Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been confirmed by no fewer than 17 U.S. intelligence and security agencies. Widespread evidence exists that Moscow’s spy services also sought to influence contests held in the Netherlands, France and Germany. Many worry out loud about possible Russian machinations in Italy’s general election next May. Yet if Russia truly wants to damage the U.S. and weaken the western world order, Mexico’s elections next year offer a more rewarding and more vulnerable target. No other country influences the U.S. as much as its southern neighbor. Mexico remains one of America’s largest trading partners, exchanging nearly $600 billion in goods that support millions of U.S.-based jobs and communities. It is the ancestral home to some 37 million Mexican-Americans and immigrants, and the place of residence for the largest U.S. diaspora.
The two nations’ energy refineries, pipelines and grids are interwoven, as are their waterways and environments. Each nation increasingly relies on the other to enhance national security and provide basic safety, sharing information and intelligence as they police local streets and go after terrorists and organized crime networks.
In July 2018, Mexico will elect not just a new president but every senator and representative, several governors and numerous local posts — more than 3,000 positions in all. The largest turnover of elected officials in Mexico’s modern history, this vote will affect the nation’s path for years if not decades to come. It will determine whether Mexico remains pragmatic, open to trade and investment, supportive of regional integration and friendly to the U.S. — or whether it turns inward, matching a U.S. turn toward protectionism and hostility and foregoing integration in favor of a more independent foreign policy and deeper relationships with other nations. For both Mexico and the U.S., such high stakes make the prospect of any potential Russian meddling all the more consequential.