Putin 'Ray of Light' on Latin America Tour
Published: July 14, 2014 (Issue # 1819)
President Vladimir Putin visited three Latin American countries over the weekend in a whirlwind tour aimed at demonstrating Moscow's resilience as an international power despite Western attempts at isolation stemming from the Ukraine crisis.
Putin began his trip with visits to Cuba and Argentina, before traveling on to Brazil in time for the World Cup Final on Sunday. He signed a range of deals along the way, including agreements to establish Glonass positioning stations in each country, as well as a nuclear power plant development deal with Argentina.
Although the visit to what for strategic purposes is broadly viewed as the U.S.'s backyard was planned prior to Kiev's regime change, analysts see the trip as a geopolitical move in the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Vladimir Davydov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Latin America Institute, told The St. Petersburg Times on Sunday that the trip illustrates the point that while Russia is more than simply a regional power, it is not striving to become a global superpower.
"Russia wants to counterbalance the U.S., but it wants to do so together with China and other BRICS countries. Russia positions itself as a separate pole of power, but not as a single alternative," he said in a phone interview.
Dmitry Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center tweeted on Thursday that Putin's goal in Latin America was to demonstrate that "Russia is not a regional power." Having been excluded from the Group of Eight, Russia has shifted its focus to BRICS, he added, noting that the trip further proves that Russia has friends among the U.S.'s neighbors.
Following Russia's annexation of Crimea, U.S. President Barack Obama caused an uproar among pundits by labeling Russia a "regional power."
"Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but out of weakness," he said at a news conference in The Hague in late March.
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