Russia finds tacit support from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia for its Ukraine aggression | Opinion

The visit of four Russian warships to Cuba was not the only way in which Russian ruler Vladimir Putin flexed his muscles in Latin America in recent days: He also won tacit support from Brazil, Mexico and Colombia at a major world summit on the Russia-Ukraine war.

The leftist populists governments of those countries were among the few that refused to sign the final document at the summit of about 100 countries in Switzerland to set a common ground for future peace negotiations with Russia.

Nearly 85 participating counties — including the United States, Germany, France, Great Britain, Turkey and Argentina — signed the summit’s document, which called for respecting Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” as the basis for any Ukraine-Russia peace agreement.

Many Western diplomats saw Mexico, Brazil and Colombia’s position as a classic display of political hypocrisy by self-proclaimed progressive governments that often remind the world about America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan decades ago, but look the other way at Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine only two years ago.

Ironically, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia were among the 141 countries that had condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations in 2022. But, since then, the three countries’ presidents have been increasingly shifting toward “neutrality” in the conflict.

The three Latin American countries said they refused to sign the summit’s final document among other things because Russia had not been invited to the meeting, and that both sides needed to sit at the table for any productive discussion to take place. But Ruslan Spirin, Ukraine’s government special envoy to Latin America, told me in an interview from Kyiv that the meeting was aimed at setting a common position by countries that oppose military invasions, and Putin would have torpedoed the discussions.

“There will be a time to invite Russia to the table, but this wasn’t it,” Spirin told me. “We wanted to agree on a collective position first. We all knew that if we invited Putin, he would say what he always says, which is that the countries that criticize the invasion are Russophobes, that they want to destroy Russia.”

Spirin, who said he was just coming out of an hours-long electricity blackout because of the Russian bombardments, told me that the three Latin American countries may have shifted toward neutrality in the war because of Russian disinformation through its state-run media in Latin America, which he said “has influenced public opinion and governments.”

In addition, “there could be economic motives,” he said. Indeed, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia may be benefiting from Western economic sanctions against Russia, which have increased world prices of many agricultural products they export, and allows them to buy cheaper Russian oil and fertilizers that Russia can’t sell elsewhere.

Brazil, for instance, depends heavily on Russian precursors for fertilizers that are critical to its agriculture industry.

Still, it’s hard to understand how the governments of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, which claim to uphold “non-intervention” and “sovereignty” as the guiding principles of their foreign policies, are now embracing neutrality in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Reacting to the Mexican government statement that it had not signed the summit declaration because Russia had not been invited to the meeting, former Mexican ambassador to Washington Arturo Sarukhan wrote on the X, formerly Twitter, that Mexico’s explanation was “alarming and shameful.”

Under Mexico’s logic that Russia should have been invited to the table, the Western world should have invited Nazi Germany “to discuss its annexation of Austria, or its invasion of Poland,” Sarukhan wrote.

Ryan C. Berg, a Latin America expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington D.C., agrees that the countries’ argument was “a lame excuse” and “a cover for tacit support for Russia.”

I agree. Next time the governments of Mexico, Brazil or Colombia utter the words “non-intervention” or “national sovereignty,” I’ll have a hard time keeping a straight face.

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