Capstones | 11.25.14
By Alan W. Dowd
has been reported about Washington’s “Pacific pivot” aimed at
deterring Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea and the “reassurance
aimed at deterring further Russian revisionism in Eastern Europe. What’s not as
widely reported is Beijing’s pivot to the Americas and Moscow’s revival of Cold
War-style intrusions—and deployments—in the Western Hemisphere. To borrow a
phrase from an old but timeless pillar of American foreign policy—the Monroe
Doctrine—the actions of Beijing and Moscow constitute “an unfriendly
disposition toward the United States.” And they must be answered.
exploring how to answer the provocative behavior of China and Russia, let’s
take a look at what these two powers are doing in America’s backyard.
things first: There are pluses and minuses to Beijing’s increased interest in the
Americas. Investment from China, Europe, Britain and the United States is
fueling a much-needed development boom in South America. That’s a plus. But
China’s riches come with strings, and that’s what raises concerns.
by a thirst for oil and other resources, China is aggressively building its
economic portfolio in the Western Hemisphere. A Joint Forces Quarterly (JFQ) study offers the highlights:
billion to upgrade Costa Rica’s main oil refinery;
billion to underwrite oil exploration and development in Venezuela;
billion, including a new hydroelectric plant, for access to Ecuadoran oil;
billion to modernize Argentina’s rail system and $3.1 billion to purchase
Argentina’s petroleum company outright;
billion for development of Chile’s iron mines;
planned “dry canal” to link
Colombia’s Pacific and Atlantic coasts by rail, with dedicated ports at
the Pacific terminus for shipping Colombian coal to China;
billion for a slice of Brazil’s vast offshore oil fields.
are buying loyalty,” warns a former British diplomat. Indeed, U.S. diplomatic
cablesreveal concerns that Beijing’s largesse is making the Bahamas, to cite just one
example, “indebted to Chinese interests,” while establishing “a relationship of
patronage…less than 190 miles from the United States.”
brings us to the security dimensions of the China challenge. We know from our
own history that trade and economic ties often lead to security and defense
ties. And that’s exactly what’s happening as China lays down roots in the
transport aircraft and armored vehicles have been used by Venezuelan
troopsto smash anti-authoritarian protests.
Defense reports China is peddling short-range
missiles to Peru, surveillance equipment to Peru and Brazil, and warship-repair
expertise to Venezuela and Argentina.
- The Argentine defense
minister traveled to Beijing in 2012 to hail a “bilateral strategic
association in defense cooperation.”
report in a
journal of the U.S. Army concludes that China is “winning a foothold” in
the Americas, with Chinese small-arms, medium artillery, air defenses and
ground-attack aircraft flowing into Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
JFQ study adds that China has “an
important and growing presence in theregion’s military institutions.” Most Latin American
nations “send officers to professional military education courses in the PRC.”
actions in the Americas are more blatantly focused on the military and
geopolitical spheres—and hence more provocative.
the Russian defense minister’s announcement this month
that Moscow will deploy long-range
bombers “to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern
Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.” The announcement
follows a major surge in intrusions by Russian warplanes into North American
incursions in one 10-day period this past summer.
that’s just the latest example of Russian encroachment in the Americas:
lawmakers this year approved a plan to stand up a
satellite-monitoring facility in
Nicaragua. Russian warships dock in Nicaraguan ports.
- Vladimir Putin traveled to Havana in July to forgive
$32 billion in Cuban debt, ink a deal to build a new seaport, and cement
Russia’s pole position in oil and gas exploration in Cuban waters, as Newsweek reported.
- Russia is reopening a long-dormant intelligence
base in Cuba, and is planning to establish military
bases in Cuba, Venezuela and/or Nicaragua,
according to the American Foreign Policy
Council’s Ilan Berman,
who adds, “Negotiations are underway
to allow port visits to each, and to open refueling sites…for Russian
- Russia has deployed naval and air assets to the
Caribbean to conduct exercises with the Venezuelan military. Moscow has shipped
Su-30 attack aircraft, attack helicopters and 100,000 machine guns to Caracas,
- Russia has sold Argentina military helicopters,
and the two are cooperating on nuclear energy.
less than eight countries in South and
Central America—Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Peru
and Bolivia—have purchased arms from Russia in recent years, with Venezuela,
Brazil and Mexico buying $1.75 billion in Russian weaponry in 2013 alone.
long-range bombers shuttling between Venezuela and Nicaragua have been caught
violating Colombian airspace.
Russian warplanes are known to refuel in Venezuela, and Russian officials have floated the possibility of
basing bombers in Cuba
brings us back to the Monroe Doctrine, which in 1823
put Europe on notice that the United States would view intervention in this
hemisphere as a hostile act. President Monroe arrived at that conclusion not
because America opposed all things European, but because America opposed the
“political system” of European powers—a system which was then “essentially
different…from that of America.” Thus, he concluded, “It is impossible that the
allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either
continent without endangering our peace and happiness.”
is the authoritarian political systems of today’s Russia and China that should concern
the U.S. government. And that’s why Washington should not countenance Chinese or
Russian encroachment on the Americas—and why the Monroe Doctrine remains
Secretary of State John Kerry announced in 2013 that “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” Criticizing how President
Monroe “declared that the United States would…step in and oppose the influence
of European powers in Latin America,” Kerry explained, “We have made a
And it shows.
question, the Monroe Doctrine was misused at times. But for 190 years, it
helped American presidents defend U.S. interests and buffer the Americas from
for example, urged that the final settlement of World War I include “formal
recognition of the Monroe Doctrine.” This was partly a function of the
doctrine’s importance to securing U.S. interests, but it also was a function of
the doctrine’s capacity to promote independence and stability in South America.
International recognition of the Monroe Doctrine “would mark a long stride
forward in international peace,” TR declared, adding, “South of the equator,
there are growing civilized states capable of enforcing this doctrine
themselves…We should join in enforcing it only at their request.”
the eve of U.S. entry into World War II, FDR cited “the obligation that we have under the Monroe Doctrine for the protection” of territories throughout the hemisphere.
crisis over Soviet involvement in Cuba heated up, President Kennedy observed,“The Monroe Doctrine means
what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it,
and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the
Western Hemisphere. And that’s why we oppose…what’s happening in Cuba today.”
President Reagan lamented how Moscow “had violated the Monroe
Doctrine and gotten away with it twice, first in Cuba, then in Nicaragua.” His
secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, cited the Monroe Doctrine to argue, “There
should be no interference, no sponsorship of any kind of military activity in
this hemisphere by countries in other hemispheres.”
The origin of the threats may change—Czarist Russia, post-Napoleonic
France, the Spanish Empire in the 1800s, Imperial
Germany in the early 1900s, Nazi Germany during World War II, the Soviet
Union during the Cold War—but the principles of the Monroe Doctrine remain an
important guide for, and statement of, U.S. foreign policy.
So instead of scrapping the Monroe Doctrine, President Obama or his
successor should unveil “Monroe Doctrine 2.0.”
Above all, a revamped Monroe Doctrine should make it clear to Beijing and Moscow that while the United
States welcomes efforts to conduct trade in the Americas, the American people
look unfavorably upon the sale of Chinese and Russian arms in this hemisphere, the
basing of Chinese or Russian military personnel in this hemisphere, and any
attempt to export their brand of business-suit autocracy into this hemisphere. Russian or
Chinese outposts in the Americas can
only be seen as “unfriendly” actions “endangering our peace and happiness,” to
borrow the genteel language of the original Monroe Doctrine.
Likewise, Washington needs to send the right
message—and in the right way—to the Caribbean, Central America and South
America. Specifically, Washington should emphasize that just as they are not
U.S. or European colonies, they should not allow themselves to become Chinese
or Russian colonies. In fact, there’s a backlash in Brazil
and Argentina against China’s land acquisitions, and in the
Bahamas against the influx of Chinese workers. Colombia has condemned Russian
violation of its airspace. And far from espousing the “Yankee go home” mantra
of yesterday, a number of South American governments crave American leadership
and partnership. Some have proposed a continent-wide security organization modeled after
The United States should make the case to its neighbors that they should
reject—for their independence, for their security, for their sovereignty—the sort of basing and leasing arrangements that
would erode what they have fought for. As TR observed, they are capable of defending their independence,
and the United States will help “at their request.”
U.S. actions should amplify U.S. pronouncements:
goal of Monroe 2.0 would be to help Beijing and Moscow understand how serious
the United States is about the Americas. What was true in the 19th and 20th
centuries must remain true in the 21st: There is room for only one great power
in the Western Hemisphere.
- Washington should make hemispheric trade a priority, instead of
allowing trade deals to languish. Colombia and Panama waited five years
for Washington to approve trade agreements.
- Washington should revive aid and investment in the Americas,
instead of allowing China to outflank it. That presupposes a stronger U.S.
economy. It pays to recall that Washington once conducted the sort of
checkbook diplomacy that characterizes China’s approach to the Americas.
should be proactive on hemispheric security, building on successful
partnership-oriented models in Colombia and Mexico. That presupposes U.S.
military capacity, which means sequestration’s disastrous defense cuts
must be reversed. The Joint Forces Command noted in 2008 that China
has “a deep respect for U.S. military power.” We cannot overstate how
important this has been to keeping the peace. But with the United States
in the midst of massive military retrenchment, one wonders how long that
reservoir of respect will last.
- Washington should remember
that the leaders of China and Russia see the world as a chessboard, which
means they must be reminded that the United States has many moves it can
make in their neighborhoods. Temporary
deployments of U.S. and NATO forces in Eastern Europe could be turned into
bases (as Poland and the Baltics desire); U.S. assets could be positioned to checkmate China’s
anti-access/area-denial strategy in the South China Sea; permanent, land-based,
U.S.-manned missile defenses could be deployed along Russia’s and China’s
borderlands; heavy defensive weaponry could start flowing to Taiwan and
Ukraine; the U.S. could start acting like the energy
superpower it is. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey calls on U.S. policymakers
to view “energy as an instrument of national power.” Wielding this
instrument could have a profound effect on a China (which is starving for
oil) and Russia (which depends on high energy prices to support its economy).
Capstones is the publication of the Sagamore Institute Center for America’s Purpose, where Dowd researches and writes on America's role in the world.