Daily Observation: Tillerson Pushes Monroe Doctrine As Russia, China Move into the West

Secretary of State Tillerson was recently here in Austin to give a speech at the University of Texas. While here, he declared that the Monroe Doctrine is “as relevant today as it was the day it was written.” When it was written back in 1823, President Monroe warned Congress that his administration would not tolerate European powers trying to colonize the Western hemisphere. Today, Tillerson’s Monroe Doctrine is aimed at China and Russia, who he warns is expanding its influence in the Americas.

Today China is getting a foothold in Latin America. It is using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit.”

Russia’s growing presence in the region is alarming as well, as it continues to sell arms and military equipment to unfriendly regimes who do not share or respect democratic values. Our region must be diligent to guard against faraway powers who do not reflect the fundamental values shared in this region.” [source]

Turnabout is fair play, I suppose.


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The Monroe Doctrine was used as the basis for conflict several times in the decades that followed. Not only did the U.S. support the Mexican president in his overthrow of the French crown in 1865, but also got involved in a series of small wars just after the turn of the 20th century. President Teddy Roosevelt referred to the U.S. as an “international police power” when he deployed U.S. Marines during the Santo Domingo Affair in 1904. U.S. forces would be deployed to Nicaragua in 1911 and to Haiti in 1915, and to a number of other countries during the period known as the Banana Wars.

The last time the Monroe Doctrine was invoked was in 1962 when the Soviet Union began using Cuba has a forward operating base in the Western hemisphere.

As of right now, China’s in pursuit of trade deals and economic development packages in Central and South America. Russia’s looking to sell more arms to Venezuela and Nicaragua, and in the latter case, much to the concern of Costa Rica and other regional neighbors.

Just how serious is Tillerson about his love of the Monroe Doctrine? Well, it’s the premise of all U.S. activities throughout Latin America.

1. In his speech, he lamented the fact that there have been periods of neglect for Central and South America. He seemed to be committed to bringing some attention to the region on his trip there, which lasts into this week. In short, he wants to incentivize these nations to stay in line with “shared values” of Western liberal democracies — a plank of the doctrine. Tillerson’s approach to ensuring these shared values is to focus on the pandemic of corruption in Central and South America. If these programs can clean up the judicial systems and law enforcement agencies, then these countries can get serious about going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals. In turn, this will strengthen the Americas by decreasing transnational criminal organizations.

2. Tillerson wants to invoke the Monroe Doctrine to do more trade and development in the region, in part to compete with Chinese economic development. That starts with re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to reflect the modern, digital age now that NAFTA is 30 years old. A successful re-negotiation of NATFA could encourage a presidential favorite — more bilateral trade deals with regional neighbors.

3. Tillerson expects a changeover in Cuba this year, as power is handed from the Castros to the next national leader. This represents the first time in Cuba’s history that it’s not ruled by a Castro. Tillerson didn’t seem too hopeful that U.S. diplomatic and economic engagement would result in a different path for the island nation, but that’s clearly what he wants.

4. Regarding Venezuela, Tillerson says the State Department has not yet “advocated for regime change or the removal of President Maduro,” but is hopeful that there will be a peaceful change of power there. Tillerson seems to imply that if Maduro is ousted by the military or loses re-election, that he will flee to Cuba for a nice retirement.

We shouldn’t expect any “international police action” or U.S.-led regime changes in Latin America as a result of Tillerson’s commitment to the Monroe Doctrine, however, an increased focus on competing with Russia and China in the Western hemisphere is obviously on his agenda.


The Daily Observation is a free report from Forward Observer. Subscribe or sign in to read our daily Early Warning reports, the Strategic Intelligence Summary, the National Intelligence Bulletin, or the Alt-Observer.

Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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