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Latin America’s Role in Great Power Competition

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The Ascendancy of Regional Powers in Contemporary US-China Relations

Part of the book series: Global Foreign Policy Studies ((GFPS))

Abstract

Studies of great power politics have often relegated the Western Hemisphere to the status of the United States’ “backyard.” The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region accordingly tends to fall into the role of a playground for the local hegemon if its role is even considered to begin with. Such a framework, especially in the twenty-first century, has become increasingly outdated and reflective of a Cold War vision of the US’s role in the hemisphere as one played out through covert operations, coups, and puppet strongmen. To be sure, the United States remains far and away the dominant country in the Western Hemisphere by virtually any metric of state power. However, as the emergence of two consolidated and staunchly anti-US dictatorships in the past decade has demonstrated, the region remains fraught with challenges all its own, which have become increasingly difficult for Washington to manage (IDEA Internacional 2019). Indeed, perhaps the most salient indicator of the diversity of political strategies adopted by LAC countries can be observed in the varied reactions to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. While most countries in the region voted in favor of condemning Russia at the United Nations General Assembly, a few countries, including Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, each abstained (Besheer 2022). Moreover, in another General Assembly vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, both Brazil and Mexico abstained, another indication that they are slowly isolating themselves from involvement in major global conflicts (UN News 2022). While opposition to sanctions against Russia may be expected from their major LAC allies such as Venezuela and Nicaragua, which rely heavily on Russian security assistance to maintain their hold on power, (Universidad de Navarra 2019) it is less immediately evident why major regional powers such as Brazil and Mexico would hold to such a stance. The search for explanations has led some to cite a long diplomatic tradition of the LAC regional powers seeking to diversify their diplomatic and commercial relations to reduce US influence in the region (Vigevani and Cepaluni 2007). Yet the question of a cohesive theoretical model of LAC’s role in a world order increasingly shaped by great power competition remains.

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Correspondence to Henry S. Ziemer .

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Berg, R.C., Ziemer, H.S. (2023). Latin America’s Role in Great Power Competition. In: Roberts, K., Bano, S. (eds) The Ascendancy of Regional Powers in Contemporary US-China Relations . Global Foreign Policy Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-37612-2_13

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