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 development, including a draft agreement on a visa-free travel regime for citizens, cooperation between prosecutors general, and an agreement on maritime navigation, on the mutual recognition of diplomas, as well as documents on scientific degrees and others.

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