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Five Latin American States Abstained at UN’s Ukraine Resolution and Here is Why

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During the special emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on March 2nd, only five Latin American states renounced from condemning Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. Although none voted ‘against’, four abstentions from Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua, plus Venezuela’s refusal to participate in the voting, triggered questions about their position on the crisis. Composed of leftist, if not populist regimes, recurrently sanctioned due to allegations of human rights violations, these states, openly antagonistic towards US hegemony, have long relied on Russia’s provisions of military equipment, financial support through loans and hydrocarbons imports, and rhetorical validation, while some relationships are reminiscent of the Cold War period. Here, once again the geopolitical implications of East European politics are reflected at the Latin America space, for instance, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov’s recent tour in Latin America, specifically Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, to court regional partners and to lay groundwork for support, even if rhetorical, amid rising tensions in the region. As such, what are these states’ positions in the Ukrainian issue? And what is at stake for them?

Bolivia

La Paz asserted that the escalation of the conflict was caused by ‘the lack of dialogue and understanding’, yet avoided naming Russia directly. Here, Bolivia reenacts its neutral tradition while disapproving Western-led sanctions on Russia. As stated by Freddy Mamani, vice-minister of Foreign Policy, the international community should ‘not guarantee the security of some states at the costs of the insecurity of others’. Bolivia’s abstention from condemning Russia comes as no surprise, given its synchronism during previous international conflicts, specifically on the Crimea issue in 2014, along with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and during Bolivia’s non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) over the Syrian issue in 2018. Such positions expose La Paz’s endeavors to court Russian concessions for economic and security cooperation. Specifically, since 2006, Bolivia’s reproachment with Russia highlighted the exploration of natural gas, oil, and lithium, mainly led by the Russian state-owned Gazprom. Likewise, Bolivia has long desired military modernization via arms trade with Russia, for combating narcotrafficking purposes, yet such deals have been dragging on for years.

Cuba

Since the rebooting of bilateral relations with Russia in 2008, cooperation in infrastructure and industrial investment, and financial loans have provided a lifeline for the Cuban regime to alleviate the effects of a US-led economic blockade. As such, the Cuban ambassador at the UN, Pedro Luis Cuesta, has fiercely accused the US and allies of influencing the Ukraine government into launch a military operation against Russia; thus, Cuba dubs Moscow’s behavior as reactive, if not preemptive against the progressive expansion of NATO. Here, Cuban rhetorical support for Russian’s military operations appears as a means to secure the continuance of economic and diplomatic sponsorship. Specifically, such statements came short after Russia’s ratification of the agreement to postpone an over USD 2 billion debt payments until 2027 after Yuri Borisov’s visit in February 22nd. Developments related to the Kremlin’s opposition to the West have previously reverberated in the Caribbean, for instance, the port call in Havana bay by the Russian warship Viktor Leonov SSV-175 in 2014. More urgently, redeployment of Russia’s military assets to the region are “neither confirm[ed] nor exclude[d]”, as recently stated by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

El Salvador

El Salvador relations with Moscow are the least expressive among the abstainers. Up to date, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador has avoided any official comments on the issue, representing its preference for neutrality, if not disinterest in European power politics. For instance, El Salvador has equally refrained from a collective declaration proposed by Guatemala at the Organization of American States on the February 25th condemning Russia’s actions as “unlawful, unjustified, and [an] unprovoked invasion of Ukraine”. However, its absence has been noted. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has called for a clearer position from President Nayib Bukele, urging El Salvador to follow the majority of the international community and “opt for a total isolation of Russia and hold President Putin responsible for this aggression”.

Nicaragua

Managua’s abstention at the UNGA was expected, where President Daniel Ortega’s assertive comments praised Putin’s moves while transferring the blame to NATO’s expansion endeavors. Jaime Hermida Castillo, Nicaragua’s ambassador at the UN, condemned economic and political sanctions from the US and its allies, noting NATO as ‘launching mass destruction bombs against the Russian Federation”. Nicaragua has historically backed Russia’s position on geopolitical issues on the region, for instance, Ortega was quick to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia when they broke away from Georgia in 2008. In exchange for political support, Moscow continued its position as the major supplier of military equipment to the Nicaraguan regime, a total of USD 143 million since 2009 (over 90% of total arms’ supply), composed of TIGR armored cars, T-72 tanks, Mi-17 helicopters, among other weaponries. Arguably under the premise of security cooperation focused on anti-drug enforcement operations, specifically the Moscow-backed counterdrug center facility, security relations have fostered joint training projects with Russian and Latin American states’ operatives. A crucial factor of the relationship is Moscow’s access to Nicaragua’s ports with the add-on of naval patrols, a needed appendage for potential, yet limited force projection in the region.

Venezuela

Nicolás Maduro similarly condemned NATO’s ‘destabilizing actions against Russia’ during a phone call with Putin in early March. Héctor Constant, Venezuelan ambassador to the UN, clearly backed Moscow at the UNGA session by refusing to participate in the voting while calling the NATO expansion a ‘progressive hostile attitude against Russia and its territorial integrity”. Emerging as a strategic move to offset US sanctions stemming from the Hugo Chavez era, Caracas quickly became Russia’s major strategic cornerstone in South America, resulting in expressive weaponry imports as well as joint naval exercises. Here, Maduro’s hosting of Russian nuclear-capable TU-160 strategic bombers in 2013 and 2018, and a potential redeployment of Russian military to Venezuela, are conducive for support of Russia’s strategic power projection activities in the Western hemisphere, Washington’s backyard. Russia has a steady presence as an investor in the Venezuelan hydrocarbon sector, specifically oil exploration by Rosneft, which in turn, paired with financial loans and diplomatic support, were vital to keep the regime afloat, particularly under the heavy Washington criticism amid the Venezuela crisis in 2019.

Reluctant acquiescence

The overall explanation for a few specific Latin American states’ refusal in condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is mainly geopolitical and ideological. These five states have long operated at the margins of the US regional orbit, if not in seclusion. As such, the survival of such often dubbed authoritarian regimes rely on the longevity of Russia’s financial cooperation, for the likes of Cuba and Bolivia, and more importantly, the security and diplomatic patronage, such as Venezuela and Nicaragua. Likewise, looking at regional major powers, although supportive of the UNGA resolution, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina have handpicked lukewarm statements to avoid upsetting Russia. Mexico, while displaying empathy for Ukraine, refused to imposed economic sanctions on Moscow. Similarly, following President Alberto Fernández visit to Russia, Buenos Aires also refused sanctioning Russia, potentially due to its high hopes for fulfilling the promised strategic cooperation with Putin firmed in 2015. President Jair Bolsonaro, also returning from his visit to Moscow, would have preferred a more balanced statement from the UNGA, whereas concerns over imports of Russian fertilizers is identified. In turn, the US seems puzzled with their positions, particularly on Bolsonaro’s stating ‘we [Brazil] are solidary with Russia’, as Washington certainly hoped for greater support from its major non-NATO allies, Brazil and Argentina. Finally, should Russia’s position deteriorate along its European periphery, Venezuela and Cuba could be once again mobilized, as it occurred in 2008 and 2014 due to the crisis in Georgia and Crimea respectively, to leverage Moscow’s position via geopolitical pressures on the US by escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere and America’s backyard.

Mateus Bilhar is a Ph.D. student of International Relations in the Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, China. His research interests include International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Sino-Latin America relations and Hierarchy in International Relations.

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Americas

The Despair of American Youths under an Overly ‘Critical Society’

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A recent tragic incident in the United States has stunned the world. This incident, is not merely “domestic terrorism”, but its root cause, that of a “critical society”, is far more serious than people think.

Payton Gendron, from Conklin, New York, drove a few hours to Buffalo, which is about 200 miles away, to a predominantly African-American, low-income neighborhood, about 3 miles north of the central Buffalo. It is surrounded by residential areas, a university, a nearby Family Dollar store, and a fire station. –

In an act that shocked everyone, Payton Gendron pulled up his rifle and walked into the supermarket, and started killing people, women, the elderly, and cashiers. Not only did he shoot at the unarmed people, but he also broadcast the gory scene of the massacre live on Twitch. This vicious mass shooting incident left at least 10 people dead and 3 others injured. Of the 13 victims, 11 were black.

In the aftermath, it was horrifying to discover that the white young man who did the mass shooting was only 18 years old. “This is the worst nightmare that any community can face, and we are hurting and we are seething right now”, said Mayor Byron Brown.

After the incident, President Joe Biden urged unity to stem racial hate as a remedy to get rid of the “hate that remains a stain on the soul of America.” Biden said that, “violence inflicted in the service of hate and a vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group. A hate that through the media and politics, the Internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost, and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced”.

The so-called “Great Replacement Theory” alluded to in the speech of President Biden in his condemnation of the massacre refers to the belief that immigrants or other people of color are “replacing” white Americans. Propagated by the media and the Internet, and deliberately exaggerated by political shows and politicians, there are those who become firm believers that the “Great Replacement” is the reality and the future of the United States. The Buffalo massacre is but one of the countless hate crimes. In today’s American society, no one is completely happy, and everyone seems to have different reasons for dissatisfaction, disappointment, and hatred.

The reason for this is that the U.S. is typically a “critical society”, which does not often offer much justice and truth. Instead, discrimination, grievances, conspiracies, and hatred more often than not emerge in such a society seemingly plagued by despair and pain. The real United States might not be exactly like this, of course. Yet, countless people from all over the world are eager to come to America by all means to seek hope there, not knowing that Americans, especially young people who are overwhelmed by disappointment, are not hopeful about the future.

There are many reasons why the U.S. has become a critical society.

Education in the U.S., with its strong emphasis on critical thinking, trains young people from an early age to not only possess critical spirit, but also to have critical point of view. This started with English composition among young children, and continues to dissertation among college students. Such critical spirit is like a contagious disease, which is easily transmissible. In books, in movies, in TV shows and newspapers, in culture as well as in fashion, Americans are always criticizing all the time, trampling. Yet, their critical mind does not come with constructive strength. There is a serious lack of respect for the classics. It is as if only through crushing the past and the traditions that allows them to show their superiority.

The cultural model that balances the critical and classical, empirical and traditional do not seem to be the dominant model in American society, nor an integral part of its popular culture. American institutions of higher learning, which are supposed to be places where the classics are taught, are now the venues that instill radical critical thinking. Therefore, the non-technological departments in colleges there are nothing short of houses of madness. This has led to a pernicious consequence of increasingly polarized critical thinking, turning the U.S. into a very harmful critical society.

In such as overly critical society, it is difficult for people to see the presence of the classics that represent all things positive. Since everything can be criticized, then everything is problematic, where there are flaws everywhere, where everything is imperfect. In an overly critical society, no one is normal, and everyone has a vicious side. If one cannot find shortfalls in a person, then standards will be raised up or lowered down, or new standards are invented, so that everyone becomes the target of criticism. All doubts are noble, and the classics themselves are the best objects of doubt.

The biggest problem with a society like this is that there is no hope, only hate. All that is left is despair. A young man like Payton Gendron is actually just a victim who goes astray in such a society. In an overly critical society, every young adult is in despair.

The U.S. today is already very worrying enough, its future is even more so. With the Internet, disappointment and hatred are ubiquitously amplified. From the country’s power center to its legislature departments, in terms of constructing, developing, and protecting the nation, the professional politicians there contribute less than regular nine-to-five office workers. These politicians expose, create, amplify, and criticize any possible flaws of political opponents without hesitation, in accordance with the modus operandi of professional politicians there. Such amplification and role model effects have made the United States a desperate country.

The world of information is complex, and not everyone possesses the ability to process information objectively, and not everyone should be expected to do so.

In the face of all kinds of information sweeping in, using the “believe it or not” mentality to deal with the survival challenges of the modern information society is a major blunder. The right approach is to recognize and analyze information, but this is too difficult for the average person and requires good training in information analysis. In China, it seems that there is only one think tank that has that kind of training in both critical and empirical information analysis. In this sense, Chinese academia does not always lag behind its counterpart in the United States. As for the U.S., the path of seeking science and technology to solve overly critical problems through specialized information processing is most certainly not going to work. Technology will always be objective, and as it can be used to clarify doubts, it can also certainly be used to create problems.

To bring things to a close, the sole way for the United States to get more people to see the light is for its society to make changes and move out of an overly critical society.

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Are Biden’s Troubles of his Own Making?

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

What a fractious world we live in.  The somnambulist Biden has woken up in his nocturnal wanderings to hear complaints about China for its sea incursions close to the littoral areas of allies like Taiwan and Japan.  Thus at the “Quad” (Australia, Japan, US and India) meeting in Tokyo, he reaffirmed US support for Taiwan, militarily if need be, to defend Taiwanese independence in what appeared to be a reversal of policy as earlier the US had recognized it as a province of China.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) an economic union of the Quad and other Asia-Pacific countries has been revived — Trump had buried it earlier, aiming presumably higher but missing.  Mr. Biden announced its reincarnation as the new Inter Pacific Economic Federation (IPEF).

All of which is the least of Mr. Biden’s headaches.  There’s a full blown war in Ukraine to consider.  And he promptly announced a $40.1 bill military aid package for Ukraine.  Defense contractors couldn’t be more pleased.  Lockheed Martin stock is up 6 percent in two days as it ramps up production of the Javelin anti-tank missile, doubling it according to the CEO to supply Ukraine.

Congress has now passed a $40 billion aid package.  The amount is not trivial.  For comparison, India, a country of more than a billion people with the third largest defence budget in the world, spends less than half that sum on weapons procurement.

The real question is going to be Mr. Putin’s response.  He might well call it a move aimed at slaughtering young Russian boys, when he himself is asking for peace talks.  Even President Zelensky, the quintessential blowhard politician, has been forced to admit that 50-100 Ukrainian soldiers are dying daily.

American interference in Ukraine has a long history.  The planning and participation in a coup eight years ago (when Biden was vice president) and the selection of future leaders thereafter are all documented.  On lack of European support for it at the time, Victoria Nuland, the then Deputy Secretary of State for Eurasian Affairs responded famously, “F–k the EU.”  She has the dubious distinction of being the chief promoter of the so-called “soft coup” which led eventually to the fall of the elected Viktor Yanukovych government and thence to the divisions in Ukraine.  The results have been the deaths of an estimated 13,000 people and the displacement of millions.

Since 2014 about one million refugees have left the country as a result of wars in the Donbas.  Another 1.6 million were internally displaced.  Following the latest fighting in 2022, the number of Ukrainians who have left the country has risen by another 6.6 million and another 7.7 million are displaced from their homes to other parts of the country.  That in total is over a quarter of the country’s population of 44 million. 

It is painful, pitiful, atrocious and appalling that in the 21st century, political leaders instead of resolving disputes have behaved in a manner ending in a human tragedy of these proportions.  Let’s just say, none of the participants need queue up for a Nobel Peace Prize, although one had already received it before this and other misadventures. 

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Americas

The WW III that Biden and All Other Neocons Are Leading U.S. Toward

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Official White House Photo by Erin Scott

The intensely neoconservative U.S. President Joe Biden is leading the world into a World War III against both Russia and China, but despite the U.S. spending annually around half of the entire planet’s military expenditures (not only in its ‘Defense’ Department but in its Treasury Department and other Government agencies), America is actually inferior to both Russia and China regarding leading-edge geostrategically crucial technologies of both nuclear and laser weapons, and is getting farther behind each year, because for both Russia and China their own national sovereignty is what their enemy, the U.S. Government, aims to conquer, whereas no one poses a threat to the U.S. Government’s continuing rule over its own people (it becomes increasingly a police-state). The U.S. Government is the only and supreme champion of sanctions and coups and invasions for regime-change producing the creation of new vassal-nations throughout the globe, whereas both Russia and China must protect themselves from that or else become themselves new U.S. vassal-nations. So: they are laser-focused on NOT allowing America to grab their nation. Truly, for them, this is an existential issue, NOT a matter (such as is the case regarding the U.S. Government) of growing to become the world’s first and only all-encompassing global empire (a luxury that only America’s billionaires, who control the U.S. Government, require). This basic distinction is the reason why whereas the U.S. has over 800 military bases spread throughout the planet, Russia and China are concerned ONLY about not allowing U.S. forces to be based so near to their borders as to enable a U.S. missile to annihilate their capital’s command-and-control within less than ten minutes and so to enable the U.S. Government to grab control of them so fast that the targeted nation’s (Russia’s and China’s) retaliatory weapons won’t be launched in self-defense.

Consequently, for example, the geostrategically-focused CRUX youtube site headlined on May 23rd “Why The World Fears Putin’s ‘Flying Chernobyl’ Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile”, and reported on Russia’s emerging “Buravestnik” nuclear-powered nuclear-warheaded missile that will be able to avoid all known types of anti-missile detection and tracking technologies and that will be able to fly for any distance because of its nuclear fuel. Though that pro-U.S.-Government, anti-Putin, CRUX-produced video says “Experts have underlined the threat that … this weapon may pose to the environment and human health” due to radioactive waste that’s released into the air during its flight, because there is no space inside the missile to store waste, even America’s National Defense magazine has admitted that “the amount of nuclear waste that this will produce is very tiny, … basically negligible,” which is hardly what CRUX headlines it as being — a “Flying Chernobyl.” CRUX went on to say, “Experts say that Putin’s Cold War mindset has normalised the development of such doomsday weapons.” It’s all regime-change-in-Russia propaganda.

In other words: the neocons’ aim to destroy Russia so fast that Russia won’t be able to destroy America in retaliation, is hogwash that’s probably funded, ultimately, by corporations such as Lockheed Martin, whose sales are exclusively or mainly to the U.S. Government and its allied governments (vassal-nations), which U.S.-and-allied weapons-making firms’ stock-values have soared ever since the end of the Cold War in 1991. It ended only on Russia’s side in 1991, but this supercharged it on America’s side.  This unleashed a solely military-industrial-complex-controlled U.S. Government, which demands an ever-increasing percentage of the U.S. Government’s expenses to go toward its military, which, nonetheless, is privately owned and controlled; and its profits have soared.

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