As is a custom at the beginning of each year, everyone sums up the past and sets new goals for himself. The “LACRUS” team was also no exception and decided to analyze the main foreign policy results of Russia for 2018 in the Latin American region. What successes have been achieved in the direction of the Latin American vector? With which countries of the region has the Russian side especially been able to strengthen bilateral and multilateral relations?
It is worth noting that during the past year, Russian diplomacy focused on solving problems related to creating safe and favorable external conditions for the harmonious internal development of Russia, as well as searching for new partners, including in Latin America and among the Caribbean countries. During 2018, the President Vladimir Putin met with the leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama and Paraguay. The Russian side has actively expanded the contractual and legal framework of bilateral relations with the countries of the region. It was possible to advance in the development of promising high-tech projects in the energy sector, metallurgy, infrastructure, transport and biotechnologies.
In 2018, Russia was granted observer status in the framework of a subregional organization – the Central American Integration System – CAIS (Spanish – Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana). It is worth noting that the association CAIS is the institutional basis for the regional integration of Central America. It was formed on December 13, 1991 by the states of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Later it was joined and became its members Belize (in 2000) and the Dominican Republic (in 2013). In December 1991, a Protocol was signed to the Charter of the Organization of Central American States, OCAS (Spanish – Organización de Estados Centroamericanos, ODECA), or the Tegucigalpa Protocol, which replaced the OCAS Charter, originally signed on October 14, 1951 in San Salvador (El Salvador Republic). Officially, this document entered into force on February 1, 1993. In addition, after that, the work of the Central American Integration System began.
Today, the CAIS, established almost 20 years ago, deals with economic and political issues, as well as with issues of education, culture and environmental protection. Providing Russia with observer status within this subregional organization can be a good start for deepening Russian cooperation with the countries of Central America.
The past year did not bring positive developments in Russia’s relations with the United States, despite Moscow’s willingness for dialogue based on the principles of non-interference in internal affairs and respect for each other’s interests. Representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry believe that the main factors in this conflict were the ongoing domestic political struggle in the United States and the current administration’s policy of eroding the interstate nature of international organizations and revising its international obligations, expressed, in particular, in withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan to resolve the situation around Iran’s nuclear program (May 2018) and in declarations of intent to “suspend” the US participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). The political dialogue was limited: a bilateral summit took place (Helsinki, July 2018), there were “sporadic” contacts at the level of the leadership of the foreign affairs agencies, working interaction on a number of issues on the international agenda (arms control, peaceful settlement in Syria, Afghanistan, problem of the Korean Peninsula). It is worth emphasizing that during 2018 the communication channels between the military worked to prevent armed incidents.
Held in July in Johannesburg under the chairmanship of the Republic of South Africa, the 10th BRICS summit demonstrated to the world community the advancement of cooperation in all key areas – political, economic and humanitarian. The basic principles of the BRICS bloc were reaffirmed – the unity and closeness of the participants’ positions on most global themes on the international agenda, and their focus on strengthening the role of BRICS in world affairs. The BRICS Development Bank has finally reached a profitable level; under the auspices of the bank, 26 investment projects are already being implemented (six of them in Russia) totaling $ 6.5 billion. It was emphasized in the final declaration of the union summit that problems of the Fourth (“digital”) industrial revolution in the interests of adapting the socio-economic development of the BRICS countries to the new technological order.
From November 30 to December 1 last year, the G20 Summit was held in the Argentine capital. At the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, Russia launched an initiative to expand opportunities and protect consumer rights in the digital economy. The Russian side noted the special importance of interaction with the countries of the Latin American region.
In the direction of working with Russian compatriots abroad in Moscow, with the participation of representatives from 98 countries, on October 31 – November 1, the Sixth World Congress of Russian Compatriots was held. At this event, the Comprehensive Plan of Basic Actions for the Implementation of State Policy in this Field for 2018-2020 was approved. Special attention was paid to the further consolidation of the diaspora, the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of compatriots. Compatriots from Latin America (Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Brazil) took an active part in the summit. As part of the State program to assist the voluntary resettlement to Russia of compatriots living abroad, in 2018, more than 82 thousand people were relocated from different parts of the world.
In the context of the work on the expansion of the Russian cultural and humanitarian presence in the world, a wide range of events were supported, including the “cross” Years and Days of Russia, as well as the “Russian Seasons”. Assistance was provided to foreign countries in the preparation of national personnel, and the system for the selection of foreign citizens to study at Russian universities improved. The diplomatic service contributed to the preparation and conduct of the first World Cup in Russia, during which hundreds of thousands of foreign fans and tourists visited Russian cities.
2018 once again demonstrated the active dynamics and trajectory of mutual rapprochement between Russia and the countries of Latin America. As representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia note, the nature of relations between Russia and Latin American countries today is determined by three key factors: 1) strengthening Russia’s position as one of the centers of power and influence of the emerging polycentric and multipolar world system, diversifying Moscow’s external relations; 2) the geopolitical breakthrough of the leading Latin American countries, made possible due to their increased economic potential and independent decision-making line in global affairs; 3) thorough experience of mutually beneficial economic and political cooperation gained in the framework of Russian-Latin American relations over the past 10-12 years.
The current stage of Russia’s relations with the countries of the region can be defined as a mature interaction. The expansion of Russian-Latin American relations strengthens the multi-vector character of Russian foreign policy and helps to consolidate the role of an independent center of a multipolar world for Russia. At the same time, it inevitably brings not only positive elements, but also creates new additional risks and challenges.