El Salvador's decision not to join the United Nations in condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine and to abstain from voting has caused astonishment.

The country has close ties with the United States, if only because of the large number of Salvadorans living there, but also economically.

However, those watching the young Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele should not have been surprised by his country's abstention.

The war hardly seems to bother Bukele.

On his favorite medium, Twitter, where he posts his views almost every hour, there was and is almost nothing of him to be found.

Tjerk Bruhwiller

Correspondent for Latin America based in São Paulo.

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Bukele only gave a small dig at the American President in the past few weeks.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Bukele tweeted that Biden was painting the devil on the wall.

And on the day Russian troops invaded Ukraine, the Salvadoran president was busy praising himself for inaugurating a new veterinary clinic — funded by alleged profits his government had made trading the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

US is skeptical about bitcoin activity

Bitcoin, which Bukele introduced as official currency in El Salvador some time ago, is Bukele's favorite topic.

His thoughts always seem to revolve around it, even when it comes to the war in Ukraine.

With war raging in Ukraine and hundreds of thousands fleeing, he wrote, “The intrinsic value of Bitcoin is now fully visible around the world.”

Exactly what Bukele meant by that is unclear.

What is certain is that the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have led to a rush towards cryptocurrencies in the two countries.

In the west, there is concern that cryptocurrencies are becoming a loophole against sanctions and that the difficult-to-control flows in these currencies could also allow trading in commodities or other goods.

Bukele should not fill such a scenario with concern, but with hope.

That is exactly what the Salvadoran President has in mind.

Last year he announced the construction of a modern city that would be financed in large part with Bitcoin.

The country also wants to take out loans in the cryptocurrency in the future and thus bypass international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.

Perhaps Bukele's abstention at the United Nations was meant to keep the doors open to Bitcoin investments from Russia, where he will be visiting later this year.

In the United States, the Bitcoin activities of the Salvadoran government have been viewed with great skepticism for some time.

A bipartisan group of senators proposed legislation a few weeks ago to require a State Department report on Bitcoin's risks to American foreign policy.

"If the United States is to fight money laundering and preserve the dollar's role as the world's reserve currency, we must address this issue head-on," said Republican Bill Cassidy.

After El Salvador abstained, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez reiterated his call for El Salvador to be excluded from the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

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