March 21, 2023


Advocacy. Mediation. Success.

López Obrador’s flirtation with Russia risks worsening US-Mexican relations

By Arturo Sarukhan

Given that the early days of Russia’s premeditated and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, Mexico has been raising eyebrows and opening issue marks in Washington as perfectly as in the capitals of other nations established to force back again on Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression.

At initial blush, it would look that some in Mexico, unwittingly or wittingly, seem to be intent on opening a “second front” for Moscow from there. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s misguided bromides pertaining to Mexico’s so-called “neutrality,” “non-intervention,” and “the want to get together with all nations” recurring criticism of U.S. and European Union help to Ukraine (when lashing out versus what he perceives as their “meddling” in Mexico’s domestic affairs) and refusing to existing a common North American front with Canada and the United States concerning sanctions — even if mainly symbolic — are deeply troubling. Kyiv’s ambassador to Mexico has publicly and continually reiterated her ask for for entire-fledged Mexican assist for the Ukrainian federal government and persons, to no avail.

Now, with the president&#8217s MORENA party and its allies in the lower dwelling of Congress possessing unconscionably launched in late March a Mexico-Russia friendship caucus — inviting Moscow’s ambassador and delivering him with a bully pulpit to disseminate lies and disinformation — Mexico is blindly taking part in with fireplace. López Obrador evidently believes he can have his cake and it consume also when it arrives to ties with the United States and the EU, the United States-Mexico-Canada Arrangement (USMCA) framework, and Mexico’s global and multilateral diplomatic footprint. Additionally, recent statements to the U.S. Senate by USNORTHCOM’s commander in chief, Basic Glen VanHerck, that Mexico is host to the premier amount of GRU operatives in the planet, need to be a red flag and an challenge of profound problem in phrases of the need for the 3 North American companions to make certain widespread area consciousness. Unsurprisingly, reactions to all of this in the U.S. have ranged from dismay to profound issue and anger, and members of Congress have now started to reply, together with a demand from customers to yank the visas of Mexican legislators who supported and participated in the establishment of the caucus. Mexico also abstained in the April 7 United Nations Basic Assembly vote to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council, soon after López Obrador had publicly mentioned that identical morning that he would not help the resolution.

Fortunately, the Mexican overseas ministry has been pushing back versus a great deal of this and has forced the president to at the very least recalibrate his positions and initial statements. From its perch as a non-lasting member of the U.N. Safety Council, Mexico has condemned the invasion and subsequently voted the two in the Safety Council and in the Typical Assembly in favor of resolutions condemning Moscow’s steps. Furthermore, Mexico’s everlasting representative to the U.N. has also identified as out the assaults in opposition to the civilian inhabitants becoming fully commited by Russian troops in Ukraine.

Motorists of the pleasant approach to Russia

Nonetheless, what has been taking place in Mexico City’s National Palace considering the fact that the invasion started on February 24 is at ideal disingenuous and reveals López Obrador and MORENA’s utter contempt for overseas plan issues and their outdated and tone-deaf vision of entire world affairs, harking back to the times of the Non-Aligned Motion in the 1970s when López Obrador slash his tooth as a politician in the Institutional Revolutionary Social gathering (PRI). In spite of an invitation personally conveyed to him more than the telephone by Canadian Primary Minister Justin Trudeau, the president declined to participate in a digital assembly with Trudeau and European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen to raise money for Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people. At worst, López Obrador could truly believe in payback for Moscow for its vaccine diplomacy and Mexico’s skill to obtain Sputnik jabs early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, which also possible clarifies why he had at first invited Putin (the Russian leader declined), alongside with Cuba’s president (who did travel to Mexico Metropolis), to attend Mexico’s Independence Working day celebrations final calendar year — in a historical 1st in that foreign leaders had in no way ahead of been invited to the ceremonies and armed service parade. It is also not astonishing that Putin has regularly tried to draw false equivalences involving deployment of NATO military services belongings in jap Europe which includes nations that border Russia and toying close to with the circumstance of how the U.S. would respond in the celebration that Russian navy staff or missiles were being to be deployed in Mexico.

What is behind all of this? Presented that Mexico trades in two times with the United States what it trades in a complete calendar year with Russia, ideology appears to be to be paramount. The conventional remaining in Mexico — and throughout Latin The usa in basic — are likely to assistance insurance policies that drive back towards “Western imperialism” but is also skeptical of liberalism and what it perceives as its institutions and stakeholders, which — like lots of authoritarian regimes — it considers to be instruments of Western values and hegemony. It ought to for that reason arrive as no shock that the Mexican left is inclined to swallow and regurgitate Russian disinformation and propaganda (“NATO aggression,” “denazification of Ukraine”), see sanctions as another kind of “imperialism” and an endeavor to corner Russia, and resort to RT and Sputnik as sources of valid information and facts. Unsurprisingly, conflation of Wall Road, the U.S. media, George Soros, liberalism, and “universal values” is also a recurrent trope. That indicates that they are also inclined to assist authoritarian, anti-liberal figures like Putin, or Donald Trump. Considering the fact that 2018, there has been a proverbial, and perturbing, alignment of bizarre bedfellows in Mexico, with López Obrador supporters having in transform develop into fervent Trump supporters and now justifying Russia’s invasion and its steps on Ukrainian territory. Professional-govt newspaper La Jornada (one particular the couple conventional media retailers in Mexico that receives generous economic guidance from the federal government) has even become in modern times a shill and mouthpiece for Russia’s makes an attempt to sow doubts pertaining to war crimes committed by Russian troops in and around the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

In excess of the a long time, a blend of navel-gazing and deficiency of function, ambition, finances, and overarching grand approach have all intended that when it will come to worldwide or even hemispheric affairs, Mexico’s diplomatic payload tends to be woefully puny, particularly as opposed with other emerging economies and regional powers. Now, with López Obrador’s disdain for international plan and his general austerity drive eviscerating Mexico’s foreign services corps and its footprint abroad,  the country is punching even even further under its body weight in global affairs. Not even the best-funded diplomacy could make up for decisionmaking like López Obrador’s. But the weakening of the diplomatic equipment absolutely is part and parcel to the president’s comprehensive lack of fascination, mental curiosity, and engagement with entire world affairs and his simplistic and unstatesmanlike stance regarding his country’s pursuits abroad.

Implications for ties amongst Mexico Town and Washington

To include insult to harm, López Obrador’s reticence to “to connect with a fig a fig and a trough a trough&#8221 when it comes to international aggression and the violation of intercontinental regulation and norms, together with his dillydallying and his outright rejection of supporting sanctions from Moscow, indicates that when it arrives to geopolitics and upholding worldwide order, Mexico will continue to be no extra than a strategic afterthought in Washington and other vital capitals around the planet.

At the conclude of the working day, acquiring Mexico completely join in with Western economic and money sanctions — for illustration, making sure that Russian oligarchs on sanctions lists do not have moored yachts or actual estate in Mexican resorts — would not essentially change what is at stake for Russia or shape Moscow’s subsequent steps in the conflict. It is a lot more about the information it would send out about how Mexican diplomacy will enable underpin a policies-primarily based international process — as it has rightly and properly carried out in the earlier — and bigger foreign policy cohesion and convergence in developing a common North American footprint. And what it would no doubt do is rob Putin both of those of even further chances to gain a foothold in Latin The usa — a familiar technique for Russia this last ten years — and of a useful propaganda instrument by undermining arguments like that of Viktor Koronelli, Russia’s ambassador to Mexico, who stated for the duration of the new launching of the Mexico-Russia friendship caucus that “Mexico will by no means be part of anti-Russian sanctions” and that “across the planet, there are countries like China, like India, like Mexico, that will hardly ever say ‘Yes, Sir’ to Uncle Sam’s orders.”

At a time when a number of fronts of bilateral contention exist and when López Obrador has brazenly criticized U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and termed U.S. senators liars for raising problems about attacks against journalists and the weaponization of the judiciary in Mexico, the finish end result of a Mexican convert away from the flirtation with Putin’s wartime Russia could be further more progress in the direction of an interdependent, synergistic, and forward-leaning bilateral partnership concerning Mexico and the United States. Mexico is after once again the United States’ selection just one buying and selling partner. With a wiser technique to international coverage, it may possibly eventually also come to be Washington’s essential strategic lover of alternative in the Americas.