Russia’s Presence in Mexico Increases with More Diplomats and Media Impact

Russia's Presence in Mexico
June 11, 2024


The position of the Government of Mexico towards Russia has a very clear line: ambiguity. From the increase in Russian diplomatic personnel and media in Mexican territory, to the Russian military presence in Mexico and Mexico’s neutrality when establishing a position in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

In this article we analyze how Russian influence is gaining ground in Mexico and how this represents a major conflict of interest with the United States. The most important thing is to learn what impact this rapprochement between Russia and Mexico can have on business in the country, and what measures you can take in case this becomes a geopolitical problem.

Mexico: A Country with a High Number of Russian Diplomats

Since 2023 the number of Russians with diplomatic accreditation in Mexico has grown by more than 60 percent. The current number of Russian diplomats in Mexico is unprecedented, even surpassing figures from the Cold War years when Moscow and its then Eastern European satellites carried out intense intelligence and espionage activity in Mexico City.

  • According to data from the Mexican Foreign Ministry, there are 85 diplomats accredited to the Russian embassy in Mexico City, a considerable increase compared to 32 approximately a year ago. Of course, this is seen by many as a threat to relations between Mexico and the United States.
  • “Geopolitically, what the Russians want with Mexico is to drive a wedge between Mexico and the United States, its main trading partner, friend and ally,” said Dolia Estévez, a Washington-based Mexican journalist who first reported on the growing diplomatic footprint. 

Russian Media and its Great Influence in Mexico

A study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford revealed how RT and the Sputnik news agency increased their presence in Latin America after the invasion of Ukraine. Vladímir Rouvinski, associate professor at the Icesi University of Colombia, pointed out that this media has eroded liberal democracy in the hemisphere, and “increased polarization because they never talk about consensus.”

The two Russian media outlets with the greatest presence in México include:

RT in Spanish (Russia Today):

  • RT en Español is the Spanish version of Russia Today, a media outlet funded by the Russian government.
  • Provides news coverage and analysis from a Russian perspective on global and regional events, including Mexico and Latin America.
  • Its reach in Mexico includes television, internet and social networks.

Sputnik World:

  • Sputnik Mundo is the Spanish-language platform of Sputnik News, a Russian news agency based in Moscow.
  • Provides news coverage, analysis and opinions from a Russian perspective on global and regional issues.
  • Its focus on Mexico includes politics, economics, culture and society.

In October last year, Margarita Simonián, the editor-in-chief of the Russian-based RT television channel and member of the list of the 20 most influential women in Russia, announced the start of broadcasts of the Russian television channel on the subway system from Mexico City.

  • This advertising move highlights Russia’s focus on attracting the attention of the millions of people in the country’s capital who use this means of transportation daily. In addition, Russia utilized billboards and ads on social networks to enhance their marketing strategy.

Russian Military Presence in Mexico

In September 2023, as part of the anniversary of Mexico’s independence, the country held its typical annual military parade. In this case, Russian military presence was observed within the parade which generated diverse opinions in the country. A protest from the Ukrainian Embassy in Mexico occurred following the parade.

In addition to the Russian contingent, the military presence of highly criticized governments such as those of Venezuela, Nicaragua and China was also observed.

Xóchitl Gálvez, opposition candidate for the presidency, harshly criticized the president: “He did not invite the representatives of the Legislative and Judicial Branches, but he did invite military personnel from authoritarian governments. He has already made it clear that his friends are the dictators, not the democrats.”, he said on social networks.

Mexico’s position regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Mexico’s actions in recent global conflicts demonstrate its ties to other controversial governments, and Russia is no exception. After Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, Mexico did not execute any sanctions against the Kremlin and, on the contrary, the López Obrador Government was ambiguous about the situation.

The lack of sanctions against Russia highlights the relationship that exists with Mexico, which can be seen as a great help for the Russians to expand their presence in the country.

Without a doubt, one of the most controversial points of Mexico’s position came from the creation of the special group “Mexico-Russian Federation Friendship Group,” celebrated by the then Russian ambassador to Mexico, Víktor Koronelli. The rapprochement of both governments under the title of “friendship” in the midst of an invasion of Ukraine that is rejected by most countries in the world turned out to be a great controversy, especially in the sectors of opposition to the Mexican Government.

Why does Mexico have these positions towards Russia?

According to UNAM political scientist, Khemvirg Puente, “we have this ambivalence of the president who does not want confrontation with Russia because in his speech he always seeks to try to look good with all countries, mainly with the powerful ones.”

Beyond diplomatic factors, Mexico also maintains economic relations with Russia, which may be one of the reasons for the neutrality of the Latin American country. In 2021, Mexico exported products worth $499 million to the Russian market, mostly automobiles and parts, while its imports from the Slavic country totaled $2,251 million, according to official data.

  • Russian investment in Mexico is estimated at $132.6 million, with important companies present in the Latin American country such as the gas giant Gazprom and the oil company Lukoil, which maintains an exploration and extraction contract with the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
  • Although these figures are minimal compared to the United States-Mexico trade relationship, the diplomatic sphere does seem to have great weight for the López Obrador Government, particularly when it comes to left-wing countries.

With presidential elections on the horizon, it is possible that Mexico’s relationship with Russia will change, either towards greater closeness or a position of greater rejection. What is certain is that the Russian presence in a neighboring country, in any form, represents a concern for the United States.

Why should Russia’s increasing presence in Mexico concern you? 

Russia sees Mexico as an important ally for a number of reasons, but the most notable are geopolitical influence, its strategic location, and trade and commerce opportunity.

  • Russia may see increasing its influence in Mexico as a way to counterbalance the influence of the United States in the region. By establishing ties with Mexico, Russia has the potential ability to gain leverage in the broader geopolitical landscape.
  • Mexico has a significant economy with abundant natural resources and is an important player in the energy industry. Establishing stronger economic ties with Mexico could provide Russia with opportunities for trade, investment, and resource access.
  • Russia may also view Mexico as strategically important, whether in terms of military cooperation, access to strategic locations, or as part of a broader global strategy.

The growing diplomatic footprint of Russia in Mexico, coupled with its expanding media influence, signifies a shift in geopolitical dynamics that could impact business environments. The intention of Russia to deepen ties with Mexico may lead to heightened political tensions, potentially affecting trade relations and investment climates. In this context, it becomes imperative for corporations and business executives to closely monitor geopolitical developments and adapt their strategies accordingly.

The ambiguity of Mexico’s stance toward Russia raises concerns for companies operating in Mexico about having to put extra effort into evaluating and mitigating potential risks arising from geopolitical uncertainties, including disruptions to supply chains, regulatory changes and security threats.

To protect themselves, corporations and business executives should consider implementing robust risk management strategies, including:

  1. Enhanced security measures: Invest in comprehensive security protocols to safeguard personnel and assets, particularly in areas where geopolitical tensions may escalate.
  2. Diversification of markets: Reduce reliance on a single market by exploring diversification strategies to mitigate potential disruptions arising from geopolitical uncertainties.
  3. Political risk insurance: Consider obtaining political risk insurance to protect against losses stemming from geopolitical events, such as expropriation, political violence, and contract frustration.
  4. Geopolitical analysis: Stay informed about geopolitical developments and assess their potential impact on business operations, enabling proactive decision-making and risk mitigation.

Looking ahead, if the approach between Russia and Mexico continues to deepen, it could lead to further complexities, potentially impacting trade relations, security dynamics, and investment landscapes in the region.

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