Ecuador-Russia Arms Exchange: A Delicate Diplomatic Standoff with Unforeseen Consequences

Ecuador’s military agreement with the USA leads to tensions with Russia

In recent months, Ecuador has found itself in a delicate position with Russia following its decision to exchange Russian weapons deemed obsolete for more modern military equipment from the United States. President Daniel Noboa, who took office in November last year, claims that this move is necessary to strengthen the country’s internal security as it battles organized crime and violence. However, Moscow has accused Quito of violating contracts signed when purchasing these weapons and giving in to “pressure” from Washington.

The idea of disposing of old Russian weapons began in December 2023 when Noboa stated his intention to exchange what he called “Ukrainian and Russian scrap” for “US $200 million in modern equipment.” According to local media reports, among the war artifacts that must be handed over to the Americans are helicopters, rocket launch systems, and anti-aircraft cannons, which were acquired by Ecuador from Russia in the 1990s and which, according to the government, are no longer suitable for use.

Russia’s ambassador in Quito, Vladimir Sprinchan, was the first Kremlin representative to speak out against sending Russian weapons to the United States. Moscow believes that such weapons may still be in good working order and that the US may want to send them onwards to Ukraine if acquired. The spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also weighed into the issue earlier this month, describing Ecuador’s decision as “irreflective” and taken under “serious pressure from interested figures abroad.”

The diplomatic tension caused by this arms exchange agreement between Ecuador and the US appears to have had negative commercial repercussions for South America this week when Russia decided through its veterinary surveillance service to impose several restrictions on importing Ecuadorian bananas. The Kremlin’s surveillance service reported that it suspended authorization for five Ecuadorian banana exporting companies due to an alleged detection of a “devastating insect” present in fruit. Shortly afterwards, it also announced that it had applied similar measures against some flowers imported from Ecuador.

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