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.
More from CNAS
PodcastDefense Priorities in a New Administration, with Michèle Flournoy
Michèle Flournoy joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss how a Biden administration can work with NATO to confront transnational threats. Flournoy has been a l...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Michèle Flournoy
PodcastThe Russia-China Defense Relationship, with Mike Kofman and Alexander Gabuev
Mike Kofman and Alexander Gabuev join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to explain the Russia-China defense relationship on the latest episode of Brussels Sprouts. Kofman...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Mike Kofman & Alexander Gabuev
PodcastThe U.S. Withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, with Steven Pifer and Anna Wieslander
Steven Pifer and Anna Wieslander join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend on the latest episode of Brussels Sprouts to discuss the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Open S...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Anna Wieslander
CommentaryConverging Chinese and Russian Disinformation Compounds Threat to Democracy
In recent weeks the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda and disinformation blitz around COVID-19 has drawn increasing attention, and with good reason. In addition to pr...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor & David Shullman