Tuesday, September 27, 2016

E-IR: ‘Hail, Caesar!’ and the Red Menace

"'Hail, Caesar!' and the Red Menace"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Movie Review
E-International Relations
March 23, 2016
Originally published: http://www.e-ir.info/2016/03/23/movie-review-hail-caesar-and-the-red-menace/

Hail, Caesar!
Feb. 2016
Universal Pictures
‘Hail, Caesar!’ is a 2016 comedy film by Joel and Ethan Coen which has enjoyed financial and critical success since its February 5 release. For IR scholars, the film showcases a tense period of U.S. history: the 1950s. This decade was marked by growing tensions and incidents as part of the Cold War, the fear of a Soviet takeover of the U.S. government and the rise of McCarthyism. In view of the tense relations between the U.S. and the Russian Federation today, which Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently described as a “new Cold War,” ‘Hail, Caesar!’ becomes, unfortunately, very topical.
A brief synopsis of ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is necessary: The movie takes place in 1951, when a famous actor, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped from a studio set in a fictitious Hollywood film company. Whitlock is taken to a beach house in Malibu, California, in which he meets his kidnappers, a group of screenwriters that call themselves The Future. They turn out to be a Communist faction who explain Whitlock their ideology in order to convince him to join them. At one point in the film, another actor, Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), is revealed to also be a Communist. He and the other members of  The Future row a boat a few miles off the coast of Malibu where they encounter a Soviet submarine. Gurney (along with his dog) boards it as he defects to the USSR. His Future comrades suffer a different fate as they are arrested by the police, who also free Whitlock.
Red Hollywood
‘Hail, Caesar!’ provides a glimpse of what Hollywood was like in the 1950s. At the time, Washington feared that the Soviet Union was infiltrating all echelons of American society (i.e. the government, Hollywood, labor unions etc), with the goal of taking over the country. This paranoia prompted the rise of McCarthyism, named after U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy who was known for his extreme anti-Communist endeavors. Communist witch hunts took place during the 1950s as thousands of Americans, thought to be Communists, were investigated and sometimes even imprisoned. The House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which operated from 1938 to 1975, took a prominent role throughout this period.
The Coen Brothers address the Red Menace head on as Hollywood was a major target of Washington’s surveillance operations. There was even a “Hollywood blacklist” – a name applied to the Hollywood workers (like screenwriters and producers) that the HUAC investigated because they were believed to be Communist spies or sympathizers who were implanting Communist ideologies in Hollywood productions.  A Slate.com analysis of ‘Hail, Caesar!’ does a good job comparing some of the members of the fictitious Future to real life individuals: “the group leader, played by Max Baker, is named John Howard Hermann, after the Hollywood 10’s John Howard Lawson, the leader of the Hollywood section of the Communist party during the early 1950s. Eagle-eyed viewers will also notice a dog named Engels, whose namesake is more obvious [as in Friedrich Engels].”
Another important issue worth discussing is the appearance of a Soviet submarine off the coast of California, well within U.S. territorial waters. I do not know of any submarines operating so close to the U.S. mainland during that decade, though there were incidents in which Soviet vessels entered the Western Hemisphere and came close to the U.S. Case in point: the Soviet vessels off the coast of Cuba during the  missile crisis. Another memorable incident was the loss of K-219 in 1986. This was a Soviet submarine that suffered an explosion and sank in the North Atlantic close to Bermuda.
Even though ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is set in the early 1950s, not much seems to have changed in Washington-Moscow relations, given the renewed tensions between the two global powers. Currently there are no suspicions that Hollywood, broadly speaking, has been infiltrated by Russian sympathizers. Nevertheless, I will acknowledge that conservative commentators routinely label the entertainment industry as “the liberal left.” Case in point, in his book Primetime Propaganda Ben Shapiro has accused Hollywood of trying to “shape America in their own leftist image.” Moreover, there have been recent cases of alleged espionage. One memorable case was that of Anna Chapman, a Russian national who lived in New York and who was arrested, along with nine other individuals, in 2010 as they were suspected of working for the SVR, a Russian intelligence agency.  She was sent back to Moscow that same year as part of a spy swap.
The Soviet/Russian Navy
The possibility of a Russian submarine entering U.S. territorial waters nowadays, portrayed in “Hail, Caesar!” deserves a greater discussion. In recent years, the Russian Federation has sought to increase its military might, which includes opening new bases (like in the Russian Arctic) and manufacturing new vessels for its Navy. In fact, the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet recently received a new submarine, theVladimir Monomakh. Moreover, there have already been instances of Moscow displaying its renewed strength in the Western Hemisphere. In 2008, Russian warships visited the Caribbean, docking in Caracas, Venezuela, and carrying out exercises with the local Navy. More recently, in January 2015, theViktor Leonov, a Russian intelligence vessel, docked in Havana, Cuba.
With that said, it is important to stress that there have been no, at least from what I can gather via open sources, incidents of Russian warships or submarines entering U.S. territorial waters, though it is true that Cuba is only 90 miles away from the Straits of Florida. Doing so would signify an escalation of tensions between Moscow and Washington, akin to if the U.S. opened a military base in Ukraine next to Crimea. Moreover, should a Russian submarine manage to reach Malibu, California, this would mean that it successfully evaded U.S. security systems (i.e. warships and Coast Guard vessels monitoring coastal waters, satellites, radars and intelligence operations). The implications of such an incident would prompt a major revision of the U.S. defense establishment.
Even though it is beyond the scope of this movie review, it is important to mention that in February, the Russian government filed a request to the U.S. to fly a surveillance plane over U.S. airspace as part of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. The difference between this request and ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is that it is doubtful that Moscow requested Washington permission to pick up a defector via a submarine in California. Nevertheless, the point stands that nowadays there are (very limited) occasions in which the Russian military is allowed to enter the U.S.
Final Thoughts
“Hail, Caesar!” has enjoyed success at the box office.  The film has some entertaining comedic moments, however, its major contribution to the IR field is to remind us that the current tensions between the two global powers are nothing new. Accusations of Russian espionage have occurred for decades, though the 1950s paranoia of Hollywood implanting Communist ideas in films has morphed into the more traditional “learning state secrets” type of intelligence operations. Moreover, when Channing Tatum’s character boarded a Soviet submarine off the Californian coast, while fun to watch, this can be utilized to discuss Soviet/Russian naval technology in the 1950s and today.
As Prime Minister Medvedev declared, we are witnessing the start of a new Cold War, and the events of six decades ago are being recreated, albeit slightly different, today.

The author would like to thank Erica Illingworth, who is pursuing an M.A. in International Relations at the University of San Diego, for her helpful suggestions throughout the preparation of this review.

E-IR: Angelina Jolie Pitt at LSE: Can Actors Be Effective Educators?

"Angelina Jolie Pitt at LSE: Can Actors Be Effective Educators?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
E-International Relations
June 2, 2016
Originally published: http://www.e-ir.info/2016/06/02/angelina-jolie-pitt-at-lse-can-actors-be-effective-educators/

Angelina Jolie Pitt has been appointed a visiting professor in practice at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security, part of the London School of Economics (LSE). Mrs. Jolie-Pitt’s newest distinction has not been without criticism, namely whether this is a LSE publicity stunt. This brings up an interesting issue: the role of Hollywood in IR education.
In addition to Jolie Pitt; Jane Connors, Amnesty International; Madeleine Rees, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; and Lord William Hague, former UK Foreign Secretary, have also been accepted. A LSE press release explains that the School ‘confers the title of Visiting Professor in Practice on persons who have appropriate distinction within their area of (non-academic) practice.’ These prominent individuals will be part of the Centre’s new MSc program on women, peace and security, a one-year course which starts this Fall. The Guardian explains that ‘visiting professors [will play] an active part in giving lectures, participating in workshops and undertaking their own research.’
The criticism against LSE’s decision to hire Jolie-Pitt focuses on whether it is a marketing ploy by the university to obtain media attention and to foster enrollment. For example, an op-ed in The Guardian argues that ‘if Professor Jolie Pitt acquired her academic title without a single formal academic qualification, and her fellow amateur’s gender insights do not promise to exceed the average gnat’s, is it worth investing one year and a lot of money in pointless study?’ Apart from her impressive filmography, Jolie Pitt, has had a long standing interest on the issue of refugees and the effects of conflict on civil society. Most notably, in 2012 she was named the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Prior to this appointment, she was a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador from 2001-2012. In 2003 she published a book based on her work with refugeesShe has also raised awareness about humanitarian crises by producing films. For example, in 2012 she directed ‘In The Land of Blood and Honey,’ a fictional story which centers in the Bosnian War. More recently, ‘First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers’, another film that she is directing, addresses the human rights violations of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Hollywood productions, be them TV shows or films, are a standard tool utilized by members of academia when teaching IR courses. Case in point, the author of this post watched films like ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb’ and ‘Gallipoli’ for classes that addressed Mutually Assured Destruction and World War I, respectively. In order to broaden the discussion of what will be the future of humanity, think tanks are looking towards fiction writing and Hollywood for novel ideas and foresights. For example, the Project for the Study of the 21st Century has published a series of fictional short stories where authors muse what the year 2030 will look like. Similarly, the Center for International Maritime Security  has also published short stories about future conflicts. Likewise, the Argentine think tank Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales recently issued an analysis of the BBC television show ‘War Room. Even more, the Atlantic Council created a project called The Art of the Future, which included analyses of the future of warfare. The initiative organizedseveral events in which artists, including comic book publishers and Max Brooks (the author of World War Z), interacted with members of the IR community.
Hollywood is an integral part of the IR world, including the jargon that scholars utilize. IR scholars routinely look to fiction for inspiration, to draw parallels and to speculate about the future. Additionally, it is not surprising to find Hollywood celebrities that support a plethora of causes: Leonardo DiCaprio is a well-known supporter of the fight against climate change; Emma Watson was appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014; while Actor Sean Penn interviewed Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. As for Angelina Jolie, her concern for refugees worldwide is unquestionable. The issue is whether this (strong) personal interest on an issue, in addition to some fieldwork, can translate into effective teaching.
Accepting non-academics to enhance a program’s pedigree is standard practice at universities. It is not surprising to find that retired diplomats, military officers or government officials teach seminars focusing on the issues that they worked on throughout their careers. Ultimately, the question is how well Jolie Pitt’s participation will help provide an effective education to LSE students. According to the Centre’s website ‘students will take the core courses [and will] choose further relevant courses from [other] departments.’ In other words, apart from taking classes with the professors in practice, they will also attend regular classes with LSE’s faculty members offering a balance blending scholarship and practitioner.
Angelina Jolie Pitt has not published a plethora of books and essays on peer reviewed journals on the issue of refugees in conflict zones. Nor has she spent decades working for a government or multinational agency that focuses on this issue. However, her own experiences can help graduate students learn more about the status of refugees and post-conflict areas, particularly in Africa, the Balkans and Cambodia. There is nothing wrong with accepting (not “hiring,” as this is an unpaid position) several Professors in Practice, so long as the entire faculty of a Masters program is not staffed exclusively by them. In fact, there is plenty of intellectual wealth to be gained from cross-pollination when it comes to teaching. After all, IR is an interdisciplinary field, where different points of view should be heard.
Certainly, there is a degree of publicity that influenced LSE’s decision to invite Jolie Pitt, but this should not be a reason to stop good intentions; like those of a renowned actress with a strong commitment to raising awareness about refugees.
*The author would like to thank Erica Illingworth for her helpful suggestions.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Living In Peru: Peru prepares to host APEC Summit 2016

"Peru Prepares to Host APEC Summit 2016"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Living in Peru
September 26, 2016
Originally published: http://www.peruthisweek.com/blogs-peru-prepares-to-host-apec-summit-2016-110405

Peru will host the 2016 Economic Leaders’ Meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The meeting will take place in Lima on November 17-19. Peru is no stranger to the APECmeetings as it already hosted the 2008 summit.
This year’s meeting is significant for two reasons: first, this will be a great opportunity for new Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to meet with leaders from the Asia Pacific, a critically important region for Peruvian trade and foreign policy. Additionally, U.S. President Barack Obama is in his last months in office (the U.S. will hold elections in November 2016 and the new president will be inaugurated in January 2017). Hence this will probably be his last tour of Latin America as head of state.
In order to prepare for the high level meeting, the Kuczynski administration has established anExtraordinary High-Level Commission, to be chaired by second Vice-President Mercedes Araoz. The special delegation is composed of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Foreign Trade and Tourism as well as Economy and Finance. According to the Peruvian state news agency Andina, the summit will include some 160 events and 15 thousand delegates. Given the plethora of attendees, including heads of state, it is no surprise that November 17-19 have been declared holidays in Lima and Callao in order to minimize traffic problems.
Peru has a strong interest towards the Asia Pacific as it is a member of the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc that includes fellow APEC members Chile and Mexico (as well as Colombia). Additionally, theTrans Pacific Partnership, of which Peru is also a member, will create a free trade zone among 12 commercial powerhouses like Australia, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico Singapore and the U.S. Throughout the recent electoral season, then-candidate Mr. Kuczynski promised that he will continue with the trade policies that have helped the Andean country develop in the past decade and a half. Hence it is important for the new head of state to establish personal friendships with the leaders of nations that have vital trade ties with Peru.
It is worth noting that the APEC holds a series of high-level meetings that take place over the course of several months, culminating with the meeting of heads of state. In May, Arequipa hosted a meeting of APEC ministers responsible for trade, while the APEC Small and Medium Enterprise Working Group met in Lima in early September. On 14-16 November, almost parallel to the heads of state summit, there will be the IV meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).
One outcome of the meeting will probably be greater economic relations between Peru and China. The two governments will reportedly sign a memorandum of understanding to promote economic cooperation after the summit. Even more, President Kuczynski’s first trip abroad was to China, after which he traveled to the U.S. to attend a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. The mini-tour took place September 10-22. Visiting these two global powerhouses provided a preliminary idea of the new administration’s foreign policy goals.
One of the Peruvian government’s objectives for the summit itself will be to attract international attention to both the country’s legal forestry sector as well as to place combating illegal logging, a major problem for the Andean country, in the spotlight. To this end, the 10th meeting by APECexperts on illegal logging (EGILAT) already took place in mid August.
APEC has 21 members, including global economic and military powers like the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and the United States. Apart from Peru, the only other two Latin American member states are Chile and Mexico. The organization was created in 1989 and Peru became a member in 1998.
Follow W. Alejandro Sanchez on Twitter

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CIMSEC: Sea Shepherd in Latin America

"Sea Shepherd in Latin America"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
The Southern Tide
Center for International Maritime Security
September 21, 2016
Originally published: http://cimsec.org/sea-shepherd-latin-america/28147

Written by Wilder Alejandro Sanchez, The Southern Tide addresses maritime security issues throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It discusses the challenges regional navies face including limited defense budgets, inter-state tensions, and transnational crimes. It also examines how these challenges influence current and future defense strategies, platform acquisitions, and relations with global powers.
“The security environment in Latin America and the Caribbean is characterized by complex, diverse, and non-traditional challenges to U.S. interests.” Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, before the 114th Congress Senate Armed Services Committee, 10 March 2016.
By Alejandro Sanchez
Nowadays, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private military companies (PMCs) are deploying their own vessels to the open seas in order to have a greater role in protecting maritime traffic or the maritime ecosystem. When it comes to Latin America, one NGO in particular has made a name for itself in the past decade and a half: the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Sea Shepherd is arguably most well-known for Whale Wars, a television show broadcasted by Animal Planet documenting activities by the organization’s vessels as they attempt to stop Japanese whale hunters in the Antarctic. However, Sea Shepherd also carries out operations around the world. When it comes to Latin America, the organization has been active throughout region, especially in Central America, Ecuador, and Mexico.
Regarding Central America, Sea Shepherd was first active in Guatemala in 2002, when the Ocean Warrior, commanded by the famous Paul Watson (founder and president of Sea Shepherd), attempted to crack down on illegal fishing in the Caribbean. The operation ended with an incident between Watson and the Costa Rican government that has had repercussions to this day (we will discuss it in the following section).
Sea Shepherd returned to Guatemala the following decade: in 2014 the organization’s 35 meter interceptor, the Brigitte Bardot, helped crack down on marlin poachers. A 2014 article in the Tico Timesexplains how “for the next several weeks, the Brigitte Bardot will be based out of Port San José, on Guatemala’s southern Pacific coast in the department of Escuíntla, with eight Sea Shepherd crew on board, along with Guatemalan Naval and police officers.” The presence of local security officials aboard the vessel is an important fact as they are ultimately in charge of arresting suspects.

As for Ecuador, Sea Shepherd has been in the South Pacific for over a decade to protect the Galapagos Islands. As early as 2002, the organization’s Sirenean was active in the Galapagos against illegal fishing. Years later in 2007, Sea Shepherd’s activists worked with Ecuadorean law enforcement to crack down on sea cucumber poachers. The bilateral relationship took a leap forward this past March, when Sea Shepherd signed an agreement with Quito to support the protection of the islands for the next four years. AMarch 11 press release explains,

“Sea Shepherd has previously used an innovative approach to conservation needs that have been used in cooperation with public institutions such as the Galapagos National Park, the National Police and the legal system…Sea Shepherd’s previous conservation work in the Galapagos includes the installation of an AIS system, donation of a patrol vessel, police communications equipment, a legal reform and capacity building program and a marine conservation book.”
There already appear to be quick results, as in May Sea Shepherd and Ecuadorean authorities presented a new environmental penal code.
Concerning Mexico, the organization’s sailing ketch Martin Sheenparticipated in 2015’s Operation Milagro, which focused on “protecting the endangered vaquita in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.” The operation occurred as part of an agreement between Sea Shepherd and Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) to protect the vaquita (a porpoise) and other marine fauna. The apparent success of Operation Milagro prompted a new initiative this year: Operation Angel de la Guarda, via which Sea Shepherd’s “anti-poaching vessel, the M/V Farley Mowat, is partnering with the Mexican Navy and environmental protection agency PROFEPA to patrol against totoaba poaching.”
Finally, it is worth mentioning that Sea Shepherd also participates in regional conferences that address environmental crimes. For example, in 2013, the organization presented a video on shark fishing at the Fifth Latin-American Congress of Environmental Prosecutors, held in Bogotá, Colombia.

The Costa Rica Incident

In spite of successful partnerships and initiatives with various Western Hemisphere nations, it is important to stress that Sea Shepherd’s relationship with the region has not been trouble-free. Namely the organization’s founder Paul Watson is wanted by the Costa Rican government.
A brief summary of the 2002 incident should suffice: the Ocean Warrior, commanded by Paul Watson, patrolled Guatemalan waters looking for vessels engaged in shark fishing. It was in this mission that Watson located a Costa Rican vessel, the Varadero I. There are conflicting reports on what happened afterwards: theOcean Warrior detained the Varadero I, and either the fishing vessel managed to flee, or Guatemalan authorities requested Watson to release the fishing boat. Watson then docked the Ocean Warrior in Costa Rica, where local authorities arrested him and charged him with attempted murder and shipwrecking. The charges were ultimately dropped, but because of Watson’s failure to appear in court for subsequent hearings, “Costa Rica court declared Watson as a rebel and issued a warrant of arrest for violation of ship traffic.”
To this day there is a request for Watson’s extradition by the Costa Rican government. He was detained in Germany in 2012 asINTERPOL posted a Red Notice, or international wanted person alert, for him (he is also wanted by Japan) but he was later freed. Watson filed a petition of his own against San Jose in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2015.
The Future of NGOs and Maritime Security
Several NGOs, both international and domestic, operate in Latin America to address maritime affairs; however, Sea Shepherd appears to be the only entity that has vessels helping Latin American governments. The one arguable exception would be Greenpeace as its vessel, Arctic Sunrise, docked in Argentina in thelate 1990s and early 2000s to protest river pollution and promote wind energy. Nevertheless, the difference is that Greenpeace’s vessel was utilized as a publicity stunt to bring attention to an issue, while Sea Shepherd has deployed its vessels to Latin American waters to actively combat illegal fishing.

Thus, Sea Shepherd serves as an important precedent for future partnerships, as states may request maritime conservation support not just from other governments and multinational organizations, but also from NGOs. A key issue for future agreements will probably be that local security officers must be aboard any NGO vessels to carry out arrests. For example, Sea Shepherd’s Brigitte Bardot embarked Guatemalan law enforcement in 2014, probably to avoid another Costa Rica-type incident. A similar situation occurred in Ecuador in 2003 when the Sirenean, with Galapagos National Park Rangers and Ecuadorian Naval crew aboard, stopped a poaching ship.
Another issue that may hinder future agreements is whether governmental objectives are in harmony with those of Sea Shepherd or other organizations. Without a doubt, there is always the possibility of an incident derailing a partnership.For example, while the Quito-Sea Shepherd alliance appears strong, there was at least one incident between them in 2007 when Sea Shepherd representative Sean O’Hearn was deported from Ecuador.
Final Thoughts
In the 21st century, maritime enforcement affairs are no longer confined to governments and their maritime forces, be they navies or coast guards. Economic and technological development as well as vibrant civic societies have helped create global NGOs that do more than organize mailing campaigns or protests ashore, they are also acquiring platforms to take their activities to the open seas.
In spite of the Costa Rican incident and the legal limitations this places on Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, his organization has managed to make a positive name for itself among governments in Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico. Case in point, a 2015 press release by the Mexican Ministry of Natural Resources announcing the partnership with Sea Shepherd to protect the vaquita explains that “[Sea Shepherd] has great experience regarding the protection of maritime resources, it has recently collaborated with Ecuador to stop illegal fishing.” In other words, Sea Shepherd’s success in Ecuador is helping it gain new allies in the region, the problem with Costa Rica notwithstanding.
Partnerships akin to what Sea Shepherd has accomplished in these nations may become a model for other Latin American and extra-hemispheric governments to imitate in the near future, if they can find NGOs with appropriate naval platforms, acceptable modus operandi, and similar objectives.
*The author contacted Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for input to this analysis but has not yet received a response at time of publication.
**The idea for this analysis came from a discussion entitled “A New Role for Non-State Actors in the Growing Competition for Strategic Marine Resources,” co-hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).
Alejandro Sanchez Nieto is a researcher who focuses on geopolitical, military, and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_SanchezThe views presented in this essay are his sole responsibility and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which he is associated.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Federatsia: Rusia y Bolivia Aumentan Cooperación de Defensa

"Rusia y Bolivia Aumentan Cooperacion de Defensa"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Septiembre 19, 2016
Publicado: https://www.facebook.com/notes/federatsia-%D1%84%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F/rusia-y-bolivia-aumentan-cooperaci%C3%B3n-de-defensa/966625790130250

En el marco del foro internacional de defensa Army 2016, llevado a cabo en Kubinka (en las afueras de Moscú), los gobiernos de la Federación Rusa y el Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia firmaron un Convenio de Cooperación Militar. Dicho acuerdo fue firmado por el Ministro de Defensa de Bolivia, Reymi Ferreira, y su homólogo ruso, Sergey Shoigu.

Un comunicado del Ministerio de Defensa de Bolivia, del 6 de Septiembre, explica que la cooperación militar se centrará en las siguientes áreas principales:
a)    Intercambio de las opiniones sobre aspectos político – militares de seguridad global y regional.
b)  Desarrollo de las relaciones en la esfera de formación militar, medicina, historia, hidrografía, topografía, cultura y deporte en el ámbito militar.
c)    Intercambio de experiencia en las actividades y la cooperación en operaciones de mantenimiento de la paz bajo la protección de la ONU.
d)    Intercambio de experiencia en temas de formación y adiestramiento del personal militar.
e)    Otras áreas de cooperación militar por acuerdo mutuo de las partes, indica el documento.[1]

En el último año se dieron varias declaraciones sobre una posible cooperación entre La Paz y Moscú,. Desde Noviembre del 2015 se hablaba que los dos países estaban estrechando sus lazos de defensa – vale recalcar que en esa fecha el Viceministro de Defensa del país andino, Luis Aramayo, viajó a Moscú para participar en la Tercera Comisión Intergubernamental Mixta Ruso-Boliviana.  Según la agencia de noticias Russia Beyond The Headlines:

“De acuerdo con las palabras del viceministro, concretamente se está hablando de equipar a la Armada del país con unas lanchas ligeras destinadas al despliegue de tropas, así como a operaciones humanitarias y de salvamento durante desastres naturales. Además, Bolivia está sopesando la compra de medios de transporte para velar por la seguridad en las zonas costeras, lagos y ríos navegables. Para la Fuerza Aérea también hay algunas propuestas relativas a la adquisición de helicópteros y aviones.[2]
Meses después, en Abril 2016, el canciller boliviano, David Choquehuanca, y su colega ruso, Serguéi Lavrov, firmaron un acuerdo para la eliminación de visados y de cooperación en otras áreas. El ministro ruso declaró: “hemos abordado la cooperación técnico-militar. Está trabajando una comisión y se están preparando contactos sobre cuestiones concretas que nuestros amigos bolivianos tienen en el marco de sus planes para fortalecer sus Fuerzas Armadas en los próximos 10 años.”[3]

Desde el punto de vista boliviano, estas estrechas relaciones tienen una razón ideológica. El Presidente Evo Morales es un conocido crítico de Estados Unidos; no por nada Bolivia es miembro del ALBA, y Morales mantuvo una fuerte amistad con el fallecido líder venezolano Hugo Chávez. Asimismo el gobierno boliviano abrió, recientemente, la Escuela Antiimperialista de los Pueblos de Abya Yala “Juan José Torres.”[4] Por ende, tiene sentido que el líder boliviano muestre intenciones de acercarse a la Federación Rusa considerándose como un balance por la histórica influencia de Washington en Latinoamérica.

Es conveniente tomar en cuenta el punto de vista geopolítico actual. En particular, el gobierno boliviano probablemente aspire a tener una superpotencia mundial como amiga, de cara a sus problemas con Chile. La Paz y Santiago mantienen un diferendo verbal y jurídico por la demanda boliviana de tener salida al Océano Pacífico, además de un diferendo sobre el Río Silala. Ciertamente, Rusia no iría a una guerra contra Chile en defensa de Bolivia, no obstante a La Paz le ayuda contar con este apoyo diplomático y sostener acuerdos de cooperación en temas de defensa.
Cabe indicar que Rusia, a pesar de las múltiples reuniones y acuerdos, aún no ha vendido armamento pesado a Bolivia. Se ha comentado sobre la posible venta de tanques, helicópteros y aviones de guerra, pero Bolivia, al final del día, no es Venezuela. La Paz no puede gastar miles de millones de dólares en modernizar e incrementar su armamento bélico, como lo hizo la Venezuela chavista. Las últimas adquisiciones del país altiplánico a otros países son los helicópteros Eurocopter y la donación de China que consta de vehículos blindados, lanchas patrulleras y otro armamento ligero.[5]

Por ende, a falta del presupuesto para comprar más armamento pesado, Rusia probablemente va a desear enfocarse en la cooperación militar, como lo explica el reciente acuerdo. No sorprendería si Rusia planea abrir un centro de entrenamiento militar en Bolivia, tal vez como parte de la Escuela Antiimperialista recientemente abierta. Algo similar ya ha ocurrido en Nicaragua, donde el gobierno del Presidente Daniel Ortega también es cercano al ruso: en Abril 2013 se inauguró el Complejo de Adiestramiento “Mariscal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhúkov”, ubicado en la Brigada de Infantería Mecanizada “General Augusto C. Sandino” del Ejército de Nicaragua.[6] Las relaciones militares ruso-bolivianas posiblemente sigan un modelo similar a lo que ha ocurrido en la nación Centroamericana.

Para concluir, desde que el Presidente Morales entro al poder en 2006, Bolivia y Rusia han disfrutado de buenas relaciones en términos de diplomacia y economía. Sin embargo, en temas de defensa, a pesar de numerosos acuerdos y reuniones de altos mandos, Rusia no ha podido vender armamento pesado a Bolivia como lo ha hecho con Venezuela y, en menor escala, con Nicaragua. Dadas las limitaciones presupuestales bolivianas, es comprensible que el reciente acuerdo firmado entre los dos gobiernos se enfoque más en la cooperación técnica, lo que podría llevar a una presencia militar rusa en Bolivia para entrenar al personal militar del país altiplánico.

[1] “Bolivia y Rusia firman acuerdo de cooperación militar,” Ministerio de Defensa de Bolivia, 6 de Septiembre, 2016. <http://www.mindef.gob.bo/mindef/node/2509>
[2] Tatiana Rusakova, “Bolivia se defenderá con armas rusas,” Russia Beyond The Headlines, 22 de Noviembre, 2015. <https://es.rbth.com/noticias/2015/12/22/bolivia-se-defendera-con-armas-rusas_550825>
[3]“Bolivia y Rusia firman acuerdo de exención de visados,” La Razon, 12 de Abril, 2016.
[4] “Bolivia inaugura su Escuela Militar Antiimperialista,” RT, 17 de Agosto, 2016. <https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/216313-bolivia-inaugura-escuela-militar-antiimperialista>
[5] “China dona a Bolivia una tropa de lanchas patrulleras y otro armamento military,” EMOL.com, Internacional, 11 de Marzo, 2016. <http://www.emol.com/noticias/Internacional/2016/03/11/792431/China-dona-a-Bolivia-una-tropa-de-lanchas-patrulleras-y-otro-armamento-militar.html> . También ver: “China entrega 31 carros blindados a FFAA de Bolivia en el marco de convenio military,” Sputnik Mundo, 30 de Julio, 2016. <https://mundo.sputniknews.com/fuerzasarmadas/20160730/1062542599/China-Bolivia-carros-asalto-antidisturbios.html>
[6] Inauguracion del Complejo de Adiestramiento “Mariscal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhúkov,” Ejercito de Nicaragua, Noticias, < http://ejercito.mil.ni/contenido/noticias/2013-04/visita-jemg-ffaa-rusia.html >