Ortega increases the tension in his relationship with Washington by tightening military exchanges with Russia | international

At a time when Daniel Ortega’s relations with Washington are at an all-time low, former Sandinista fighters are fueling the fire. This week, Vladimir Putin’s propaganda apparatus did not skimp on reports that include an opinion issued by Nicaragua’s ruling party on Wednesday allowing entry into the country, as of July 1, for an unspecified number of Russian military ships and aircraft. The armed forces participate in what the regime called “exchange, education and military training exercises in humanitarian relief operations.” The initiative comes after Ortega defied the United States and the European Union by supporting Putin in his invasion of Ukraine, in a diplomatic move in which he expects an economic return to cushion the blow wrought by isolation and international sanctions. which weighs heavily on your system. .

Decree 10-2022 passed by the National Assembly – controlled by Ortega – allows the entry of the Russian army to “patrol” the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Nicaragua. The presence of 80 Russian soldiers in the country was also approved, and they will participate, along with the Special Operations Command of the Nicaraguan Army, “in the exchange of experiences and training in humanitarian aid operations”, while another 50 soldiers will participate, which will work with members of the Navy, the Air Force and the Radio Corps, in what it calls Managua “Exchange of experiences and practical communication with ships and aircraft of the Nicaraguan army in the tasks of confrontation and combating drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. In addition to this, permission for Russian ships and aircraft to enter the territory of Nicaragua.

Since the ruling was known, Kremlin propaganda has mobilized what the Nicaraguan analyst Roberto Cagina calls a war of words that poses a disguised threat to the United States. Russian state TV presenter Olga Scapeva“It is time for Russia to deploy something powerful near American cities,” he said, referring to the possible arrival of the Russian army in Nicaragua, on Ortega’s order on Thursday. The state agency TASS also echoed the information, while the Moscow-funded news site Sputnik titled a report published this week: “Nicaragua: Military cooperation with Russia responds to the principles of national security.” The Kremlin later tried to tone down his propaganda, and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said sending the army to the tropics was a “routine measure”.

The President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, greets Vladimir Putin, upon the arrival of the Russian President in Managua, in 2014.Alexei Nikolsky (AFP)

Kagina, a consultant on security and defense issues, explains that it is normal for foreign military personnel to enter the country to participate in exchanges with the Nicaraguan army, which mainly relate to training and support in humanitarian issues or the fight against organized crime. Indeed, Ortega’s decree allows entry to Cuban, Mexican, Venezuelan and Bolivian soldiers, but what is striking now, the analyst explains, is that it occurs at a time when Russia has lost international support for its invasion of Ukraine and Ortega has not. They were invited to the Summit of the Americas, which was held in Los Angeles, in an effort by Washington to further isolate a regime it considers oppressive and violating human rights. “Russia wants to put a little pressure on the United States and, in the process, it takes a little less interest in invading Ukraine, but in reality Moscow doesn’t have the ability to send weapons to Nicaragua, like it did with Cuba in 1962, with the missile crisis,” Kagina says. Rather, it is a war of words in the context of Ortega’s eternal confrontation with the United States,” explains the analyst. “A real Russian military presence in Nicaragua would generate absolute rejection in America, because it would pose a threat not only to Central America, but to the continent as well.”

However, Ortega’s edict had already raised alarm in Central America. The President of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chavez, was upset by the information and in statements to the US media from the Summit of the Americas, he said: “At the moment, we have serious concerns with Nicaragua. There is news that President Daniel Ortega has called on the Russian army to send troops and equipment to Nicaragua. No We haven’t had an army since 1949. Imagine how we feel: worried, for good reason, the president said. Chávez’s fears are not unjustified, given that Ortega has shown in the past that he has a great capacity to destabilize the region: in the 1980s, the Sandinista executive he headed joined forces to the then Soviet-led socialist bloc, which gave military aid to Nicaragua.At the time, the country was facing a civil war that was harassed by Washington, as Ronald Reagan’s government funded a guerrilla war trained in Honduras, againstwho sought to overthrow Sandinismo. That conflict led to mass displacement and a humanitarian crisis that afflicted Costa Rica.

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So far it is not clear what Ortega expects from Putin, who has strengthened his relations with him since 2008, when he supported Russia’s annexation of the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That year, Ortega faced strong pressure from the United States, after denouncing massive electoral fraud that gave his party, the Sandinista Front, a wide advantage. In 2014, Ortega also supported the Russian occupation of Crimea and even ordered the creation of a consulate that was mocked on social networks, given Nicaragua’s empty relationship with that Ukrainian region. In gratitude, Vladimir Putin paid a visit to Nicaragua that year, where he was received by Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo. Ortega welcomed Putin into a buddy hug, but perhaps he expected something more than a pat on the back.

First Lady and President of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega, in Moscow, Russia, in December 2008.
First Lady and President of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega, in Moscow, Russia, in December 2008.Misha Gabaridze (linked press)

The Nicaraguan government stated that Moscow funded a military training center to combat drug trafficking, aid to strengthen and modernize the army and $26 million (about 21 million euros) to deal with natural disasters. In 2016, Russia officially announced that it was sending to Nicaragua a first batch of 20 T-72B battle tanks, at a cost of $80 million, and RIA Novosti confirmed that Russia had already supplied the Central American country with 12 systems. Anti-aircraft defense ZU-23-2, two Mi-17V-5 helicopters and a “batch” of armored vehicles. Orders from Nicaragua to Russia included four patrol boats at an approximate cost of $45 million. Moscow has also offered to support it with wheat and buses to improve urban transport in the capital.

The Nicaraguan writer and Cervantes Prize-winning Sergio Ramirez – exiled in Spain – has mocked Russia’s relations with Ortega. Ramirez, who was the vice president of Nicaragua in the 1980s, told Divergentes that Russia “is not an effective ally of Ortega,” because it is a “paper tiger” that “plays the role of a superpower because it has nuclear warheads.” “But while he has to invest every possible resource in his war in Ukraine, what more can he do for Ortega than buses that broke down the following year?” So what does Nicaragua gain from its relationship with Putin? Practically nothing, says analyst Kagina. Trade between Nicaragua and Russia is minimal. What Nicaragua gives Russia is, in diplomatic terms, of little value in the global context. Moscow’s criticism of US sanctions against Nicaragua is also weightless.” Nevertheless, Ortega continues to add fuel to the fire of tension with Washington.

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