The disappearance of the Soviet Union in 1991 significantly reduced Moscow’s influence in Latin America. Its geopolitical influence in the region recovered between 1997 and 1999, after the Kremlin accepted the failure of its attempts to integrate with the institutions of the West, and largely thanks to its newly established relationship with the Bolivarian government of Venezuela.
In the years since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency of the Russian Federation in 2000 –above all since 2008– Russia has intensified its presence in Latin America through bilateral meetings at the highest level and State-sponsored media: the RT television channel, and the news agency Sputink News. Yet on traditional measures like trade and investment, diplomatic involvement and arms sales, Russia’s participation remains small compared with the rest of the world. Its political and virtual reappearance in Latin America using traditional and social media coincides with the country’s break from the West in the wake of the Russo-Georgian War in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine in 2014. With no significant trade interests, limited arms sales and a tepid diplomatic commitment, Russia’s presence in Latin America is weak. However, there is evidence it is seeking to influence the region at a low cost and to appear to be a major power, challenging the US. Yet with no real influence, its virtual presence will not be enough to achieve any of Moscow’s strategic objectives in the Western hemisphere.
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