In 2016, the Russians spread the version that they were capable of intervening in the US elections and convinced the world. President Donald Trump had his election put under suspicion and to this day, such Russian interference in the election is discussed. Nobody really knows the real impact of the memes and lies planted by Moscow. But that doesn’t matter. Whether or not Russia managed to interfere in the American electoral process is a mere detail in the face of the objectives of the architect of the operation. For Vladimir Putin, the plan is to discredit democracy and one of its most visible instruments, which are elections.
Putin did not just seek to smear the US elections. He insisted on leaving pachydermic traces in the Brexit referendum in 2016, and encouraged the separatist wing in the Catalonia referendum in 2017. As in the American case, the Russians did not change anything inside the polls, but inside people’s heads. The seed of distrust undermined, possibly irremediably, trust in democracy.
Like China’s Xi Jinping, Putin is unwilling to change himself and his regime to conform to the rules and democratic models. Because of this, they work for the world to be transformed for their benefit. That is, instead of adapting, they export instability, fear and mistrust to, thus, shape a new reality that is in the image and likeness of their autocracies.
It is not by chance that Xi climbed its diplomacy and its, let’s say, service providers to sell the thesis that Democracy is not rigidly established and that it can be molded to the customer’s taste.
After the success of the attacks on the pillars concepts and the perversion of democratic values, the autocracies have embarked on a new kind of offensive. In August, dictator Nicolás Maduro will receive military contingents from Russia, China and Iran for a joint military exercise. Such actions are common, but in the case in question there is a dark novelty. It is the first time that the Xi-Putin-Khamenei-Maduro chaos quartet has acted, together and without any kind of dissimulation in the hemisphere.
Following the purest Chavista tradition, of generating and financing chaos and import instability, Maduro opens the doors of Venezuela to say something like this to the United States: “You and NATO are on the fringes of Russia and I can make sure that the Russians are here at your back door. ”.
The Chaos Four have been waiting for this for a long time. The invasion of Venezuela, which many Venezuelan opponents have dreamed of since 2019 and thank God never happened, would be the pretext for these forces to settle permanently in the region. Three years later, with Nicolás Maduro in power unscathed, the extra-regional powers are showing their muscles in the region. They don’t settle in, but send a signal that we’re not far enough away and that they’re already here. The exercise in Venezuela seems to be part of this normalization of this presence. In addition to the exercises in Venezuela, there will also be others in Nicaragua by Daniel Ortega.
The military advance in the region was gradual and not at all silent. The Russians armed Chávez to the teeth and consequently indebted Venezuela, to the point that the country lost control of an important part of its oil industry.
In 2019, the Russia sent troops to Venezuela’s border with Brazil as a sign that if the now enamored government of Jair Bolsonaro messed with Maduro, it would have to come to terms with them too. A year earlier, Maduro allowed a Russian nuclear bomber to land at Caracas airport in a display that may have gone much further, as the first time that nuclear weapons were on South American soil.
In February 2020, the Russian spy ship Yantar invaded the area of the Exclusive Exploration Zone of Brazil. The vessel navigated Brazilian territorial waters covertly for a week and, when identified, ignored attempts to contact local authorities. While not exactly illegal, the Russian action was considered unwarranted, suspicious and to some extent hostile. So much so that the Navy had to coordinate a reconnaissance mission to locate it off the coast.
The military exercises in August will most likely be a definitive test to identify how tolerant the region will be to the presence more and more constant of these troops. The combination of financial pressure on the part of China, the worsening of chaos with the dissemination of disinformation on the part of Moscow and Tehran and the military presence of these actors can lead the region to an environment of constant tension that will have as a consequence not only the erosion of democracy, but also a possible interruption of decades of peace between the nations of the region.