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Armenia, Latin America, and China

State of the Union: A Caucasian republic’s search for a new big brother warns us to attend to American influence in our own hemisphere.

President Lopez Obrador Welcomes President Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden and President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador shake hands during a welcome ceremony as part of the '2023 North American Leaders' Summit at Palacio Nacional on January 09, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Dr. Artyom Geghamyan has written an insightful treatment of the deterioration of Russian-Armenian relations for The American Conservative. As we like to say around here, read the whole thing; the short story is Russia has come to take its Transcaucasian ally for granted, and, thanks to the exigencies of the Ukrainian war, Moscow has become deferential to Turkey at Armenia’s expense. As a result, Western-aligned powers are courting Yerevan, and vice-versa.

Geghamyan writes,


Russia’s loss of influence in its own back yard serves as a warning to major powers: Distractions abroad may lead to the weakening of even the most historically reliable alliances.

We were put in mind of the American situation. While our government funnels mind-boggling amounts of cash and materiel to the Ukrainian cause, China has overtaken the US as South America’s top trading partner, and is second in all Latin America. Chinese mining interests dominate South America’s lithium triangle, and the Chinese military engages in officer exchanges with a number of South American nations. Meanwhile, China is lobbying for a naval base on Tierra del Fuego. Are we repeating Russia’s diplomatic missteps in our own hemisphere? 

There is, of course, an important difference—for Russia, Ukraine may actually be worth sacrificing some clout with secondary countries in its bloc. As extensively covered in TAC, America’s distraction seems to hold out smaller promise, and for a smaller reward. 

The Latin American situation is not hopeless. We wrote last week about the possible—although, it appears, increasingly unlikely—desinification of Mexico’s infant lithium industry. It is a good time to tend our own garden, before it’s too late.


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