Nicaragua has authorized the militaries of the United States and Russia to undertake drug interdiction in Caribbean waters successfully claimed from Colombia in the International Court of Justice last year, in a move likely spurred by political motivations.
The authorization was declared after a vote by the country’s parliament on November 26 — little over a year after Nicaragua was awarded swathes of Colombia’s maritime territory by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) — and allows for US and Russian troops, naval vessels and aircraft to enter the area to engage in anti-drug missions, reported EFE.
The long running dispute over the territory has caused heightened tension between the two Latin American nations ever since the decision, with Colombia last year withdrawing its recognition of the ICJ, while Nicaragua has subsequently attempted to claim further territory. It is believed the area may be home to extensive oil and gas reserves.
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The parliamentary authorization follows a recent increase in Colombia’s naval presence around the Caribbean islands which it retained as part of the ICJ decision, and comes at a time of growing security and commercial ties between Nicaragua and Russia. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has previously said the ICJ decision is invalid because territorial boundaries can only be redrawn through bilateral agreements.
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The highly charged political backdrop of this invitation suggests Nicaragua is not only driven by a desire to implement effective law enforcement in the area, but also for the de facto recognition of its sovereignty over the territory that US and Russian participation would represent.
The United States has long been patrolling the same waters in partnership with Colombia, so for them it would be business as usual, while inviting Russia could be seen as a poke in the eye for Colombia. Tension recently erupted over a Russian navy captain’s suggestion his country would support Nicaragua should conflict erupt over the territory — a statement since rejected by the Russian government — as well as Colombian protests following the entry of two Russian bombers into Colombian airspace.
However, the invitation is also likely a result of Russia’s desire to increase its involvement in regional anti-drugs efforts, with Nicaragua emerging as a key ally in the endeavor. Nevertheless, while this invitation undoubtedly has a political edge, the growing use of San Andres as a drug transshipment point and the Nicaraguan navy’s admission it is ill-equipped to confront the challenge means there is also an element of necessity about the move.