Russia drops anchor in US backyard

President Dmitry Medvedev has completed a four-nation tour of Latin America aimed at boosting trade and Russian influence in the region. He ended his trip with the words: “we are back in South America” – a region the U.S. has tradit

While flying back home, President Medvedev recorded an entry for his video blog. In it he stressed the importance for Russia of engaging with Latin America.

Click on the link to watch Medvedev’s video blog in full.

In a hectic round of diplomacy, Medvedev visited four countries in a week. Although Moscow had a different agenda in each country, there was one overriding intention – to mark Russia’s return to the region.  

Peru

On November 22, the President touched down in Peru on the first leg of the tour. In the capital Lima Medvedev discussed the world economic crisis and all aspects of security with .

On the sidelines of the forum Medvedev held bilateral talks with the Presidents of the U.S., Chile, Indonesia, the Ministers of Japan, Australia and Thailand.  He also spoke with the leader of China and the Sultan of Brunei.
 
It was the first visit by a Russian leader to Peru, and President Alan Garcia was so moved by the fact that he awarded Medvedev with the Order of the Sun (La Orden El Sol del Peru) – the country’s highest honour.

And the only sour note at their meeting was a local beverage, obligatory for guests to try – Pisco Sour cocktail. 

Brazil

Having attended the APEC meeting, Medvedev landed in Brazil, Latin America’s largest country. It is also .

Both are members of the BRIC economic bloc, and both are being hit by the financial storm sweeping the globe.

“We must do our utmost to use the benefits of our partnership and cooperation so that our nations emerge from this crisis even stronger,” President Da Silva said.

Right now Russia-Brazil trade is limited to agriculture. Russia is keen to expand that, and hopes energy will soon become a money spinner.

Latin America Sergey Brilev expert says that while Brazil is on the way to substituting oil with biofuel, “countries which export and import oil should coordinate their efforts.”

“We are seeing the energy security as imagined by Russia during the G8 presidency,” Brilev said.

Medvedev even found time to check on Rio’s landmarks like the statue of Christ the Redeemer and which is among the largest stadiums in the world.

Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez is a frequent guest in Russia, but this was the first time a Russian leader visited the country.

To mark the historic moment local soldiers sang the Russian anthem.

Days before Medvedev reached Venezuela, Russian military vessels docked at its shores. Cannons fired a salute as a greeting to a friend and perhaps also as a warning to opponents.

But as Medvedev took Chavez on a tour around the ships, it was clear the criticism was falling on deaf ears.

This time the sides focused on civil agreements – visa-free travel and energy cooperation. They also paved the way for Russia to help Venezuela build a nuclear power plant.

Cuba

Last but not least, , a communist island just off the southern coast of the United States.

The Soviet leaders sent missiles – but Medvedev brought an icon. This was a gift for .

Together with Raul Castro they took part in an opening ceremony at the church and later made a tour around the old city with Castro as a guide.

Later himself, Cuba’s former leader and legendary leader of the communist revolution.

Russia’s relations with Latin America are modest in comparison to those of China and the EU, but Medvedev is determined to change that.

“We've only just started fully-fledged and hopefully mutually rewarding cooperation with the authorities of these countries and there economies. There is no need to be shy or fear competition. What we need to do is jump into the fight,” Medvedev said in Havana.

And he promised cooperation in all areas – economic, humanitarian and military.