Reset of Ukrainian diplomacy in Latin America

January 24, 2024

Lolita Zhuk, intern of Razumkov Centre, student of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University

A year ago, in January 2023, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister D. Kuleba announced the adoption of a Latin American strategy and a stronger focus of Ukraine on South America.

This document, intended for five years, aims to actively promote Ukrainian interests and initiatives in that region and produce a new quality of political, trade, economic, cultural, humanitarian relations of Ukraine with the countries of Latin America, including an increase in the volume of trade and investments.

It should be noted that this region, which has a significant human and resource potential (40% of the world's reserves of copper, 25% of iron ore, more than 70% of lithium, etc.) and a capacious market, has long remained out of focus of Ukraine's international priorities, where our political and economic contacts were quite limited. The reasons were many, including the predominant focus of Kyiv's foreign policy on Europe and North America, complex, contradictory socio-political processes in the region and the influence of powerful global actors — the USA, the EU, Russia and China.

The year of 2023 saw intensification and reset of Ukraine's foreign policy in Latin America. Here, we should mention the participation of Ukraine’s Foreign Minister D. Kuleba in the summit of the Association of Caribbean States (25 countries) on May 11, where he spoke about the interests and priorities of Ukraine in that region. In April, V. Zelenskyy addressed the parliaments of Chile and Mexico regarding support for Ukraine fighting Russian invasion and creation of a special international tribunal to prosecute the crimes of the aggressor country.

In June, the President of Ukraine called upon the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (35 countries) to support the Ukrainian Peace Formula in preparation for the Global Summit. As a result, the Assembly passed a statement in support of Ukraine, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the aggressor's troops from Ukraine and prosecution of all those guilty of war crimes, while the Global Peace Summit was discussed with the government officials of Brazil, Peru, Guatemala and other countries of the region.

Participation of South American countries in the meetings of national security advisers to discuss the key principles of a stable and just peace for Ukraine within the framework of the Peace Formula became an important event. In particular, the fourth such meeting (January 14, 2024, Davos) was attended by representatives of six countries of this region. In turn, official Kyiv tries to use the channels of public diplomacy. For example, in September, a conference was held with representatives of the public and political communities of a number of Latin American countries, and in November, V. Zelenskyy gave a speech to students and teachers of educational institutions in Mexico.

Important for the relations with Latin America was the visit of V. Zelenskyy to Buenos Aires on December 10, 2023, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new president of Argentina, Javier Millay (it was the first high-level visit to the region after 2011). In an interview for Latin American media, the President of Ukraine took the initiative of holding a Ukraine-Latin America summit, which was supported by the Argentine side. It should be added that during this visit, meetings were also held with the Presidents of Ecuador, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Intensification of Ukraine's foreign policy in Latin America is important for a number of reasons:

First, it is highly important to promote the Peace Formula. Representatives of 81 countries and international organizations joined the next round of the Peace Formula negotiations in Davos. An agreement was reached with the President of the Swiss Confederation, V. Amherd, that Switzerland would host the Global Peace Summit at the level of country leaders. Therefore, the priority task for Ukrainian diplomacy is to secure greater international presence at the summit, including the countries of South America. This is also important because the majority of countries in the region take a neutral position in Russia's overt aggression against Ukraine. In particular, the largest states of the continent — Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina — refused to provide military aid to Ukraine, while the peace initiatives of the President of Brazil could hardly be called acceptable for Ukraine.

Second, the intensification of Ukrainian diplomacy and strengthening of contacts with the countries of the region are of strategic importance in view of fighting the Russian influence, especially in the media. The Russian Federation promotes its narratives in the region, creates a false impression of the goals of Russian aggression, and tries to present Ukraine as a "puppet" of the West. In November 2023, the US State Department reported that Russia was financing a disinformation campaign in Latin America intended to undermine support for Ukraine. Moscow plans to increase its media presence in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, etc. (In this context, it should be added that in 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, Ukraine has only six embassies: in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Peru and Chile, while Russia operates approximately 100 institutions there, from embassies to trade, consular and cultural missions).

Third, closer ties with Latin America will contribute to the development of trade and economic relations with the whole region and its separate countries. Exports of agricultural produce, industrial products and services seems promising there, in search of new markets and sources of foreign investments, with the aim of restoring the export potential of Ukraine. Support for Ukrainian communities in the countries of the region for the satisfaction of their national, cultural and language needs, strengthening of Ukrainian media presence and promotion of Ukrainian cultural products, etc. are also seen as an important component of Kyiv's Latin American policy.