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  • Russian Foreign Minister’s “In Your Face Tour” of the Americas

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

    Efforts by the Obama Administration to work with Russia on Iran, nuclear arms control, and the fight against terrorism do not prevent Moscow from periodically reasserting its presence in the Western Hemisphere.

    Between February 10 and 16, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov conducted a New World tour seeking deeper ties with the region, underscoring Russia’s readiness to talk trade, sell arms, and compete for influence with the U.S.

    In Cuba, Lavrov and his Communist hosts fondly celebrated the memory of the Havana-Moscow alliance ["five decades of brotherhood"] stretching from before the Cuban Missile Crisis to end of the Soviet Union.  The Russians and Cubans promised joint actions on energy, transportation, engineering, and bio-pharmaceuticals and a revival.  Russia views Cuba as a convenient launching pad for further forays into the Americas, particularly for stronger ties with the left-leaning, anti-American Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) forged by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

    Lavrov’s visit to Nicaragua was certainly a thank-you to President Daniel Ortega for his rogue recognition of the faux “independence” of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These secessionist territories are integral parts of Georgia, Russia’s democratic neighbor.  Lavrov played upon ties dating back to days when Ortega’s Marxist-Leninist Sandinista Party was a major Soviet client.

    While normally off the track of Russian diplomacy and for decades a fierce bastion of anti-communism, Guatemala — beset by a host of woes ranging from drought to drug cartels – seeks help from virtually any quarter.

    Finally in Mexico, the last stop on Lavrov’s Latin American tour, discussions touched on a wide range of issues from trade and financial links between G-20 members to potential arms sales to Mexico for the anti-drug cartel fight.

    The Kremlin senses that the Obama Administration is neglecting its neighbors to the South and nostalgically remembers the Soviet imperialist policies in the Western hemisphere. While Russia is a shadow of its former self militarily, it still is capable of making mischief with the like of Hugo Chavez and his “Bolivarian” allies. Lavrov may have characterized his visits as reflections of pragmatic, commercially- oriented policy, but Russia’s top diplomat made it clear his nation intends to be a strategic player in the Americas.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    One Response to Russian Foreign Minister’s “In Your Face Tour” of the Americas

    1. Joe Katzman, Califor says:

      "While Russia is a shadow of its former self militarily, it still is capable of making mischief with the like of Hugo Chavez and his “Bolivarian” allies"

      I'm almost inclined to say "Let them." Latin America is no longer strategic to the USA. Buying and exerting that influence is going to be very expensive. In the end, as Chavez and Kirchner are demonstrating, their road ends in poverty and ruin. And other than stroking Russian nostalgia and scraping up some marginal arms sales in the global scheme of things, I'm not sure what it really gets Russia.

      So, if they want to put their investment in Latin America, and pay the bucks, that seems like a good diversion from potential mischief elsewhere, where it could actually matter. Resources are limited for everyone, and all that.

      And if they engage, bluster, but don't invest… well. Chile, Brazil, Colombia. Their meddling is already producing a reaction, and a battle fought by local forces on each side is a good way of driving home the real choices in the region. Something that wasn't really possible as long as there was always the "Yanqui bailout excuse" to fall back on.

      This time, I say let Latin America handle things themselves, with America very much in the background. If we need to get involved, let it be asymmetrically funding revolutions when things reach their inevitable tipping points.

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