A year after the invasion of Russian forces into Ukraine, the Latin-American governments keep battling to maintain their non-intervention ideology. Despite constant efforts to adopt a more active role from the United States, and most recently, Germany. Since the start of the Russian offensive, Latin-American countries were vague and ambiguous about publicly condemning Putin for unilaterally invading Ukraine on February 2022. Bloomberg’s analyst, Eduardo Porter, points out the reluctance of Latin-American governments to associate with US-backed conflicts. Particularly in light of the widespread leftist administrations that rule from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. However, it would be simplistic to point out that anti-US-imperialism is the sole motive of Latin-American antipathy towards the war in Ukraine. The region is still dealing with the economic effects of the COVID pandemic and taking sides could have important consequences for their economic recovery. Particularly, considering the uncertain role of China, in relation to the influx of Chinese investments in Latin America.

Upgraded T-55 (Ti-67) from Armed Forces of Uruguay

Strong refusal to send weapons

Six Latin-American countries possess Soviet and Russian weapons and tanks: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. For months now, the United States has been pushing these countries to send their Soviet tanks to Ukraine. Mostly, due to the familiarity of this technology with Ukrainian soldiers. Yet, only negative reactions from all Latin American leaders have been seen. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized Germany for sending tanks to Ukraine. While President Preto from Colombia declared that he would not send weapons to Ukraine, and would rather have them end up as scrap. 

On January 2023, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Argentina, Chili, and Brazil. The state visits aimed to negotiate the MERCOSUR – Germany agreement. However, a recent report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies develops on Olaf’s agenda to persuade its MERCOSUR counterparts to adopt a more active role in the Ukraine-Russian conflict. A few days after the visit, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández declared that “he was not contemplating sending weapons to Ukraine”, while Brazil’s President Lula da Silva rejected a request from the German government to supply Ukraine with ammunition for its Leopard tanks. Until now, no Latin-American government has sent weapons or ammunition to Ukraine, nor there are signs that this would change soon. 

Mi-35 from Armed Forces of Peru

Is Latin-American hesitation a Russian opportunity? 

 Despite the reluctance of Latin American governments to provide military assistance to Ukraine, there is widespread condemnation of the Russian offensive. The same leaders that rejected the transfer of weapons to Ukraine, have at the same time not supported Moscow in international forums like the United Nations (UN).

 Except for the support that Moscow has from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. The rest of the Latin American region has either pronounced neutral or condemned the Russian aggression. BBC World analyst, Adam Isacson, points out that Latin America is desperately trying to maintain its historical neutrality. While American and German diplomats are more interested in more votes against Russia at the UN, rather than “old and outdated Russian or Soviet weapons that Latin America could bring to Ukraine.”

Article written by Arturo Vega, MSS Defence
Sources: Bloomberg Linea, BBC World, Center for Strategic & International Studies

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