Russia aims at Latin America

UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, is holding its summit this week in Ecuador. The envoys or the heads of state of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guayana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela are in attendance.

Latin American countries, particularly the socialist countries, hold summits frequently throughout the year, so this is not unique. What’s making this particular one interesting is this: the possibility of an agreement on cooperation between Russia and UNASUR:

[Russian Ambassador to Ecuador Yan] Burlyai also noted that the Russian delegation will convey a message from President Vladimir Putin to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

Burlyai explained that Russia’s interests coincide with UNASUR’s in the development of a politically and economically multipolar world, and that Russian engineering, technical knowhow, and equipment may be useful for regional development projects in areas such as railway construction and energy generation facilities. He noted that “for many decades,” South America was “mainly oriented at Western countries in economic cooperation…Now it is quite useful for them to have the alternative [of using] Russian companies such as Russian Railways, Gazprom and Rosneft.” Russia, on the other hand, stands to benefit from increased economic and trade cooperation with the 12-nation bloc, with its combined population of 400 million people and a $4 trillion economy. Latin America has already assisted Russia in its efforts toward trade diversification following the introduction of sanctions and countersanctions over the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The UNASUR summit, with the participation of Russian Foreign Ministry officials, follows Putin’s annual State of the Nation address to the country’s Federal Assembly on Thursday, where he stressed the importance of Russia’s increasing economic cooperation with Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

“Russian Railways, Gazprom and Rosneft,” along with long-range bombers conducting regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and military bases in Nicaragua (not a member of UNASUR), that is.

In the short term, Putin avoids sanctions. In the longer term, is the sky the limit, now that the Obama administration declared dead the Monroe Doctrine?

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.