The US Needs a New Doctrine Against China and Russia’s Meddling in Latin America

Engagement failed and power politics are back in play
By Anders Corr
Anders Corr
Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).
January 31, 2022Updated: January 31, 2022

News Analysis

China and its allies are making more inroads in Latin America, where the United States used to forbid foreign powers to meddle. The 19th century was a different time entirely, and much of what Washington did then was no better than the European imperialism that it opposed.

Times are different now, with the United States and allies after World War I standing clearly for a diverse world of sovereign and territorially-inviolate market democracies. America attempted to cement this vision of freedom globally with the founding of the League of Nations in 1920, and the United Nations in 1945.

But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its allies, despite China’s admission into the U.N. and President Richard Nixon’s opening in 1972, took a far different, and violently illiberal, path.

To stop Beijing, whose leaders are stuck in the world of 19th-century power politics and territorial expansion with a communist twist, the United States must reluctantly dust off some of our old tools of state power.

This time, we will be using them to defend democracy and the sovereignty of nations abroad, rather than promoting our own territorial expansion as in the 19th century. But weakness is not an option, and so we will need some of those 19th-century doctrines to put an end to China’s expansion in Central and South America.

The challenge facing democracy in the southern half of the Americas is well described in an opinion by Mary Anastasia O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 30. She makes the point that China, and its ally Russia, are “already in Cuba and Venezuela,” including by helping Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, militarize the Columbian border.

Epoch Times Photo
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro walks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as they arrive to a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan. 7, 2015. (Andy Wong/Pool/Getty Images)

A former M-19 guerrilla is running for president of Colombia, and if he wins, “the stage will be set to turn what was once one of the U.S.’s most reliable allies into a Russian proxy,” according to O’Grady, who is co-editor of the Index of Economic Freedom. Russia will have achieved the destruction of democracy in Colombia “without firing a shot.”

The M-19 guerrilla, Gustavo Petro, gets much of his political juice by appealing to the issues of poverty and the increasing concentration of wealth. Approximately one-third of Latin Americans, an increase due to COVID-19, live on less than $1.90 per day. That’s the U.N. definition of extreme poverty. The poor in Latin America want education, jobs, land, housing, and healthcare that could be provided by increasing progressive taxation, for example. For political moderates in Latin America not to make a greater effort on these issues will give fodder to communist candidates aligned with Beijing, and threaten what peace and stability remains in the region, along with U.S. national security.

The United States should also pursue tougher measures in Latin America against the CCP and its allies in Moscow. This should include, on the macro-political level, a new Monroe Doctrine that forbids dictators from meddling in Latin American democracies, or anywhere else in the Western hemisphere. They should no longer invest, colonize, or support political candidates with their ill-gotten gains. Latin American countries should be required to democratize, and spend their fair share on defense: at least 2 percent of GDP.

Anything less opens the door to totalitarian influence, or even Russian or Chinese military bases. Failing democracies in Latin America put into question whether they are really prepared to be sovereign, or whether they are ready to risk their countries turning into satellites of Beijing and Moscow. Before that happens, the United States must step in and restore their governments to the voters.

America’s failure to fertilize and protect democracy in Cuba and Venezuela since 1959 and 1999, respectively, have opened them as beachheads for Moscow to threaten the United States with military force, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and as recently as mid-January with Moscow’s threat to put military bases in both countries as retaliation for U.S. support to Ukraine.

If Ukraine or Taiwan are attacked, Latin Americans, whose democracies have otherwise long been protected by the United States from Soviet-backed regimes, should be expected to contribute troops to an international coalition of democracies sent to defend these countries and democracy more generally.

The United States, Britain, and our closest military allies cannot defend the world alone, though we have been trying. All need to pitch in. Those countries that do not democratize and spend their fair share on defense could potentially see their tariffs increased by Washington and allies, especially if they are trading with the enemy in Beijing or Moscow.

Does this new Monroe Doctrine sound ambitious? It is, and so was the original Monroe Doctrine of 1823. At the time, the United States did not have the naval and ground forces to fully defend Oregon and the Falkland Islands, for example, from Britain and Spain. But we had a doctrine, and as U.S. power grew in the 19th century, so did our ability to exclude the European empires from the Americas, where we chose to do so.

Today, we are in a much more muscular position against Beijing and Moscow than we were in 1823 against Britain and Spain. But defending democracy in Latin America will still be a massive challenge that we are currently failing at, because we lack spine.

We must now have as tough a spine, supplied by new doctrines of power politics, as we did back then. Without this doctrinal and structured support for Latin American democracy, our military muscle will do us little good in the coming conflict with authoritarianism.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Related Topics