The Monroe Doctrine, Putin, and Post-Soviet Space: Don't Muddy the Waters

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Given what's been going on with Russia in recent months, some people have pointed out the apparent hypocrisy of the US position vis-a-vis Ukraine, i.e. that Kyiv should be able to join whichever alliance or international organization that it sees fit.

After all, the US hasn't renounced the Monroe Doctrine. If the US can demand a leading role in the foreign policies of countries in the Americas, the argument goes, why can't Putin claim a similar right with respect to post-Soviet space? 

To which I say this: Ukraine and Georgia are free countries whose leaders were chosen in elections that are generally considered to have been fair. In neither country is there unanimity regarding the idea of joining the European Union or NATO. Nevertheless, these decisions are debated in public and are taken into consideration when people vote. If Ukraine or Georgia ever do join the EU or NATO, I think we can be pretty confident that this is a reflection of what a majority of voters in those countries actually want.  

Venezuela and Cuba, meanwhile, are highly authoritarian regimes barely clinging to power. If their ruling authorities choose an alliance with Russia, they'll be speaking only for themselves. If they want to join up with the CSTO all-stars, that's their business. Maybe Russia, Tajikistan, Armenia, and the gang will one day rush in to save the regimes in Havana and Caracas, just as they did earlier this month in Kazakhstan. 

While the US has not renounced the Monroe Doctrine, the degree to which it is a factor in contemporary American policymaking is debatable. The US has gone sixty years without invoking the Monroe Doctrine vis-a-vis Cuba. Venezuela, meanwhile, managed to somehow develop into its present-day form despite the Monroe Doctrine's continued existence. While the US was involved in a great number of evil acts in central and South America during the Cold War (and before), since the end of the Cold War it is hard to come up with strong examples of the Monroe Doctrine being employed, or even seeming relevant, in US relations with the rest of the Americas. 

So maybe we should use this crisis with Russia as an opportunity to renounce the Monroe Doctrine altogether. Let Venezuela and Cuba invite Russian troops in. The only drawback is that those soldiers might one day be used against Venezuelan and Cuban citizens attempting to rid themselves of their own [mis]rulers. 


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