How Russia and China are challenging the US Monroe Doctrine — RT EN

6 Feb 2022 2:02 pm

As tensions mount over Ukraine and NATO’s eastward expansion, Moscow is considering a drastic response aimed not at Europe but at Latin America, the US “backyard” that Washington has claimed as its own since 1832.

By Paul Robinson

For two hundred years, the Monroe Doctrine, which declared Latin America a US sphere of influence, was a cornerstone of US policy. But as Russia and China reaffirm their opposition to a US-led world order, US dominance in the region looks a little shaky.

With the “Russian invasion” scare tactics entering its fourth month and Russian tanks still not moving through Kiev, the yardstick for Moscow’s likely response to Western rejection of its security demands is becoming a little clearer. Frustrated by what it sees as decades of contempt for its concerns, Moscow has called on the US to offer security guarantees, including a promise not to expand NATO further east. As was clear with the negative response from the US this week, they have no intention of following Russia’s wishes. Now the question is how the Kremlin will react.

Despite the hysterical headlines in the Western media about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has categorically ruled out the possibility. “Our nation has also repeatedly stated that we have no intention of attacking anyone. We already find the idea of ​​our peoples going to war against each other unacceptable,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said this week.

That’s not surprising. Russian officials and security experts have repeatedly made it clear that Ukraine is a minor issue for them and that their main concern is much broader: the general nature of the international system and security architecture in Europe. The idea that failure to reach an agreement on the latter would lead to an invasion of the former was never really logical. Rather than targeting Ukraine, Russia’s response to the current diplomatic stalemate is aimed at the party that Moscow blames primarily for the problem, the United States.

And what better way to do that than by challenging the US in its own backyard? Ever since President James Monroe proclaimed his famous “doctrine” in 1832 – that any foreign interference in the politics of either America was an act of hostility against Washington – the US has fiercely maintained its supremacy in the Americas.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the efforts of a succession of US administrations to overthrow the Cuban government and the imposition of sanctions for more than 60 years. In the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Washington made it clear that it was even willing to risk nuclear war to prevent the stationing of potentially enemy weapons near its borders. It has also used other methods to subvert or overthrow Latin American governments that it did not consider friendly enough. This includes support for coups and uprisings, such as aid for the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

But Washington’s ability to bend Latin America to its will appears weakened. Support for the coups in Bolivia and Honduras has backfired and members of the ousted government are back in power. Meanwhile, China is expanding its Silk Road initiative to South America; seven countries have already signed up and negotiations are ongoing with Nicaragua as the eighth. USA are no longer the only player on the pitch.

Now Russia has joined. In recent weeks, President Vladimir Putin has held telephone conversations with the heads of government of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. All countries with which Washington has very bad relations. According to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, all three countries agreed to “deepen strategic partnership without exceptions, including military and military-technical.”

Lavrov’s deputy Sergei Ryabkov did not confirm whether this would mean deploying Russian troops in these countries, but he did not rule it out either. “The Russian President has spoken many times about what such measures involving, for example, the Russian Navy might be if the course of events continues to provoke Russia and further increase US military pressure on us,” he said he.

A much-discussed extreme option would go back to 1962 and would mean deploying missiles in Cuba or Venezuela. Given that Russia now possesses hypersonic missiles, it would then have the ability to hit the US in minutes, rendering any defense impossible.

However, it seems unlikely that the Russian government would take such a provocative step. Unless the US did something similar in Ukraine or elsewhere near the Russian border beforehand. Even the option Ryabkov mentioned, sending Russian ships to the region, is far from certain. “We can’t send anything to Cuba,” former President Dmitry Medvedev said this week, saying it would hurt the country’s prospects of improving relations with the US and “would raise tensions in the world.”

Still, the threat of such actions is now in the air. As is the possibility of smaller steps like additional arms sales and economic support to enable Cubans and others to resist US sanctions. For now we have to wait and see what “military and military-technical” measures Moscow actually has in mind. But whatever it is, Americans probably won’t like it. Just as they don’t like the more generalized support for Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

In response to speculation about Russian military deployments in America, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan promised the US would respond “firmly.” This is ironic, since Sullivan and his colleagues in the US government appear to deny Russia the right to respond to US troops being sent to its border. But that’s just by the way. In fact, it’s hard to see what Washington could really do short of unleashing a disastrous war. Attempts to overthrow the Cuban and Venezuelan governments have failed and economic ties are all but severed. The US can no longer do much against these countries.

Washington now has to face the fact that while it remains the world’s number one power, it can no longer be confident of its dominant position even in its entourage. Its decline comes in small steps. Presumably, the latest announcements from Russia will not have very dramatic consequences. Even without the current tensions between East and West, Moscow might have opted for closer cooperation with Cuba and others. But with good relations with Washington, the Kremlin will probably be careful not to challenge the US in its own neighborhood.

As it is, these reports underscore the fact that pressure on Russia does not come without costs for Washington and can certainly work to its detriment. The leaders in the White House should give this some thought.

RT DE strives for a broad range of opinions. Guest posts and opinion pieces do not have to reflect the editor’s point of view.

Paul Robinson is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history and military ethics and is the author of the blog Irrussionality. He tweets @Irrusianality.

Translated from the English.

More on the subject – Statement by Putin on NATO Response to Security Guarantees: Concerns of principle ignored

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