This article about why the United States should revive the Monroe Doctrine to respond to Russian and Chinese advancements into the Americas first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Providence’s print edition. To read the original in a PDF format, click here. To subscribe and receive future issues as soon as they are published, please subscribe for as little as $12 a year.

We have heard much in recent years about Washington’s “Pacific pivot” aimed at deterring Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea and the “reassurance initiative” aimed at deterring Russian revisionism in Eastern Europe. What has received far less attention is Beijing’s pivot to the Americas and Moscow’s revival of Cold War-style intervention in the Western Hemisphere.

As these Eurasian powers build bridgeheads in the Americas, perhaps it’s time for Washington to dust off an old playbook to protect the Western Hemisphere.

Original Intent

In the early 1820s, with the Russian Empire eyeing parts of the Oregon Territory and the Spanish Empire reeling from revolutions in South America, there was real concern in Washington that European powers would move to strengthen their position in the Americas. “It was not at all certain that the newly independent republics to the south would be able to retain their sovereignty, and there was even talk that France, Austria and Russia might help Spain restore it, or perhaps attempt to assume it themselves,” historian John Lewis Gaddis explains. “The British, alarmed by this prospect, had suggested a joint Anglo-American statement ruling out future European colonization in the western hemisphere.”[1]

Instead, President James Monroe issued his own statement of US policy, which became America’s most famous and most enduring foreign policy doctrine. Largely crafted by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the Monroe Doctrine was a rhetorical shot across the bow aimed at the emperors and monarchs of the Eastern Hemisphere.

“With the governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States,” Monroe explained. “It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness,” he added. “The American continents…are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by European powers.”[2]

In short, the Monroe Doctrine put Europe on notice that any further attempt by European autocracies to increase their influence in or re-colonize the Western Hemisphere would be regarded by the United States as a hostile act. Importantly, Monroe and Adams arrived at that conclusion not because the United States opposed all things European, but because the United States opposed the “political system” of European powers—a system which was by then “essentially different…from that of America.”[3]

Monroe and Adams “transformed the British proposal into a unilateral pronouncement…despite the fact that the United States had no means whatever of enforcing such a policy,” Gaddis notes. Fearing that a joint statement with Britain would highlight American weakness, they calculated rightly that Britain’s navy would enforce Monroe’s doctrine because of a confluence of interests. Britain, with its command of the seas, kept the circling European powers at bay—until the US had amassed enough maritime muscle to do so on its own.[4]

Without question, the Monroe Doctrine was misused at times, which we will discuss. Still, for the better part of two centuries, it helped American presidents defend US interests and buffer the Americas from external encroachment. “The Monroe Doctrine greatly expanded the concept of US national security,” military historian Peter Mansoor observes. “The defense of the United States would not begin at the nation’s borders, but would rather encompass North, South and Central America, as well as the oceanic approaches to the Western Hemisphere.”[5]

The Monroe Doctrine’s reach would prove enormous.

After his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt urged that the final settlement of World War I include “formal recognition of the Monroe Doctrine.” This was partly a function of the doctrine’s importance to securing US interests, but it also was a function of the doctrine’s capacity to promote stability in South America. International recognition of the Monroe Doctrine “would mark a long stride forward in international peace,” Roosevelt declared, adding, “south of the equator, there are growing civilized states capable of enforcing this doctrine themselves… We should join in enforcing it only at their request.”[6]

On the eve of US entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt cited “the obligation that we have under the Monroe Doctrine for the protection” of territories throughout the hemisphere.[7]

“There has been a Marshall Plan for the Western Hemisphere for a century-and-a-half known as the Monroe Doctrine,” President Harry Truman declared, underscoring the doctrine’s role in development.[8]

As the crisis over Soviet involvement in Cuba heated up, President John Kennedy observed, “the Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it, and that is that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power to the Western Hemisphere. And that’s why we oppose…what’s happening in Cuba today.”[9]

President Ronald Reagan lamented how Moscow “had violated the Monroe Doctrine and gotten away with it twice, first in Cuba, then in Nicaragua.” His secretary of defense cited the Monroe Doctrine to argue, “there should be no interference, no sponsorship of any kind of military activity in this hemisphere by countries in other hemispheres.”[10]

The origin of the threats may change, but the principles of the Monroe Doctrine remain an important guide for, and statement of, US foreign policy. Washington would do well to use it as a roadmap in dealing with unfriendly “political systems” that are encroaching on the Americas and challenging yet again “our peace and happiness.”

China: Buying Loyalty

Driven by a thirst for oil and raw materials to keep its economy humming, China is aggressively expanding its presence in the Western Hemisphere through infrastructure development, resource exploration and extraction, economic development, banking, telecommunications, and military-security arrangements.

China-Latin America trade jumped from virtually nothing in the 1980s to $270 billion by 2012. Chinese leader Xi Jinping wants to increase trade with Latin America to $500 billion by 2025.[11]

However, Beijing is engaged in far more than trade in the Americas. In Costa Rica, the emerging superpower has funded multibillion-dollar upgrades of oil refineries, bankrolled infrastructure and telecommunications improvements, and poured millions into a new police academy, which opened in 2017. In Colombia, China has unveiled plans for a “dry canal” linking the country’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts by rail, with Chinese ports at either terminus. China plans to build a “super-railway” across the width of Brazil and Peru, and a “Grand Transoceanic Canal” in Nicaragua capable of handling ships too large for the Panama Canal.[12]

Beijing has invested billions in Ecuador’s oil and mining reserves, $4.4 billion in Peruvian mines, $1.9 billion for development of Chile’s iron mines, $10 billion to modernize Argentina’s rail system, and $3.1 billion to purchase Argentina’s petroleum company outright.[13]

The world’s second-largest economy has plunked down $3.1 billion for a slice of Brazil’s offshore oil fields. Beijing’s state-run enterprises own large shares of Brazilian energy utilities and banks. China has gobbled up 21 Brazilian electricity companies and helped Brazil’s main oil company when it sought financing for a massive drilling project, pouring $10 billion into the effort.[14]

Venezuela has received more than $50 billion in loans from China since 2005, and Beijing has earmarked at least $16.3 billion to develop Venezuelan oil reserves.[15]

China has invested in ports in the Bahamas and Jamaica, and launched oil exploration efforts in and around Cuba.

To be sure, there are pluses and minuses to Beijing’s increased interest in the Americas. Investment can spur development. That’s a plus. But too many governments in Latin America are trying to find an easy shortcut to development and growth by accepting Beijing’s billions, rather than doing the hard work of political-economic reform by building institutions that promote sustained economic growth.

More worrisome, China’s riches come with strings, and that raises security concerns for the Americas. As Proverbs 22:7 reminds us, “the borrower is slave to the lender.”

US diplomatic cables reveal concerns that Beijing’s largesse is making the Bahamas, to cite just one example, “indebted to Chinese interests” and establishing “a relationship of patronage…less than 190 miles from the United States.” Adds a former British diplomat in the region: “they are buying loyalty.”[16]

We know from our own history that economic ties lead to military-security ties, and that’s what’s happening as China reaches into the Americas.

In a piece for Forbes, the Institute of World Politics’ Paul Coyer—who is also a contributing editor to Providence—provides some of the details: Beijing has delivered multiple-launch rocket systems to Peru; surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and artillery to Bolivia; SAMs and anti-tank missiles to Ecuador; and infantry fighting vehicles, air-to-air missiles, radar systems, and helicopters to Venezuela. Plans are afoot for China to build five warships for the Argentine navy and 100 armored personnel carriers for the Argentine army. Coyer adds that the People’s Liberation Army has conducted joint military maneuvers in Peru; joint naval maneuvers in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil; and military exchanges with Brazil, Mexico, Suriname, and Chile.[17]

Officials with US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) report that Beijing has “approached every country in our area of responsibility” and provided military exchanges, aid, or training to Ecuador, Jamaica, Bolivia, Cuba, Chile, and Venezuela. The Argentine defense minister traveled to Beijing in 2012 to hail a “bilateral strategic association in defense cooperation with China.” A 2012 Pentagon study noted that Beijing has sent senior military officials to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.

A congressional commission reports that Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador are buying Chinese arms. Bolivia has a military cooperation agreement with Beijing. Chinese-made transport aircraft and armored vehicles have been used by Venezuelan troops to smash peaceful protests of President Nicolas Maduro’s thugocracy. Perhaps most worrisome, a Chinese special forces unit deployed to Latin America in 2015, and Beijing constructed a “space tracking, telemetry and command facility” (operated by a unit of the People’s Liberation Army) in Argentina in 2016.[18]

Russia: A Return to Cold War Tactics

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin recently forgave 90 percent of Cuba’s over $30-billion debt to Moscow, the vast majority of which was racked up during the Cold War. Russia also is helping prop up the Maduro regime, recently lending Caracas $10 billion. In exchange, Russian energy firm Rosneft secured a 49.9-percent stake in Citgo, Venezuela’s refining subsidiary.[19]

However, Moscow’s actions in the Americas are generally focused in the military and geopolitical spheres—and thus more overtly provocative than China’s.

Consider the Russian defense minister’s announcement that Moscow will conduct regular patrols with long-range bombers “to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic…as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.” Russian warplanes shuttling between Venezuela and Nicaragua have violated Colombian airspace. Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Argentina have granted Russia access to their airspace and ports. Putin’s regime has military training agreements with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. In 2015, Moscow and Lima inked a strategic partnership agreement, enfolding cooperation in defense and economic development.[20]

Russia has unveiled plans to reopen a long-dormant intelligence facility in Cuba and to establish military bases in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. “Negotiations are underway to allow port visits to each, and to open refueling sites…for Russian long-range aircraft,” adds the American Foreign Policy Council’s Ilan Berman.

Russia shoveled at least $13 billion in arms into this hemisphere between 2001 and 2013, with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela all shopping at Putin’s weapons bazaar. Moscow delivered 50 T-72 tanks to Nicaragua in 2016 and stood up a satellite station in that country. Venezuela possesses 100,000 machine guns, 5,000 shoulder-fired SAMs, 93 T-72 tanks, and 240 armored vehicles, as well as Su-30 fighter-bombers and attack helicopters—all courtesy of Russia.[21]

“Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode US leadership and challenge US influence in the Western Hemisphere,” Gen. John Kelly reported in 2015, during his stint at SOUTHCOM. The future Trump administration’s Chief of Staff added that Moscow had chosen “a clear return to Cold War-tactics” in the Americas.[22]

Complicating the problems of trying to deal with China and Russia is the headache of dealing with Iran. Tehran has opened 80 Islamic cultural centers in Latin America, including Cuba, which raises eyebrows. After all, Cuba doesn’t allow Christian groups to open “cultural centers.” Kelly suggested that establishing so many cultural centers “in a region with an extremely small Muslim population” is geared toward “countering US influence.”

Added all up, the southern flank of the United States is exposed to a range of troublesome security challenges.

Looking Back: All Americans

Regrettably, Washington has not been faultless in its dealings with Latin America, which has contributed to the willingness of some governments in the region to open their doors to Beijing and Moscow. No discussion of the Monroe Doctrine would be complete without examining some of these mistakes.

Teddy Roosevelt used the Monroe Doctrine as a jumping off point for what became the Roosevelt Corollary, which warned that “chronic wrongdoing or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society…may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”[23] Put another way, while Monroe’s doctrine sought to keep Europe out, Roosevelt’s corollary became an excuse to get the United States in, which caused lingering hostility toward the United States.

For instance, with American help Panama cut itself away from Colombia in 1903. US forces intervened 16 times in Haiti between 1900 and 1913, followed by a long-term occupation from 1915 to 1934. US troops deployed to the Dominican Republic (1914, 1916-1924), Cuba (1917-1922), Panama (1918-1920), Honduras (1919 and 1925), Nicaragua (1912-1925, 1926-1933), and Mexico (1914-1917, 1918-1919).[24]

President Woodrow Wilson seemed to conduct foreign policy in the Americas via invasion—so much so that “Latin Americans began to call the US Marines ‘State Department troops.’”[25]

The US made repeated interventions in Cuba, supported a coup in Guatemala, backed a thuggish regime in Argentina, and supported a military junta in Chile.

However, it could be argued these episodes flow from a distortion—rather than a proper application—of the Monroe Doctrine. It pays to recall that the Monroe Doctrine championed the “independence” of “our southern brethren,” opposed efforts aimed at “controlling…their destiny,” and offered “to leave the parties to themselves, in hope that other powers will pursue the same course.”

It’s also worth noting that many of South America’s post-colonial constitutions are modeled after our charter of self-government—something American leaders have pointed to and emphasized over the years.

“Whatever may be the case in other parts of the world,” Kennedy observed, “this is a hemisphere of free men capable of self-government. It is in accordance with this belief that the United States will continue to support the efforts of those seeking to establish and maintain constitutional democracy.”[26]

“In the commitment to freedom and independence, the peoples of this hemisphere are one,” Reagan argued, poignantly adding, “in this profound sense, we are all Americans.”[27]

“Our similar struggles for independence weave our different threads together in the same tapestry of freedom,” Vice President Mike Pence recently observed. “San Martín, Martí, and Bolívar stand with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln—great leaders in the cause of freedom.”[28]

US intervention in Latin America often flowed from this sense of solidarity with “our southern brethren,” as these examples demonstrate:

  • The Spanish-American War had strategic as well as humanitarian implications, but it was Spain’s brutal treatment of Cuba that outraged the American people and paved the way for intervention. As Robert Kagan observes, “the fact that many believed they could do something…helped convince them they should do something, that intervention was the only honorable course.”[29]
  • US intervention in Venezuela’s debt crisis prevented Britain and Germany from occupying and perhaps seizing the country.
  • During the Cold War, the US helped steer several countries away from the prison yard of communism. The entire hemisphere came together to oppose Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev.
  • In a happy reversal of earlier episodes, recent decades have seen US interventions in Haiti and Panama aimed at restoring democracy and ousting dictatorship.
  • Working together, this hemisphere has crafted mutually beneficial trade partnerships such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, the US-Chile Free Trade Agreement, the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement, the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement, and the US-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement.
  • The Mérida Initiative has deepened political, diplomatic, security-military, intelligence, and law enforcement collaboration between Mexico and the US in the fight against drug cartels. The Plan Colombia partnership defeated a narco-insurgency that threatened the Colombian government and sowed chaos across the region.
  • The US devotes enormous resources to disaster response and humanitarian missions throughout the Americas—most recently after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
  • The US earmarked some $4 billion in foreign aid for this hemisphere in 2017. American foreign aid and direct investment, as Pence observed, “strengthen civil society, improve education and literacy, and spur economic growth” throughout Latin America.[30]

Looking Forward: Monroe Doctrine 2.0

In these examples, we see another side of the Monroe Doctrine—the positive effect of a true spirit of brotherhood connecting the United States and its nearest neighbors. When set alongside the malign influence of China, Russia, and Iran, this overlooked spirit of the Monroe Doctrine provides an argument for a return to the Doctrine’s first principles.

Regrettably, there’s some distance to cover. Back in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced, “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” He even criticized how Monroe “declared that the United States would…oppose the influence of European powers in Latin America,” adding, “we have made a different choice.” It shows.

Kerry’s pronouncement of the Monroe Doctrine’s demise “represented a dramatic break in US foreign policy and caught many allies flatfooted,” according to former SOUTHCOM official William Spracher.

Craig Deare, a former National Security Council aide under Donald Trump, called Kerry’s statement “a clear invitation to those extra-regional actors looking for opportunities to increase their influence.”[31]

Instead of scrapping the Monroe Doctrine, the United States and other liberal democracies in this hemisphere would be better served developing “Monroe Doctrine 2.0.”

A revamped Monroe Doctrine needs to send the right message—in the right manner—to our southern neighbors. Specifically, Washington should emphasize that Monroe 2.0 would not be a pretext for US intervention. Rather, like the original intent of Monroe and Adams, it would be a shield against intervention by external powers whose political systems are “essentially different” from that of the Americas. (Indeed, if the countries of Latin America valued their sovereignty and independence as much as some of their leaders claim during their anachronistic rants against “Yankee imperialism,” they would never open their borders to the alien political systems of China, Russia, or Iran.) Washington should emphasize that just as they are not US or European colonies, the nations of the South and Central America should not allow themselves to become Chinese or Russian colonies. They should reject—for their sake, for their security, for their sovereignty—arrangements with Beijing or Moscow that will erode their independence.

Equally important, Monroe 2.0 would emphasize to Beijing and Moscow that, while the United States and its fellow democracies in the Americas welcome efforts to conduct trade in this hemisphere, we look unfavorably upon the sale of Chinese and Russian arms, the basing of Chinese and Russian military assets, and any attempt to export their brand of business-suit autocracy here. As Kennedy put it, “if there is one principle which has run through the long history of this hemisphere, it is our common determination to prevent the rule of foreign systems or nations in the Americas.”

The Monroe Doctrine was elegant and deft in its vagueness about consequences. Washington would do well to give itself similar room for maneuver—and Moscow and Beijing room to save face—in enunciating Monroe 2.0. Still, public countermoves and private statements can be highly effective at signaling to dictators, adjusting unfriendly behavior, and preventing war.

China and Russia, it is often noted, see the world as a chessboard, which means they should be reminded—privately and discreetly—that the United States has many moves it can make in their neighborhoods: Temporary, rotational deployments of US-NATO forces in Eastern Europe could become permanent bases (as Poland and the Baltics desire). NATO could pivot to stymie and block Putin’s lunging land grab in the Arctic. NATO ports and facilities hugging the Black and Baltic Seas could be bolstered. The US, Canada, and Mexico could uncork their vast oil and natural gas reserves to stunt and ultimately stagger Russia’s one-dimensional economy. Heavy defensive weaponry could be sent to Ukraine and Georgia—and Taiwan.

Indeed, the trickle of weaponry flowing to Taiwan could become a torrent. With little expense, effort, or time, defensive assets could be positioned at key points around the South China Sea to counter China’s illegal island-building project and checkmate its anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) strategy.[32] By forming a standing naval taskforce, perhaps under the auspices of the Combined Maritime Forces, US, Indian, Japanese, Australian, and EU naval assets could put muscle behind ASEAN’s declaration supporting “freedom of navigation in, and over-flight above, the South China Sea.”

Finally, to underscore that Monroe 2.0 marks something new, democratic leaders from throughout the hemisphere ideally would join together to issue such a statement of shared principles.

Good Neighbors

Part of sending the right message in the right manner is pointing out that, contrary to what US politicians and diplomats have said for decades, Central America and South America are not “our backyard.” Doubtless, the term is not meant as an offense, but it reinforces the false notion that the United States owns the Western Hemisphere. A better term for this half of the globe is “neighborhood.”

FDR wanted the United States to be seen as a “good neighbor” to “the whole of the Western Hemisphere.” His good-neighbor analogy remains as apt today as it was in 1936, and Pence has revived it. “We all live in the same neighborhood,” Pence observed during his trip to Chile. “We succeed when our neighbors succeed. We struggle when our neighbors struggle.”

A good neighbor helps in times of emergency, shares his talents and tools, and knows that what happens next door or down the street can affect his own property and security. He knows his neighbors’ struggles and worries because he talks and listens to them. He cares but does not intrude, except in dire situations: if a neighbor is harmed or in danger, encroaches beyond his property, or through action or inaction negatively influences the rest of the neighborhood.

Being a good neighbor is important to God. Exodus commands us not to lie about our neighbors or covet their property or spouse; Leviticus commands us to “judge your neighbor fairly” and to “love your neighbor.” In the Old Testament, there are repeated mentions of seeking assistance from, or working with, neighbors. David and Jeremiah couple “friend and neighbor,” “neighbors and friends.” The psalmist warns, “Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.” Solomon says, “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor…better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.” Echoing the Law, Jesus teaches, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

These passages remind us that ever since people started living in community, we have turned to those nearest to us for help; that neighbors should never plot harm against each other; that neighbors should seek good for each other and speak truthfully to and about each other; that neighbors should strive to be friends.

To be sure, not all principles of scripture apply to nation-states. Governments, after all, are expected to do certain things individuals aren’t expected to do—and shouldn’t do certain things individuals should do. But being a good neighbor seems to be one of those biblical principles that applies to nations and individuals alike.

The Americas First

In international relations, as in interpersonal relations, actions speak louder than words. The US must stop taking the Western Hemisphere for granted, and instead must re-engage its own neighborhood.

Total US trade with the world is around $5 trillion,[33] and trade with the Western Hemisphere is $1.8 trillion—or 36 percent of our total trade.[34] “We trade twice as much with the countries of our hemisphere as we do with China,” Pence points out. “US exports to Latin America are triple that of exports to China.”[35] Yet Washington has allowed hemispheric trade deals to languish. Trade agreements with Colombia and Panama waited five years before President Obama signed them into law. President Trump has threatened to scrap NAFTA—this hemisphere’s most successful trade agreement.

Washington should strengthen aid and investment in the Americas. That presupposes a stronger US economy and a commitment to sharing our blessings with our nearest neighbors. It pays to recall that Washington once conducted the sort of checkbook diplomacy that characterizes Beijing’s approach to Latin America. Worryingly, the Trump administration has promised “dramatic reductions in foreign aid”—more than 30 percent of budget resources for diplomacy and foreign aid.

Washington should be proactive on hemispheric security, building on successful partnership-oriented models in Colombia and Mexico. That presupposes US military capacity, which means sequestration’s disastrous defense cuts must be reversed and permanently ended. One budget cycle is not enough to repair the self-inflicted wounds. “It took us years to get into this situation,” Defense Secretary Mattis explains. “It will require years of stable budgets and increased funding to get out of it.”

Finally, Washington should return and recommit to the lost art of diplomacy. There is a backlash in Brazil and Argentina against China buying up land, and in the Bahamas against the influx of Chinese workers. Colombia has condemned Russian violation of its airspace. International and local environmental groups are wary of Chinese-style developments in the Americas, with its contempt for conservation. Even in Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua, there are protests against China’s canal project. Effective diplomacy would leverage these reactions, highlight the aggressive, destabilizing policies of China and Russia in this region, and seek to isolate their partners in this hemisphere.[36]

With his often-undiplomatic language, hostility to NAFTA, and threats to order mass-deportations of Latin Americans, Trump is badly miscast to play this role; however, he seemed equal to the task during his UN address. “We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today,” he said. “Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbors.” He then pointed to a shared problem in the neighborhood: “The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering… This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere… We cannot stand by and watch. As a responsible neighbor and friend, we and all others have a goal. That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy.”[37]

Pence added an important caveat that points the way toward Monroe 2.0 and speaks volumes to our neighbors in the Americas: “Be assured: What we do to see democracy restored in Venezuela, we will do together.”

Alan W. Dowd is a contributing editor with Providence and a senior fellow with the Sagamore Institute Center for America’s Purpose (

Photo Credit: Vice President Mike Pence tours the Panama Canal on August 17, 2017. White House photo by Myles D. Cullen.

[1] John Lewis Gaddis, Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 23-24.

[2] President James Monroe, December 2, 1823.

[3] Monroe.

[4] Gaddis, 23-24.

[5] Peter R. Mansoor, “Blast From The Past: The Strategic Realignment Of The United States In The Trump Administration,” Hoover Institution, January 26, 2017.

[6] President Theodore Roosevelt, “The Peace of Victory for which We Strive,” July 1917.

[7] President Franklin Roosevelt, press conference, April 25, 1941.

[8] Cited in William C. Spracher, “The Demise of the Monroe Doctrine: Foreign Influence in Latin America,” Journal of Strategic Intelligence, Summer 2016.

[9] President John Kennedy, press conference, August 29, 1962.

[10] Ronald Reagan, An American Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990), 471; Gaddis Smith, The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine (New York: Hill & Wang, 1994), 12.

[11] The Economist, “A golden opportunity,” November 17, 2016; Ted Piccone, “The Geopolitics of China’s Rise in Latin America,” Brookings Institution, November 2016.

[12] Reuters, “China to fund Costa Rica refinery revamp,” December 5, 2011; Jonathan Watts, “Nicaragua canal: in a sleepy Pacific port, something stirs,” The Guardian, November 24, 2016; Simon Romero, “China’s Ambitious Rail Projects Crash Into Harsh Realities in Latin America,” New York Times, October 3, 2015.

[13] Evan Ellis, “Chinese Soft Power in Latin America: A Case Study,” Joint Force Quarterly, 1st Quarter 2011.

[14]Ellis; Frederic Puglie, “With US pullback, China pursues further foothold in Latin American business,” The Washington Times, June 13, 2017; The Economist, November 17, 2016.

[15] Ellis; Paul Shortell, “New Deals Shore Up China’s Stakes in Venezuela and Ecuador,” World Politics Review, January 13, 2015.

[16]Jason Henry, “China Buys Inroads in the Caribbean, Worrying US,” New York Times, April 7, 2012; The Guardian, “US embassy cables: US fears Chinese investment in Bahamas,” January 13, 2011.

[17] Paul Coyer, “China’s Pivot To Latin America: Beijing’s Growing Security Presence In America’s Backyard,” Forbes, February 20, 2016.

[18] Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “Which Latin American Country Did China Just Send Commandos To?” Popular Science, March 6, 2015; Victor Robert Lee, “China Builds Space-Monitoring Base in the Americas,” The Diplomat, May 24, 2016; Richard Fisher, “Chinese systems get ‘combat experience’ in Venezuela,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, February 27, 2014; Katherine Koleski, “Backgrounder: China in Latin America,” US-China Economic & Security Review Commission, May 27, 2011.

[19] Clifford Krauss, “Russia Uses Its Oil Giant, Rosneft, as a Foreign Policy Tool,” New York Times, October 29, 2017.

[20] US House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, “Russian Engagement in the Western Hemisphere,” October 22, 2015; Alex Spillius, “Russia could deploy bombers to Cuba and Venezuela,” The Telegraph, Mar 15, 2009; Spracher.

[21] AP, “Nicaragua insists Russian satellite station ‘not for spying,'” Defense News, May 19, 2017; CSIS, “Russia’s Reengagement in the Western Hemisphere Just Business or a Geopolitical Gambit?” November 25, 2008,; US House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; Girish Gupta, “Venezuela holds 5,000 Russian surface-to-air MANPADS missiles,” Reuters, May 22, 2017.

[22] Gen. John Kelly, Posture Statement US Southern Command, March 12, 2015.

[23] President Theodore Roosevelt, Annual Message, December 6, 1904.

[24] Niall Ferguson, Colossus (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 56; Richard Grimmet, “Instances of US of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2009,” Congressional Research Service, February 2, 2009, 9-11.

[25] Walter LaFeber, The American Age, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994), 281.

[26] President John Kennedy, Address before the Inter-American Press Association, November 18, 1963.

[27] President Ronald Reagan, Remarks on the Caribbean Basin Initiative to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, February 24, 1982.

[28] Vice President Mike Pence, Remarks to the Argentine and Latin American Business Community, August 15, 2017.

[29] Robert Kagan, Dangerous Nation (New York: Vintage Books, 2006), 409.

[30] Vice President Mike Pence, Remarks at the Northern Triangle Conference On Prosperity and Security In Central America, June 15, 2017.

[31] Cited in Matthew M. Taylor, “South America’s Turn to Deadlock,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 27, 2017.

[32] A 2013 RAND study proposed “using ground-based anti-ship missiles” to “challenge Chinese maritime freedom of action.” See also Dowd, “PACOM Commander: All Hands on Deck to Counter China,” ASCF Report, March 6, 2017, and Dowd, “Next moves in the Pacific,” The Landing Zone, September 16, 2016.

[33] US Census Bureau, US International Trade in Goods and Services, 2014-2016.

[34] US Trade Representative,, 2017.

[35] Alexander Chafuen, “Latin America and the USA: Creating More Win-Win Relationships,” Forbes, August 28, 2014.

[36] John Paul Rathbone, “China lends more than $75bn to Latin America,” Financial Times, February 15, 2012.

[37] President Donald Trump, Address to the UN General Assembly, September 19, 2017.