The Battle Of The Blocs
The final part of the study about South American geopolitics is a detailed examination of what the author has taken to calling “The Battle of the Blocs”. This relates to the American-encouraged competition between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur for leadership over the continent. The contemporary state of this ‘battle’ is now a lot different than how it originally began, in that the rivalry is now less tense and that the roles of the two sides seem to interestingly be in the process of reversing. This will all be throughout the chapter, with the general idea being to study the geopolitical dynamics of Pacific Alliance-Mercosur relations from 2012 up until the end of 2016, using the insight gained from this endeavor to better understand the workings of American grand strategy towards South America as well as the potential opportunities for the emerging Multipolar World Order.
The first part of this chapter covers the structural generalities of the Pacific Alliance, Mercosur, and South America, serving as a refresher so that readers can reconceive of the bigger picture after having read so many specific analyses in the previous chapter. Next, the work moves along to detailing the most noteworthy historical moments of the “Battle of the Blocs”, drawing attention to their strategic importance vis-à-vis the US’ grand designs. This also includes China’s latest countermoves in saving the multipolar moment in South America and the consequences that this has for the US’ original plans. Finally, the concluding part covers the contemporary state of affairs in South America and the surprising reversal that’s taking shape in the continental-wide competition.
The global trend of regional integration has made phenomenal progress in South America ever since the conceptualization of Unasur in 2004. The three most important steps which made the goal of continental consolidation possible were the electoral defeat of the pro-American right-wing governments in the 1980s, the 1985 trade agreement between Argentina and Brazil, and the 2000 creation of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA). These moves were significant because they liberated the South American countries from the strongest degree of indirect American influence that they had hitherto been subject to, reduced the chances that the historical rivalry between Argentina and Brazil would destabilize the three states between them (Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay), and set the continent on the path of transnational and multilaterally beneficial infrastructural integration, respectively. Had it not been for these three developments, Unasur would probably have never been created and the prospects of continental integration would have been infinitely more challenging than they are today.
As an institutional step towards consolidating the continent, South America eventually came to be dominated by two trade blocs. Mercosur was the first one to take shape in 1991, followed over two decades later by the Pacific Alliance in 2012. These two organizations/institutions can be seen as representing the Atlantic and Pacific geopolitical interests of the continent. At first, Mercosur was only comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, but Venezuela joined in 2012 under controversial circumstances and Bolivia applied the same year, though the group didn’t agree to admit it until 2015 (and since then, it has yet to become a fully functional member). In short, Venezuela’s ascension is so contentious because it occurred shortly after Paraguay was suspended because of its 2012 ‘constitutional coup’, which will be elaborated on later in the chapter. Asuncion alleges that this makes Caracas’ membership illegal, ergo the political crisis in the last half of 2016 over whether Venezuela is legally entitled to assume rotational leadership of the bloc. What’s important for astute observers to take note of, however, is that 2012 was the same year that the Pacific Alliance of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile officially entered into force.
Here’s a simple map illustrating the almost complete continental inclusivity of the two blocs, which also denotes that Bolivia has yet to enter Mercosur and that Venezuela has recently been suspended by it (and which will be discussed in the next main section):
Like it was concluded at the end of the previous chapter, Bolivia is indisputably the geostrategic core of South American integration, which is why Merocsur was happy to admit it as a member. Due to the outstanding historical resentment that Bolivia still maintains over Chile’s late-19th-century annexation of the Litoral Department, Sucre would never agree to become part of the same free trade bloc as Santiago if given the choice to do otherwise (as it decided to ultimately do with Mercosur), and its citizens would probably react with regime change fury if it did. After all, Bolivians were so distraught that their government planned to sell gas to the world market via Chile in 2003 that they launched what the Mainstream Media called the ‘Gas War’, which ultimately ended with President Evo Morales’ revolutionary election in late 2005. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that Bolivia will always remain much more loyal to Mercosur than to the Pacific Alliance, but that the possibility does exist for it to pragmatically serve as a geographic ‘bridge’ connecting the two.
This is in fact what Bolivia is shaping up to do with the Trans-Oceanic Railroad (TORR), which will connect the landlocked country with its Atlantic Mercosur neighbor of Brazil and its Pacific Alliance one of Peru. It should be kept in mind that TORR is a relatively new initiative and was only announced in 2015, with the original plan not including Bolivia at all until it was amended in the second half of 2016. Therefore, it’s not possible for TORR to be used as an object of analysis in extrapolating on the US’ grand strategic objectives in the “Battle of the Blocs” up until that point, but conversely, it means that TORR must absolutely be the subject of each and every continental-wide analysis conducted since then. To refresh the reader’s memory from the last chapter, TORR connects what was previously described as South America’s Central Zone. Here’s a copy of the map which was referenced at that time in illustrating the division of the continent into three geostrategic zones:
What’s useful to note about this is that each of the Pacific Alliance’s members falls into a separate geostrategic zone, and that most of Mercosur’s are concentrated in the Southern one. In a simplistic sense, three pairs of countries can be identified which most immediately bridge the geographic differences between both blocs:
The Peru-Bolivia axis is presently the most stable and promising of the three, and this is obviously due to the dual complementary factors of the two states’ civilizational similarities and their role in TORR. As for Colombia-Venezuela, it’s not likely that any further integration between the two will occur unless the Chavismo government is deposed of by the US-supported Hybrid War, which is yet another reason why this is such an important geopolitical variable nowadays. If Maduro or any of his prospective successors can retain power in the country, then the chances that “Gran Colombia” will ever establish itself in any concrete geostrategic sense are dramatically diminished; likewise, the reverse would be true if the Chavismo government is toppled. Concerning the last ‘bridge’ pair in the Southern Zone, commercial relations between Argentina and Chile have always been less than optimal owing to the historical rivalry and distrust between the two, though IIRSA’s Capricorn, Mercosur-Chile, and Southern Andean integration and development hubs could provide a solid basis for the right-wing government in Buenos Aires to rejuvenate ties with its western Pacific neighbor.
On the surface of things, it certainly looks like the Pacific Alliance holds all the cards in South America. The Mercosur economies have no direct mainland access to the Pacific unless they transit through the Pacific Alliance countries, which could have in hindsight been a genius geopolitical move on behalf of the latter bloc’s strategists. Given that the Pacific Alliance initially started off as a neoliberal trading bloc closely affiliated with the US, and that Washington’s Operation Condor 2.0 has been so wildly successful in Mercosur, it’s reasonable why observers might think that this implies that the unipolar world is far ahead of the multipolar one when it comes to South American affairs. The truth, however, is that the influence of China and TORR have completely changed what would have otherwise been this prevailing paradigm and created a strategic situation whereby the roles have almost somewhat reversed between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance.
In order to fully understand how and why this happened, the reader must first familiarize themselves with the original goal that the US had in mind when it encouraged the “Battle of the Blocs”, which thus necessitates a succinct background briefing into the short historical progression of this continental-wide competition.
Like it was mentioned in the chapter’s introduction, South America is moving along the path of continental integration, and this process doesn’t appear to be in danger of backsliding anytime soon (if at all). The inevitable result of bringing together a landmass as large as South America is that two geographically defined trading blocs naturally took shape, the Atlantic Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance. Mercosur really started to become a global geopolitical actor after the rise of Brazil in BRICS in the mid-2000s, which was also concurrent with the Pink Tide that was rising all throughout the continent. The leftist-socialist electoral revolutions in South America were mostly concentrated in Mercosur states and didn’t have any significant effect on Colombia, Peru, or Chile. The US thus knew that the time was ripe to have those latter three countries solidify their neoliberal trading practices and institutionalize their systemic economic opposition to the leftist-socialist Mercosur. This was thought of as an attempt to save the US’ remaining influence over South America and to carve out a comfortable enough perch from which it could launch its continental-wide counterstrike through Operation Condor 2.0.
The first chapter of the book spoke more at length about the US’ grand strategic designs over South America, but to concisely summarize them, Washington would ideally like to restore its hegemonic influence over the Western Hemisphere through the establishment of an allied bloc that could make its “Lead From Behind” management much easier. In order to do this, however, the US must first neutralize and then either dismantle and/or co-opt Mercosur, and the most efficient way for this to happen is through the combined approach of the neoliberal Pacific Alliance and Operation Condor 2.0. In Washington’s vision, the Pacific Alliance could function as the anchor underpinning continental development, and it could serve as the magnet for Mercosur’s members to attach themselves to, and thus, fall under the US’ deeper influence. Concurrent with Operation Condor 2.0, it was hoped that the restoration of pro-American right-wing anti-socialist governments in the Mercosur countries would naturally lead to their states allying with the Pacific Alliance and making whatever concessions would be necessary in order to deepen continental integration under Unasur and IIRSA.
The final goal that the US originally wanted to achieve was for South America to follow in the footsteps of the EU and then enter into a multilateral TTIP-like trading arrangement with the US, otherwise known as the “Free Trade Area of the Americas” (FTAA), or what the author nowadays would call FTAA 2.0 ever since the first initiative’s failure. The election of Donald Trump, however, totally changed that in the sense that the new American administration is opposed to such large-scale economic deals and more in favor of bilateral ones between the US and select leading countries. In that case, the US would just retain the free trade agreements that it has in place with each of the Pacific Alliance’s four members (and even its incoming fifth one, Costa Rica) and not broaden them into a multilateral format. Washington would also more aggressively move towards clinching similar deals with Argentina and Brazil, the latter of which it’s currently in negotiations with over precisely just this and curiously has been making progress in this direction ever since Rousseff’s time. Both of these steps are possible because it’s unlikely that the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur will merge into a singular economic-political entity anytime soon, no matter how much rising influence the former is poised to exert over the latter.
Step By Step:
In advancing the Obama-era strategy of weakening Mercosur from within and making it more vulnerable to the (formerly) pro-American institutional economic influence of the Pacific Alliance, the US launched South America’s first successful coup since the end of the Cold War. The 2012 ‘constitutional coup’ in Paraguay swiftly removed the democratically elected and legitimate leftist president and replaced him with a right-wing reactionary. In response, Mercosur naturally suspended Paraguay’s membership and used this opportune time to admit Venezuela into the bloc. Paraguay had previously been against Venezuela’s membership, but with Asuncion suspended at the time, the rest of the members ‘bent the rules’ a bit in the direction of gray morality and allowed Caracas to enter. Although it can be argued that this was “well intentioned”, the result is that it eventually turned into a ticking time bomb which would blow up in mid-2016, the details of which will be expounded on shortly.
Other than resulting in Venezuela’s controversial admission to Mercosur after Paraguay’s organizational suspension, the ‘constitutional coup’ also had the related effect of drawing the landlocked country closer to the Pacific Alliance. The author wrote about this more thoroughly for a summer 2014 Op-Edge article on RT titled “Paraguay and the Trans-Pacific plot to split South America”, but the gist is that the new right-wing reactionary Paraguayan government made overt outreaches to the Pacific Alliance in a bid to show Mercosur that it had other options. Overall, this demonstrated just how vulnerable the bloc is to internal dissolution due to the self-interested desires of some of its members, and looking back on it, this somewhat foreshadowed the attitude that the forthcoming right-wing governments would have in Argentina and Brazil. The main difference between 2012 and 2016 is that the former period only saw one “rebellious”/suspended member which embraced right-wing fundamentals and attempted to split the bloc, while the latter years now see most of the bloc dancing to this tune and has thus positioned the group for a fundamental transformation.
Operation Condor 2.0
This theater-wide regime change operation was already exhaustively elaborated on in the previous chapters, but it’s being referenced here once more in order to remind the reader of just how crucially important it has been in transforming South American geopolitics. The structural preconditioning that the US engaged in to influence the Argentinian elections and the ‘constitutional coup’ that it helped carry out in Brazil were watershed events which led to the emergence of pro-American right-wing governments in South America’s two most geo-economically important countries. Had only one or the other plot succeeded, then it would have been possible that the US might have resorted to pitting the left-wing and right-wing governments in whichever of these two states against one another and thus splitting Mercosur, though because both of them are now on the same ideological ‘side’, Washington can now move forward with totally reinventing the organization as a whole and bringing it institutionally more in line with the neoliberal trading precepts of the Pacific Alliance (whether de-facto or de-jure).
Venezuela, the only remaining sincerely left-wing government in Mercosur (not counting Bolivia, which has yet to formally join as a full-fledged voting member), was suspended in order to prevent it from interfering with this aforementioned process. Bolivia, when it eventually joins, will probably be much more pragmatically pliable to the “new order” in Mercosur than Venezuela simply because it would need to in order to survive. Brazil, the behemoth in Mercosur, will depend on Bolivia because of its irreplaceable transit role in TORR, thus meaning that it’s less likely that it would try to interfere with the bloc’s newest member. Argentina, however, might be less accepting of Bolivia’s socialist government because it doesn’t have a direct stake in the country’s success like Brazil does, which might prompt the beginning of an intra-organizational split between Brasilia and Buenos Aires.
All in all, however, it’s foreseeable that the American strategy will be to keep Mercosur unified under right-wing control in order to transform Mercosur into a more open trading bloc along the lines of the Pacific Alliance, geopolitically using the Hybrid War on Venezuela to “isolate” the Bolivarian Republic and then holding the Damocles’ Sword of Hybrid War over Bolivia’s head in order to keep Brazil in line.
The last element of the US’ strategy against Mercosur has been to wage unending Hybrid War on Venezuela and then turn its erstwhile regional allies against it in a bid to “isolate” the Bolivarian Republic and increase the asymmetrical pressure on the government. It’s well known that Venezuela has been victimized by Color Revolution and Unconventional Warfare threats since during Chavez’s time, and while the intensity of this has ebbed and flowed, it’s nonetheless remained a constant factor in American-Venezuelan relations. The US hates how Venezuela is a revolutionary icon in the hemisphere and played such an integral role in inspiring the Pink Tide of the previous decade, but more tangibly important, Washington lusts after Caracas’ Orinoco River Belt oil reserves, which are the world’s largest. With a pro-American right wing government installed in Venezuela, the US could then establish indirect proxy control over these deposits and use its influence over Caracas to interfere with China’s reliable access to these supplies. In order for all of this to happen, however, the revolutionary Bolivarian government in Venezuela must first be vanquished by Hybrid War.
A whole separate study can be conducted about the US’ Hybrid War on Venezuela, but aside from the direct regime change tactics being applied by leveraging Color Revolutions and Unconventional Wars, the US is also carrying out intense economic, institutional, and other forms of asymmetrical warfare on the country. Relevant to the scope of the South American research and its final chapter on the “Battle of the Blocs”, the newly established right-wing governments in Mercosur have teamed up against Venezuela and exploited the legal loophole by which it gained membership in the first place. The second half of 2016 has been dominated by the leadership controversy which has plagued the bloc, whereby Paraguay refused to acknowledge that the six-month presidency had rotated from Uruguay to Venezuela. Mercosur was essentially leaderless during this time, and the scandal hit a climax at the beginning of December when the group voted to suspend Venezuela for allegedly violating “democracy”. The real reason, however, was to “isolate” Venezuela and remove it from the bloc’s decision-making apparatus, and by doing this, the pro-American regional governments were just carrying out the bidding of their American benefactor in proceeding with the institutional transformation of Mercosur.
From the looks of it, there doesn’t seem to be much of a likelihood that Venezuela will return to Mercosur under its present government. Its suspension was a carefully plotted asymmetrical destabilization designed to heighten the economic war on the country and contribute to the Mainstream Media infowar perception that Venezuela is “isolated” from its “allies”. So long as the right-wing governments remain in power in Mercosur, or at the very least in regional powerhouses Argentina and Brazil, there’s next to no chance that they’ll revoke Chavismo Venezuela’s suspension. If multipolar forces were to somehow return to power in both Brasilia and Buenos Aires, then there’s a possibility that they could lean on Asuncion and Montevideo to go along with their initiative to lift the suspension, but if only one of them pushes for this while the other is still under right-wing control, then it could dangerously prompt the beginning of the bloc’s dissolution. What’s most probable, however, is that Venezuela will remain indefinitely suspended from Mercosur unless the Hybrid War succeeds, so Caracas needs to expect that the latest decision essentially amounts to a de-facto banning of it from the organization until some uncertain and vague time in the distant future.
All the while that the US was planning and conducting Operation Condor 2.0 and its theater-wide attempt to reassert hegemony all across South America, China was also making its own moves, albeit of a much more benign and multipolar nature. Because all of Beijing’s most pivotal outreaches are relatively new, there’s not too much to say about them aside from simply listing what they are and including a brief analysis to accompany them. Just as it’s done elsewhere in the world, China has strongly positioned itself to become one of the top trading partners for most of the countries in the continent, and it’s predictably resulted in a similar outcome whereby the multipolar power is able to shuffle up the established geopolitical order in the area and thus create inroads for countering the US. The specifics of China’s bilateral strategic, trade, and investment relations with South America’s scattering of states should be investigated by the reader if they’re curious to learn more about the details, but the scope of the present work isn’t to chronicle each and every success on this front, but to present the overall trend and general idea of what’s going on. Considering that, there are three significant visits by leading Chinese officials which need to be mentioned in connection with these developments:
Xi Jinping 2014:
The Chinese leader went to Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Venezuela in 2014, highlighting just how crucial each of these countries is to Beijing for their various reasons. For example, Argentina and Brazil are important investment destinations for Chinese capital and desired markets for the country’s overproduction, which perfectly overlaps with the guiding tenets of the One Belt One Road global vision. Cuba, on the other hand, while being a strategic outpost in the central Caribbean and just 90 miles shy of the US, is also significant for the ideological symbolism in being the Western Hemisphere’s last communist state and a normative leader in the larger Iberoamerican region. Venezuela satisfies an entirely different need for China, one which obviously has to do with energy supplies. Taken together, President Xi’s visit to each of these four countries was hailed as a success and largely interpreted as China’s official declaration that the Western Hemisphere is indeed an important part of Beijing’s grand strategic calculus. Additionally, it’s important to note that the Chinese leader only went to leftist-socialist states and not to any of the countries which constitute the Pacific Alliance.
Li Keqiang 2015:
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid a landmark visit to South America in May 2015, following up on President Xi’s trip one year earlier and this time traveling to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru. Unlike the last time, the Pacific Alliance figured prominently in the high-profile visit, even if it wasn’t necessarily something which was directly stated by the dignitary during this time. Nevertheless, this is still very important and it shows that China, as it characteristically does, was not taking any side in the “Battle of the Blocs” and wanted to pragmatically leave its options open by creating bridgeheads for win-win cooperation with the Pacific states. This is natural considering that those countries are geographically much easier to trade with than the Atlantic Mercosur ones, but in seeking to remedy this logistical disparity and build the basis for true continental partnership, Premier Li monumentally announced during this trip that China would like to construct a Trans-Oceanic Railroad (TORR) linking the two coasts together and in practice uniting some of the members of both Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance. Although this originally was only envisioned to directly involve Brazil and Peru, it’s since broadened to include the continental geostrategic core of Bolivia.
Xi Jinping 2016:
The most recent trip made by President Xi to South America took him to Chile, Ecuador, and Peru in November 2016, with the cause for his visit being the APEC Summit in Lima. This time, instead of stopping at any Atlantic Mercosur countries, the entire trip was dominated by the Pacific South American states, two of which are in the Pacific Alliance. Ecuador isn’t a member of this group, but it’s very economically close to China, which previously used it as an export destination for accessing the wider South American marketplace and also as a valued energy partner. Peru, of course, is going to be one of TORR’s terminal countries, while Chile is, as always, a promising partner for any country given its economic and political stability. President Xi even announced during his visit that relations with Chile would be elevated to the impressive level of a comprehensive strategic partnership, further underpinning just how crucial China sees this Pacific country as being. Moreover, he also said that China would seek to cooperate more closely with the Pacific Alliance and work towards Beijing’s vaunted long-term goal of an inclusive APEC-wide free trade agreement to replace the US’ failed exclusionary TPP.
State Of Play
China’s countermeasures have proven to be an effective response to the US’ aggression in waging a variety of mixed-intensity Hybrid Wars on the Pink Tide countries of Mercosur. In the past year, the geopolitical situation in South America has changed considerably. Operation Condor 2.0 succeeded in toppling the governments of Argentina and Brazil, and China’s high-level outreaches have conversely turned the Pacific Alliance into a more pragmatic and multipolar trading bloc than the American-focused proxy organization that it previously was. Whereas in the past it was Mercosur which was tilting towards China and the Pacific Alliance which was leaning towards the US, the situation has now somewhat reversed, and Mercosur is moving much closer to the US at the same time as some of the South American countries of the Pacific Alliance (mostly Peru and then Chile) are turning towards China.
The former development can be attributed primarily to Operation Condor 2.0, while the latter one has been considerably boosted by the US’ abandonment of the failed TPP, of which Peru and Chile were expected to be a part. Having put their eggs in the ‘wrong basket’, Lima and Santiago are now looking to diversify their partnerships so that they’re not placed in such an embarrassing situation ever again, and it’s well known that China – unlike the US – is the most reliable and predicable economic partner that any country could ever ask for. It also doesn’t attach any political preconditions to doing business with it and doesn’t make any related demands of its partners, so it’s an entirely pragmatic actor to interact with, ergo why some of the level-headed and self-interested members of the Pacific Alliance are now in the process of switching their loyalties from Washington to Beijing.
The most far-reaching geostrategic change that China is leading, however, is definitely the construction of TORR, which will tie Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance together and thus make it more likely that they’ll be able to advance their integration in the near future. It should be remembered that the study has repeatedly emphasized that South America is on the path of continental integration, and that the US’ original plan was to use the pro-American Pacific Alliance as its institutional proxy for de-facto ‘absorbing’ a post-Operation Condor 2.0 ‘de-socialized’ Mercosur into the neoliberal trading bloc. Ultimately, this was supposed to lead to a TTIP-like agreement between the US and the forthcoming entity which would represent a FTAA 2.0, but due to Trump’s election and China’s countermeasures, the original plan had to be modified in settling for a variety of bilateral trade deals (which have already been sealed with all of the Pacific Alliance’s members) that would eventually incorporate Argentina and Brazil as well.
At the same time as the US is pursuing this strategy, China is also advancing its own, except instead of seeking to break up Mercosur and divide South America in anticipation of hegemonically conquering it through a proxy institution afterwards, Beijing is eschewing from the US’ Great Power games and simply focusing on win-win infrastructural development through TORR and mutually advantageous bilateral partnerships such as the one which it just clinched with Chile. If left to its natural tendency and uninterrupted by the US’ subterfuge, China’s path of development could lead to an eventual peaceful merger between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur under Unasur and driven by the engines of IIRSA and TORR. Instead of the unipolar future that the US had previously imagined, South America might cleverly be able to escape this doomed destiny through Chinese help and thus transform itself into a multipolar outpost in the Western Hemisphere, with Beijing’s economic connections being used as the basis for stronger bilateral or multilateral cooperation in the political, military, and strategic fields.
Amidst the optimism that this analysis is obviously exuding, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the US still retains powerful levers of influence in and over Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, the leaders of each of the three zones previously described in this work. All responsible observers should realize that the US will not simply fade away into oblivion and let China reverse its latest gains in what it considers to be its “backyard”. The most likely ways in which the US will seek to respond to China will be through more Hybrid War (especially of the ‘conventional’ type practiced all throughout the Eastern Hemisphere and targeting Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela), bilateral divide-and-rule trade deals that could undermine multilateral agreements (like the prospective ones with Argentina and Brazil which were described earlier), and tightening the grip that it exercises over its right-wing proxy governments.
Even with US political interference, however, the South American countries have obvious self-interests that they must protect and advance, and are thus naturally inclined to side more with China unless the US sabotages them with Hybrid War, presents them a “better deal” through bilateral trading arrangements and additional ‘sweeteners’ (e.g. “aid”, bribes, etc.), or ‘tightens the screws’ by provoking scenarios whereby its “partners” enact martial law or are overthrown and replaced with military governments. Even so, it’s not expected that all of the US’ nefarious plots will succeed, but at the same time, it would be naïve to assume that Washington wouldn’t at least try to upset Beijing’s gains in South America, growing ever more desperate to do this as time passes and China becomes a more influential force in continental affairs. The specifics of what the US will attempt may not be entirely known at this point, but it’s nevertheless inarguable that it will in fact respond in some way or another in an effort to restore its hegemonic influence, thereby bringing the New Cold War all the way from the Eastern Hemisphere and right to its very own “doorstep” in the Western one.