The US Department of Defense views Russia’s rising influence in South America as a threat to the national security of the United States and closely tracks Moscow’s activities in the region, US Southern Command (SOCOM) chief Adm. Craig Faller said on Tuesday.
“Russia is actively engaging in this region to counter what it views as the US meddling in its near-abroad. Expanding air and sea access to project military power, it has agreements with Venezuela and Nicaragua that allow Russian warships to visit on short notice, “Faller said in a written testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Feller noted that Russia has increased its military presence in the region since 2008 by deploying strategic bombers and making port calls.
“Russia doubled its naval deployments in this region, going from five (2008-2014), to 11 (2015-2020),” he said.
In addition, Faller accused Russia as well as China, of using so-called “medical diplomacy” and using the current coronavirus pandemic to pursue its interests.
“COVID-19 has also provided Russia with another avenue by which to expand its campaign to outcompete the United States in the information domain,” Feller said.
SOCOM has recently released an updated map of Russian influence in Latin America noting that Moscow provides military training assistance to 17 of the 31 states in the region. The US has seen the deployment of three strategic bombers, more than 40 port calls and 23 visits by the head of state between Russia and regional countries.
US military also considers Russian media presence in the region to be an aspect of influence, noting that more than 489 articles allegedly distorting the US defense engagements since 2018 have been written.
Russia has repeatedly refuted the US accusations of attempting to increase its military presence in Latin America.