Western Efforts To Isolate Russia and Iran Falter in Latin America

Naval vessels of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy.

Naval vessels of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy.

“In recent days, Russian media in Spanish, such as Sputnik and Russia Today, highlighted the rejection of the various Latin American governments to the requests of…Berlin. ‘The arms race in Ukraine does not have the support of South America,’ the outlets declared.”

Latin American countries have often spoken in terms of “neutrality” as they have tried to remain “non-aligned” regarding the Russia-Ukraine war.[i] While some countries in the region have condemned Russia’s invasion, none has joined the Western-led sanctions campaign. Nor has any of the six Latin American countries with old Soviet weaponry stepped forward to donate it to Ukraine. Underscoring these trends is the first article from the Spanish-language outlet BBC Mundo, covering German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s recent trip to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. At each stop, Scholz implored his counterparts to consider donating their Soviet weapons systems to Ukraine.[ii] All three leaders firmly declined. For his part, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva even blamed both Russia and Ukraine for the current conflict. Colombian President Gustavo Petro said he would rather see Colombia’s equipment become “junk” than send it to Ukraine where it could prolong the war. Latin American countries have been similarly reluctant to turn away from Iran. According to the second accompanying article from Argentina’s leading daily newspaper, La Nación, two Iranian warships sanctioned by the United States recently docked in Rio de Janeiro. Taken together, these developments suggest neither Russia’s war in Ukraine nor Iran’s domestic crackdowns on protestors and its provision of kamikaze drones to Russia for use in Ukraine have managed to isolate these countries in Latin America.


“Por qué los países latinoamericanos se han negado a enviar armas a Ucrania (Why Latin American countries have refused to send weapons to Ukraine),” BBC Mundo (the Spanish-language outlet of the popular British state-owned network), 3 February 2023. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-64506590

During a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is visiting several Latin American countries this week, Fernández clarified that Argentina “is not thinking of sending weapons” to the conflict zone. A few days earlier, his peers in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil had made similar claims…In recent days, Russian media in Spanish such as Sputnik and Russia Today, highlighted the rejection of the various Latin American governments to the requests of Berlin.

“Brasil permite que dos buques de guerra iraníes atraquen en Río pese a las presiones de EE.UU (Brazil allows two Iranian warships to dock in Rio despite US pressure),” La Nación (Argentina’s leading daily newspaper), 28 February 2023. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/el-mundo/brasil-permite-que-dos-buques-de-guerra-iranies-atraquen-en-rio-pese-a-las-presiones-de-eeuu-nid28022023/

Once Lula’s trip [to the White House] ended, the docking of the ships was authorized. Vice Admiral Carlos Eduardo Horta Arentz, deputy chief of the Brazilian Navy General Staff, gave his approval for the ships to dock in Rio between February 26 and March 4, according to an announcement published on February 23…The Brazilian Navy authorizes a foreign ship to dock in Brazil, but only with prior authorization from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which takes into account the request of the embassy in question and the logistics…Diplomacy with Iran was one of the highlights of Lula’s attempts to bolster Brazil’s international position during his previous presidential terms. In 2010, he traveled to Tehran to meet then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he tried to broker a US-Iran nuclear deal.


[i] For more background on Latin America’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, see: Ryan C. Berg et al., “A Hesitant Hemisphere: How Latin America Has Been Shaped by the War in Ukraine,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 12 February 2023. https://www.csis.org/analysis/hesitant-hemisphere-how-latin-america-has-been-shaped-war-ukraine

[ii] For more information on the estimated six countries in the region that could donate Soviet-era weapons systems to Ukraine, see: Jeff Seldin, “U.S. Pushing Central, South American Countries to Give Ukraine Quick Military Boost,” Voice of America, 20 January 2023. https://www.voanews.com/a/us-pushing-central-south-american-countries-to-give-ukraine-quick-military-boost-/6927591.html

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Image:  Naval vessels of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy
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