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Video: Russia and the Americas' Democracy Agenda

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Panelists:

  • Steve Biegun, Vice President, Ford Motor Co.
  • R. Evan Ellis, Research Professor of Latin American Studies, U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute
  • Ed Verona, Former President and CEO, U.S.-Russia Business Council
  • Christopher Walker, Vice President, Studies and Analysis, National Endowment for Democracy (moderator)

If the bulk of China's relationship with Latin America is in commercial ties with the region, the case of Russia is different as the country focuses on a more geopolitical strategy. In the second panel of AS/COA's event in Washington DC, China, Russia, and the Regional Democracy Agenda, experts from the private and public sector weighed in on Russian interests in the region. Ford's Steve Biegun talked about Russia's ties with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua and how the country might reinforce anti-American values in the region. Biegun said that in this scenario, corruption in the region makes the U.S. private sector put their faith and confidence in "good people" in Latin America, who are committed to democracy and rule of law. McLarty Associates Senior Advisor Edward Verona said that Russia should expect reactions against corruption in Latin America from now on. Verona also spoke on Russia's energy investments in the region. Although smaller than China in bandwidth, Russia now has energy investments in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, and Argentina. 

The panelists also discussed a growing Russian media influence in the region and how the presence of channels such as Russia Today and Sputinik might influence the many upcoming elections in Latin America, especially via social media. When it comes to Russia's presence in Mexico, though, they agreed the United States has stronger historical, geographic, and people-to-peole ties with the country, even though relations are shaken as the current administration threatens to break the North American Free Trade Agreement. "We are at $600 billion in trade," said R. Evan Ellis. "No other nation, including China, has that amount in trade with Mexico." The United States can build on this trust and partnership to limit chances for Russia in Mexico, he explained.