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The Advance of Eastern Powers in Latin America Threatens the U.S.

El avance de las potencias orientales en América Latina amenaza a Estados Unidos


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Since the failure of the Soviet Union at the end of the last century and with the beginning of the new millennium, Eastern forces (or, more specifically, anti-Western forces) have reorganized themselves to retake strategic spaces. Latin America, a crucial space on the current geopolitical chessboard, has ceased to have the United States as its main trading partner and has increasingly ceded space to China, Russia and Iran, especially with the advance of anti-American communist projects such as those of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and, most recently, Peru.

The growing link between the Eastern powers and Latin American nations is based mainly on the exchange of manufactured goods (mostly of Chinese origin) for raw materials such as oil and minerals. This means that the region is the epicenter of a silent but aggressive trade war that, far from benefiting Latin American countries, is plunging them deeper into misery and making them dependent on the conquering trade of China and Russia.

In addition, the region is important in the political dispute over Taiwan, in which the West plays a fundamental role in preventing China’s advance on the island, and in the imposition of multilateralism that is being promoted from the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party.

But, of course, this is not only a threat to the developing economies of Latin America but also directly affects the United States, its national security and its relationship with the southern cone of the continent.

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From the Cold War to today: a change of course

In an exclusive conversation with El American, Joseph Humire, an expert in global security, specialized in transnational threats in the Western Hemisphere, explained that the alliance of the so-called Eastern powers—namely Russia, China and Iran, although it began after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991—intensified at the beginning of the new millennium with the arrival of Hugo Chávez to Venezuela.

Humire recalls that, when the Soviet Union lost the war and dissolved, there was almost a decade of unipolarity: under the command of a single power, which was the United States. “It was believed that the future would be much more peaceful as the United States would try to balance the interests of different parts of the world,” he said.

As the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama once said: it was the end of history. But he was wrong.

“Other powers began to emerge,” Humire continued, referring to Russia, China and Iran, which were not such at the end of the 20th century, nor did they have alliances with each other. “They were distinct countries, which had some kind of relationship on a transactional level, but no major strategic cooperation. This begins to change after ’91 but in a bigger way after 2001,” the expert said.

After the arrival of the new millennium and during the first years, the United States was immersed in a war that had just begun in Afghanistan and was preparing for an armed conflict in Iraq. Then, Russia, China and Iran began to establish cooperative relations but, this time, on a global level and set their sights on the Americas.

In 2005, when Venezuela had already advanced in a drastic turn to the left in its political scenario, Chavez and Fidel Castro had already created the “Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of America” (ALBA), as a commercial initiative whose main objective was to give battle to the United States.

With the creation of ALBA, joined by Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador and other Caribbean countries, the growing Eastern powers began to notice the intention of these countries to distance themselves from the United States, and saw it as an opportunity to advance in the region.

“China, Russia and Iran, which are already beginning to cooperate at a strategic and not only operational level, see Latin America as a fertile region to increase their joint capabilities and be able to put even more pressure on the United States in its own neighborhood,” Humire explained.

Since then, the United States has lost much of its commercial dominance in the region.

Latin america
Portrait of the leaders of Russia and China during the G20 summit in 2013. (Image: Flickr)

Isolating the United States: the advance of Eastern powers

Twenty sovereign countries coexist in Latin America, 12 of which are located in the southern part of the American continent. It is also where 7 of the 10 most populated cities in the region are located.

In a recent press conference on the state of Peru’s foreign relations, Humire explained that in 1999, the United States was the main trading partner of the 12 South American countries, but that has been changing since China set out to use the institutional and financial benefits of the current form of global capitalism to promote its economic rise, and thus pursue an anti-American agenda and introduce its communist ideas in the region.

This gave it the tools to pursue its geopolitical interests and advance the competition between the major trading powers.

By 2009, China’s advance was already remarkable, as it had already overtaken the United States in five of these countries, and in the following ten years it advanced in four more. Today, China is the main trading partner of almost all South American countries, while the United States keeps its ties intact with only three of them.

Humire explains that, in 2021, the new Eastern powers are very close. In their strategic cooperation, they have built joint capabilities in the political, economic, diplomatic and military spheres.

China, Russia and Iran have had two joint exercises between their navies in the Indian Sea in the Gulf of Oman: one in December 2018 and another in February this year. The third multinational naval exercise is proposed for the end of 2021, but this time they are looking to include their militaries.

“That is why it is observed that these countries participate in Russia’s Army Games every year, where Venezuela also acts since the Chavez government,” Humire pointed out.

The threat is spreading: imminent danger in the United States

According to Humire, the joint cooperation capacity that the Eastern powers already have at the political and intelligence levels, is being built at the military level and they want to take it to Latin America where today they already have a closer relationship with Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba.

Wherever they are, the Eastern powers will try to expand their abilities in the Western Hemisphere. With Argentina in that direction, El Salvador, Mexico and now also Peru, the threat becomes greater.

“In very practical terms, despite the fact that none of these countries have a representative democratic system like the liberal democracies of the West, they want to bring a much more authoritarian system to Latin America (and are doing so),” Humire noted. “As a result, you see institutions and governments that are more corrupt, less transparent and less aware of the human rights of individuals in their countries.

The consequences of these alliances, according to Humire, not only threaten the United States as Latin America’s main ally but will turn against its citizens. The expert pointed out that Latin American authoritarianism will seek to establish a replica of what these anti-Western powers have done with their countries: oppress their peoples.