Friday, August 21, 2009

Playing Nuclear Games in Ecuador

ecuador-quito-02 We were happy to hear but also trepidatious about this news:

Russia will help Ecuador develop a nuclear energy program for peaceful purposes, according to a new energy cooperation agreement between the countries, Ecuador’s government said Thursday.

Nuclear, good, but why “peaceful purposes?” We mean, the phrase, not the intention, as we don’t generally consider Ecuador a bad actor on the international stage. Might it be that Russia has gotten a little tarred by its association with Iran?

Well, the Times’ little story doesn’t say. This one does:

Ecuador is building two hydroelectric stations in an attempt to end its dependence on neighbouring Colombia for power.

The two countries broke diplomatic ties in March 2008 after Colombian soldiers raided a leftist Colombian guerrilla jungle camp in Ecuadoran territory.

All right, so Ecuador has a beef with Colombia and wants to divest itself of its electricity dependence on it. Sounds like energy security – not a bad thing.

But then there’s this:

Ecuador's leftist president Rafael Correa, who last year said he intends to strengthen ties with Moscow, is scheduled to travel to Russia in October.

Correa — like his regional ally President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela — is also seeking closer military ties with Russia.

And this:

Russia is pushing to increase ties with leftist Latin American governments in a move that has renewed some Cold War-era tensions with the United States.

Gets better and better, doesn’t it? And it sounds like the anti-American slant taken by some Latin American countries – let’s leave aside discussion of whether such disdain is justified for the moment – has put Russia in the mischievous mode it seems to favor in such situations. We can’t imagine this is going to get anywhere without heavy IAEA participation, but do expect the story to heat up (so to speak) as it penetrates the news cycle and American voices start piping up.

As for us? We’ll wait and see. Nuclear energy si, stalking horse for a new cold war no. We didn’t enjoy the last one very much.

The Presidential palace in Quito, Ecuador.


crf said...

Just because a country is developing closer ties with Russia does not mean it is increasing its anti-americanism.

SteveK9 said...

We've been in a triumphal, treat Russia like crap mode for years. I perfectly understand why they are disillusioned with us.

I have a feeling Russia is going to show the world how to build nuclear plants that are safe and don't cost an absurd amount of money. I read that India is very satisfied with the work at Kudankulam.

Robert Synnott said...

Sadly, "for peaceful purposes" is probably a necessary qualifier at this point, even if it doesn't mean much one way or the other. Everyone's so paranoid about this, now.

In practice, it probably IS for peaceful purposes; Ecuador doesn't fit the Iran profile, it's a developing economy and is dependent on electricity import. It makes sense for it to seek other solutions.

On the subject of US-Russia nuclear power relations, the 90s technology transfer of the TOPAZ space reactor (derivatives of which may be used on the moon) is an interesting story. :)

David Walters said...

The US needs to stay out of the affairs of LA countries. We are SO arrogant about it being out 'back yard' as to have turned every contintental gov't down there against the US except for Peru and Colombia. It's not our back yard, it's there front porch and we should stay away (meaning US transnational corporations).

Good for Ecuador in considering nuclear! If they are smart they will go with Russian nukes as there are far too many strings with US nukes for a country like Ecuador.

Rod Adams said...

When watching Russia develop closer ties with countries in Latin America, it would be good to remember American efforts to develop ties with Georgia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

I think there was an old Michael Jackson song about "The Man in the Mirror. . ." that can be applied to international relationships by substituting the word "man" with the word "country".