In recent years, the United States has shifted its strategic focus from countering terrorism to countering China and Russia in the Indo-Pacific and Europe. Although Latin America has been a relatively neglected area in U.S. foreign policy in recent decades, it is a region of geostrategic importance for the United States. Increasingly, the region is also of interest to U.S. competitors: Both China and Russia have turned their attention toward Latin America in the past two decades, during which China has made economic and diplomatic inroads and Russia has increased its diplomatic and military presence. This report — part of a four-volume series — explores where and how the United States, China, and Russia are competing for influence in Latin America; what kinds of interests they have in the continent; what kinds of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic influence-seeking measures they are using; where and why competition might turn into conflict; what form that conflict might take; and what implications the findings have for the U.S. government at large, the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Air Force in particular. This research was completed in September 2021, before the November 2021 presidential elections in Nicaragua; Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine; and the October 2022 release of the unclassified versions of the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review, and the Missile Defense Review. The report has not been subsequently revised.
The research reported here was commissioned by Headquarters Air Force A5S and conducted within the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.
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