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Putin Heads to Latin America to Boost Ties

Published: July 11, 2014 (Issue # 1819)



  • The Kremlin said that a number of economic agreements are expected to be signed at the BRICS summit, including on establishing the BRICS Development Bank and Currency Reserve Pool.
    Photo: Kremlin.ru

President Vladimir Putin is to embark on a five-day visit to Cuba, Argentina and Brazil on Friday in an effort to strengthen Russia's ties with its Latin American partners amid political spats with the West.

Putin will first meet with Cuban President Raul Castro to discuss the extension of economic ties between the countries, before heading to Argentina and Brazil for bilateral talks and to attend the BRICS summit and the World Cup final.

Although Russia has fostered warm ties with Latin America since the Soviet era, Putin's visit has taken on more significance given Russia's fallout with the West over the annexation of Crimea and conflict in Ukraine.

"Putin's visit to Latin America in the current international context is a demonstration that Russia is seeing the world more broadly," said Boris Martynov, deputy head of research at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Latin America. "This visit shows the desire to create a multi-civilization world order."

In an address to Russia's ambassadors to foreign countries earlier this month, Putin said that "the unipolar world order had not come into being" and that nontraditional centers of power had been gaining influence on the international stage.

"Peoples and countries are raising their voices in favor of self-determination and civilizational and cultural identity, which conflicts with the attempts by certain countries to maintain their domination in the military sphere, in politics, finance, the economy and in ideology," he said in an apparent reference to Western countries.

Putin's visit follows Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's tour of Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru and Chile in May, at the height of clashes between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Lavrov's visit was interpreted as an effort to court a region that has traditionally been viewed as the U.S.'s backyard amid a seemingly intractable dispute with the West.

Harking back to the strong ties between the region and the Soviet Union, two days ahead of Putin's arrival in Cuba, Russia's Federation Council ratified an agreement canceling 90 percent of Cuba's $35.2 billion debt to the Soviet Union, a deal Martynov said paved the way for "a world of possibilities" in the countries' bilateral relations. Putin will also visit with Fidel Castro, the 87-year-old legendary leader of the Cuban revolution who played a key role in forging his country's ties with the Soviet Union and with modern Russia.

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