Mercifully there are those stubborn souls who, in the face of a propaganda blitz as intense as it is fact-defiant on America’s war against Russia (and ordinary Europeans) in Ukraine, insist on prioritising evidence over narrative. They need no help from me to arrive at the conclusion that a much touted “international community” …
… has in recent years been stripped of its internationalist veneer and shown for what it truly is: a core of imperialist nations 1 plus a dwindling periphery of states whose governments the USA, as lead imperialism, can bribe or bully.
I stress the word, dwindling.
Yesterday on the excellent Naked Capitalism website, Barcelona based financial journalist Nick Corbishley wrote under the self explanatory heading, Latin America Again Refuses to Fall In Line With the Collective West on Ukraine …
These paragraphs in particular struck me:
There are many reasons why most governments in the region are determined to maintain neutrality in the conflict. They include those outlined in an article by Krishen Mehta, 5 Reasons Why Much of the Global South Isn’t Automatically Supporting the West in Ukraine:
- The Global South does not believe the West understands or empathises with its problems.
- History Matters: Who stood where during colonialism and after independence? (A major bone of contention at the EU-CELAC 2 summit. For example, the Spanish government has volunteered as a mediator between Europe and Latin America, but for many Latin American countries Spain was their colonial master for hundreds of years, acquiring vast wealth by plundering their resources and exploiting their lands and people. The European slave trade also forcibly transported millions of Africans into slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean. Then, of course, there’s the more recent role of the US, which has sponsored or organised dozens of hard and soft coups and military interventions over the past century or so.)
- The war in Ukraine is seen by the Global South as mainly about the future of Europe rather than the future of the entire world. (This is just what Columbia’s President Gustavo Petro said.)
- The world economy is no longer US-dominated or Western-led and the Global South does have other options. (This is particularly true of Latin America. Brazi is a founding member of the BRICS group and its former President Dilma Rousseff is the new head of the BRICS Bank. The region’s trade with China has increased more than 26-fold so far this century. In fact, as Reuters reported in June last year, if you take Mexico’s huge trade balance with the US out of the equation, China has already overtaken the US as Latin America’s largest trading partner. And even Mexico is beginning to see a sharp increase in Chinese trade and investment.)
- The “rule based international order” lacks credibility and is in decline. (Indeed, the rise of CELAC itself is arguably a symptom of this decline. It was founded on December 3, 2011, in Caracas, by the “Pink Tide” leaders with the implicit goal of deepening Latin American integration while reducing the influence of the US on the politics and economics of the region. Mexico’s AMLO picked up the baton at the 2021 summit, expressing hopes that CELAC would eventually supplant the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) as the main institution for intra-regional relations. A year later, AMLO led a boycott of the OAS’ flagship biennial event, the Summit of the Americas, in response to Washington’s decision to exclude from the guest list the “antidemocratic” governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.)
There are other reasons why Latin America, as a whole, isn’t falling in line with the Collective West on Ukraine. For instance, Mexico has a long, albeit interrupted, history of neutrality dating all the way back to the early 1930s. Mexico’s constitution even includes a list of foreign policy principles such as a commitment to non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and promotion of collective security through active participation in international organisations. And AMLO is determined to honour those principles.
There are also stark economic considerations at play. As previously discussed here, Russia produces many of the fertilisers on which the huge agricultural industries of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina depend. Latin America was already in the grip of a major food crisis before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, largely but not only due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting supply chain crisis.
Another consideration is the goodwill Russia was able to cultivate during the pandemic. Moscow’s vaccine diplomacy, like Beijing’s, helped to expand its role and influence in the region, while Pfizer was shaking down governments left, right and centre.
Lastly, fear has also played a part. Two of the region’s countries, Venezuela and Cuba, have already had their economies eviscerated by US sanctions and blockades. Like their counterparts in many other parts of the world, the governments of Latin America were justifiably terrified by the precedent the US and the EU tried to set by attempting to banish Russia, one of the world’s largest commodity producers and exporters, from the entire global financial system. If the ploy had worked, they knew they could be next in line. Thankfully, it didn’t.
* * *
- As ever, imperialism is defined as the north-south export of monopoly finance capital, and south-north repatriation of super-profits, over and above those possible within the global north. As with the direct rule of the colonial era, imperialism is underpinned by armed might. That last is a vital truth, given America’s endless wars of this century, given NATO’s offensive role against a Russia which poses no threat to ordinary Europeans – as distinct from the super rich whose ability to loot the planet is threatened by Eurasia Rising – and given plans to expand NATO to the Pacific Rim. It is the reality of sunset on 500 years of western supremacy which now draws the world closer to nuclear war than at any point since WW2.
- CELAC = Community of Latin American & Caribbean States.