Russia's campaign to balance U.S. power and prestige around the globe has found a new and willing partner--Latin -America--and Washington may be the unwitting facilitator. A new report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies claims that since the mid-2000s Latin America has become the hottest market for Russian arms. Moscow is cutting deals across the region, selling the latest hardware, from rifles to fighter jets, in exchange for influence and access to the area's plentiful oil and gas reserves. The Russians have recently made deals worth $5.8 billion with various Latin countries.
Ironically, one reason for the budding East-West axis may be Washington's own rigid security agenda. The U.S. has imposed restrictions on arms sales to many nations suspected of being soft on terrorism or roiled by internal conflict. So, many on that watch list have turned to Moscow, which asks no questions. Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, for example, has snapped up some $4 billion in Russian weapons in recent years. This isn't the start of a new Cold War, but the flood of weapons into a region where political turmoil is still common should be enough to make the hemisphere's ranking power pay attention.