July 22, 2014

Putin’s South American Trip Hides Russia’s Strategic Weaknesses

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to South America earlier this month was overshadowed by events in Ukraine and the Middle East, it did garner considerable attention in the South American and Russian media. Even in Washington, commentators saw Putin as seeking to circumvent the Western opposition to his policies in Ukraine as well as retaliate for U.S. involvement in Moscow’s neighboring states with a tit-for-tat display of influence in Washington’s strategic backyard. 
 
Putin began his visit in Cuba on July 11, where he finalized plans to eliminate 90 percent of Cuba’s Cold War-era debt to Russia—more than $30 billion out of $35 billion—and convert the remainder to a special joint development fund to support new Russian-Cuban projects. After a brief stop in Nicaragua, he then traveled to Argentina, where he oversaw a nuclear energy cooperation agreement and other deals. In Brazil, his last stop, he watched the World Cup soccer final, signed new economic measures and attended the sixth annual BRICS summit—later joined by other South American leaders—before flying home on July 16. 
 
But a false report that Russia planned to restore its electronics listening post at Lourdes in Cuba, like earlier U.S. fears that Russia planned to build permanent military bases in the Western Hemisphere, reflects unrealistic expectations of Moscow’s capabilities and willingness to confront Washington in a region of peripheral concern to most Russian policymakers. Putin has since indicated that Russia has no plans to relaunch Lourdes as a signals intelligence center, while the government has clarified that the Russian navy only wants access to temporary support centers and not permanent bases in the hemisphere. 

Read the full op-ed at World Politics Review

  • Reports
    • May 3, 2024
    The Role of AI in Russia’s Confrontation with the West

    Executive Summary Russian thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) development is consistent with that of other major powers that are seeking to respond to an evolving comb...

    By Samuel Bendett

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • April 23, 2024
    The Axis of Upheaval

    The West has been too quick to dismiss the coordination among China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia....

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor & Richard Fontaine

  • Podcast
    • April 19, 2024
    The State of the War in Ukraine with Michael Kofman

    As the war in Ukraine continues into its third year, the mood has become increasingly dark. While territorial changes continue to be minor, Russia’s slow but steady advances a...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Michael Kofman

  • Podcast
    • March 22, 2024
    Putin’s Fifth Term and Russian Domestic Politics

    This past weekend, Russians went to the polls for the country’s presidential election. To the surprise of no one, Vladimir Putin emerged victorious with a record-high 87 perce...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Dr. Angela Stent & Joshua Yaffa

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia