On March 29, Dr. R. Evan Ellis, Senior Associate with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, gave a lecture at The Institute of World Politics on Russia’s and China’s influence in Latin America.
He discussed at great length the differences and the similarities of the role of trade in Latin America of these two superpowers. President Vladimir Putin wants to advance Russia’s position in Latin America as a way to demonstrate to the United States and his own country that Russia is returning to a position of strength as a global superpower. Russia’s direct involvement in Latin America challenges U.S. equities, especially in the Caribbean basin, but compared to China, Russia is more limited with respect to the number of countries and number of sectors in which it is engaged economically.
Dr. Ellis asserted that unlike Russia, China tries not to involve itself with Latin America in a way that will provoke the United States. Dr. Ellis claimed that China poses the greatest strategic risk, not only to United States, but globally. China’s motivations are principally economic in nature, but being economic does not make them any less strategic, nor any less impactful for the U.S. position.
Dr. Ellis discussed Putin’s involvement with Latin America, including the in area of arms sales and military engagement. He argued that underdevelopment, government corruption, inequality, and crime engenders the readiness of regimes in Latin America to open a door to Russia. Dr. Ellis further explained the reasons for China’s interest in Latin America and why Latin American countries are increasingly receptive to Chinese proposals. Dr. Ellis concluded his lecture with reasons why China’s constructive engagement in international affairs, including Latin America, can be beneficial to the U.S.
Dr. R. Evan Ellis is an analyst of Latin American economic, political, and security issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He focuses on Latin America’s relationships with China and other external actors, including India, Russia, and Iran. He is an associate professor of Latin American studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, and he has previously served as a professor with the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington, D.C.