One of the things that bothers me the most about the ongoing antagonism from Donald Trump against México is that Trump would rather antagonize a friend then to hold enemies accountable. Trump has no problem referring to Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, as a “pretty smart cookie” while North Korea continually threatens the United States. Trump has no problem making financial deals, on behalf of the United States, with Saudi Arabia, even though 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian citizens. To this day, the United States has yet to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its role in the 9/11 attacks.
Now compare that to México. When was the last time that México, the Mexican people or the Mexican government attacked or threatened the United States? To be sure, there is the ongoing issue of economic pressure by undocumented immigrants but at its worst case, it can never rise to the level of a nuclear threat, as in North Korea, or a terrorist threat, as in Saudi Arabia. Yet, Donald Trump refers to Mexicans as “rapists” and to NAFTA as the “worst” deal. When it comes to scapegoating México, Donald Trump is no different than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or any other U.S. administration. All U.S. politicians use México as the political football to distract the voters from their shenanigans. It is all hypocritical.
What has made Donald Trump the worst is both his hypocrisy and the utter disgust he verbalizes consistently about me, and my compatriots. The thing is that we do not deserve it.
Not only is México a friend to the United States, but the Mexican people ensure a safe buffer for the citizens of the United States. It is far easier for terrorists to attack the United States from so-called friendly countries, like the United Kingdom and France then from México.
The proof exists in that to this day, notwithstanding right-wing propaganda, not a single documented instance of a terrorist using México as an entry point for attacking the United States has been documented. That is a fact, much to the chagrin of Trump and some of you reading this today.
No one asks why because the answer lies in the inherent undercurrent of blaming México and Mexicans for the travails of the United States. México is a friend for the U.S politico establishment when the U.S. farmers are selling their corn to Mexicans and car manufacturers are super competitive because of Mexican labor, but an enemy when a political scapegoat is needed.
Yet, México and Mexicans continue to treat the U.S. as a friend even though México suffers for the politics of the United States. Since Russia is at the forefront on the U.S. political system today it gives us an opportunity to examine a little bit of history that most readers are not aware of.
The Cold War Spies in México.
Most readers know that the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR) played high-stakes games of espionage against each other during the Cold War. The readers also know that Europe, especially Berlin and Vienna, is where the spies plied their arts when not confronting each other in Washington or in Moscow. What many readers may not know is that the U.S. spies and the Soviet spies played dangerous games in Mexico City during the Cold War. México, in many ways, was not only the buffer between Communism in Central and South America but it was also a central point for spies from both sides to spy on each other.
México has a traditional policy of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs and as such México has a defensive military posture only. México has never embarked upon arming an offensive military, even though it is one of the fifteen largest countries in the world in all metrics. As such, México’s intelligence apparatus has always been inward looking rather than external looking, except during the Cold War.
México, the United States and the Soviets understood that México would be a crown prize for the Soviets in establishing a beachhead near the United States. México did not allow itself to be dominated by the Soviets and kept its distance from the United States never giving the Russians the opportunity to threaten the U.S. from México.
At the height of the Cold War, in the mid-1980’s, the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City housed the largest contingent of Soviet KGB and other Soviet intelligence personnel outside of the Soviet Union. U.S. ambassador, John Gavin complained that Mexico City was a “safe haven” for Russian intelligence operatives. The Mexican government, for its part, argued that it did not limit any country’s right to keep diplomats in México. However, the Mexican intelligence apparatus did routinely surveille and record Soviet activities. These were provided to the United States.
Although México has understood for many decades that the Soviet Union, and now the Russians were not strategic partners for México, the Mexican government saw the Soviet’s as an irritant to the United States because of the Mexican governments’ anti-Americanism from numerous U.S. heavy-handedness over the years. It is this anti-Americanism, driven by U.S. political interests that led to the Soviets using Mexico City as a conduit for U.S. technology and for allowing Soviet spies access to Russian handlers.
The Soviet embassy saw the likes of Christopher Boyce, James Haper, Joseph Helmich, Andrew Lee and John Walker walk through its doors as each of them sold U.S. secrets to the Soviets.
The closeness of México to the United States could have been a serious threat to the U.S. by allowing the Soviet’s greater access to mount operations against United States interests. Instead, México protected U.S. national interests by limiting the Soviets’ activities.
Over time the Mexican government began to relax its anti-Americanism and began to trust that the United States could be the partner they could trust and rely upon. Cooperation increased and both the United States and México benefited.
That is until Donald Trump entered into the picture reminding Mexicans that the United States doesn’t have an interest in friendship but rather in using México as a convenient scapegoat for U.S. problems.
Although the Russians are still not a strategic option for México, it might be time to revisit that belief, as Russia is proving adept at interfering in U.S. internal and external affairs. Maybe it’s time that México pick a more strategic partner than the U.S.