Russia’s new foreign policy concept, published on March 31, outlines ambitious plans to destabilize peace and order in the Western Hemisphere and create rivalries among Latin American countries to further widen the gap between states already aligned with the Kremlin’s ambitions.
“This document is the result of its [Russia’s] invasion of Ukraine,” Vladimir Rouvinski, director of the Laboratory of Politics and International Relations at Colombia’s Icesi University, told Diálogo on June 14. “It is Russia’s position not to play by the approved and accepted rules of the game of international coexistence, but to remake the international order as it suits Russia, which is why it resorts to all kinds of justifications.”
For the first time since the Cold War, which ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union’s failed communist project, the Kremlin formally made it clear that it considers the United States and its concept of world order as its main adversary, regarding it as a target for countermeasures, the think tank International Crisis Group indicated in a report.
In the document, Moscow positions itself as one of the world’s sovereign centers of development and defines Beijing as an “integral strategic partner.” It also notes that its foreign policy is dictated by its national interests and “traditional values.” It reflects its approach of social conservatism and calls issues of gender identity and roles, religion, and family relations “Western degeneracy,” Crisis Group indicated.
Russia’s foreign policy concept asserts that the United States and its allies unleashed “a hybrid war against Russia” through economic sanctions and interference in its domestic politics. “But it ignores Russia’s real military and economic challenges, including the financial, political, and military harm caused by its decision to invade Ukraine,” Crisis Group added.
As such, Moscow has adopted symmetric and asymmetric strategies and measures to pushback, the Kremlin’s document attempts to justify. “However, it is the Kremlin that really uses hybrid warfare and asymmetric warfare,” Rouvinski said. “This has to do with something very particular, Putin’s war in Ukraine turned out to be the point of no return.”
“Putin knows perfectly well that Russia cannot return to the international arena as a legitimate actor, after violating a lot of international agreements,” Rouvinski added. “Moscow is the one who is openly waging an asymmetric war in Ukraine and a hybrid war in the West, which includes the Russian propaganda and disinformation machine.”
The Kremlin rules out slowing down its offensive in Ukraine. According to a report by Argentine news site Infobae, members of the Russian political and business elite are tired of the war and want it to end, although they doubt that Putin will stop the fighting.
Russia’s new foreign policy signals that it intends to drive a wedge between the United States and its allies through a regional roadmap in Europe and Eurasia, expanding its role in what it calls “the Islamic world,” strengthening its partnership with China, and prioritizing its focus on Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Latin America and the Caribbean
The document promises to support Latin American countries to distance themselves from the United States and its allies, including through the establishment and expansion of security and military cooperation, as well as military-technical cooperation, something Crisis Group described as a “radical idea.”
Russia seeks to strengthen a multifaceted partnership with Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and develop ties with other Latin American nations. “Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are not democracies, they are autocracies of different natures,” Rouvinski said. “The mission of these three dictatorships is to be entry points for Russia in Latin America.”
“The Kremlin recognizes them as its allies in trying to put together a new world order,” he added. “These nations share the grotesque delusion that the current international order is obsolete. They are Russia’s direct promoters in the region.”
While the document specifically mentions Brazil, Rouvinski insists that “this does not mean that Brazil shares what Moscow says.”
“Colombia will not be part of Putin’s efforts either,” Rouvinski said. “It isn’t the priority of the Colombian government, which has fundamental social and economic reforms on top of it.”
In the case of Cuba, “I see quite worrying new dynamics, understanding that the island has an important position for Moscow due to its proximity to the United States,” Rouvinski said. “As a consequence of the war in Ukraine, Russian companies that were in other places are looking for where to invest — that place may be Cuba.”
A whole ecosystem
Against this backdrop, democratic countries should be prepared for more disinformation, covert malign activities, and more efforts by the Kremlin to seize any opportunity to advance its ambitions to counter the West and create a multipolar international system, Rouvinski warned.
“The Russians learned how to manipulate information and people over the last 20 years. They have a whole ecosystem that includes state-controlled media, embassies, the diaspora. In Latin America they have a whole platform and tools for their new foreign policy doctrine,” Rouvinski concluded.