Through selective threats, military activities, and disinformation campaigns, Russia has been strengthening the dictatorships of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela as a geopolitical leverage pointfor its expansion in the region, Noticias de Israel, an Israeli media outlet that broadcasts news in Spanish, reported.
“Russia is acting more aggressively in the hemisphere. The Kremlin and its historic Latin American partners are clearly intensifying actions to create greater social and economic destabilization,” Jorge Serrano, a member of the team of advisors to the Peruvian Congress Intelligence Commission, told Diálogo on August 15. “If someone wants to attack an enemy, they weaken their allies. Governments close to the United States are where Russia and thisaxis place the greatest emphasis in order to destabilize them.”
The July 29 Noticias de Israel report noted that Moscow sustains a triangle of authoritarian regimes, as it seeks to dismantle democracies and promotemilitarized authoritarianism. The support of the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan regimes for Russia during the invasion of Ukraine contributes to instability in the Western Hemisphere, the report added.
Russian activities in Latin America include the deployment of troops. In August, Venezuela hosted an exercise that brought together Russian, Chinese, and Iranian armies in a strategic move to position forward-deployed military assets in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for a Free and Secure Society indicated in a June report.
“With the exercise […] Russia seeks to show its decision to have greater interference even militarily in Latin America,” Serranosaid. “Latin American countries are concerned because they see the clear message that Moscow is supporting dictatorships,” he said.
In June, the Daniel Ortega-Rosario murillo regime of Nicaragua authorized the entry of Russian troops into its territory from July 1 to December 31, 2022 to participate in humanitarian aid, military exercises, and anti-narcotics operations, France 24 news agency reported.
Months prior, in January, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia could send military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if talks to prevent a war with Ukraine failed, Mexican daily El Universalreported. According to the Spanish think tank Real Instituto Elcano, Putin has been developing a set of subversive initiatives in open societies for years.
These initiatives include state sponsorship of terrorism, cyberattacks, interference in political and electoral processes through official propaganda tools such as RT or Sputnik, and much less obvious disinformation programs, among others.
Desperate for money, credit, and continued power, Nicaragua and Venezuela are relying more on Russia and Cuba for military assistance as they increase repression, IsraelNoticias reported. Russia is one of the main arms suppliers to these authoritarian regimes, the news site indicated.
Moscow helped Nicaragua to modernize its army by sending combat tanks and anti-aircraft defense systems and collaborated in the creation of the Glonass satellite monitoring station. In return Nicaragua supports the Kremlin in all its expansionist moves.
The Kremlin put millions of dollars into propping up the Venezuelan economy, bolstering Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, and diluting the impact of U.S. sanctions, Israel Noticias says. It also sells the authoritarian regime in Caracas billions of dollars in military equipment.
In Venezuela, Moscow is also set to build a Kalashnikov rifle factory, and also opened a Russian helicopter training center, the news site added.
The longstanding ties of friendship between Cuba and Russia strengthened in early 2022 as tensions mounted in Ukraine. Both countries vouched to explore collaboration in transportation, energy, industry, and banking, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said in February, Reuters reported. Russia and Cuba have a deep history of economic and military collaboration, which dates back to the 1960s. Moscow, China, and North Korea have been assisting Cuba in the modernization of its military fleet, independent Cuban media El Toque also reported.
“The United States must intensify its actions within Latin American countries to prevent them from falling into a vicious circle, and from co-investing in countries allied to the Russia-China axis. […] We must not allow more dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela, or Nicaragua,” Serrano concluded.