>Prepare yourselves for war. If you want peace you have to be ready for war.
— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to military commanders, Alo Presidente television broadcast, November 8, 2009
When Moscow dispatches its civil defense and “emergency situations” minister to network with allies in Serbia and Latin America, you can be assured that the Soviets are up to something. If CD is on the agenda, then war can’t be too far behind. War, we might add, definitely qualifies as an “emergency situation.”
During President Dmitry Medvedev’s official visit to Belgrade on October 20, Russia’s long-time civil defense “czar,” Sergei Shoigu (pictured above, second from left), attended meetings with Serbia’s “non-partisan” prime minister, Mirko Cvetković, as well as First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic. Serbia’s top police chief, as we noted in a recent post, is head of the Socialist Party of Serbia, which deceased red warmonger Slobodan Milosevic created in 1990 out of the remnants of the League of Communists of Serbia. In addition to Dacic, two other SPS cadres in Serbia’s coalition government, Minister of Energy and Mining Petar Skundric and Minister of Infrastructure Milutin Mrkonjic, attended the meetings with Russia’s civil defense “czar.” In 2008 Skundric and Mrkonjic were party to the negotiations that enabled the Kremlin to buy out the Serbian Petroleum Industry (NIS) and clear the path for Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline to cross the Balkans.
The Russian delegation in Serbia wrapped up its visit with several bilateral arrangements, including the need to: 1) establish a natural gas storage firm, Banatski Dvor, as a joint venture between Serbia’s state-owned gas company, Srbijagas, and Gazprom; 2) promote cooperation between Serbian and Russian police; 3) jointly tackle humanitarian disasters and natural calamities; and 4) promote cooperation between the Serbian parliament and Russian State Duma. After meeting with Shoigu, Cvetković gushed: “Serbia is fully committed to a further development of all-encompassing cooperation with Russia, as one of its strategic partners.”
With respect to bilateral cooperation in the area of civil defense, Moscow and Belgrade agreed to establish an “emergency situations center” in Serbia’s third largest city, Nis, by 2012. The joint project was announced during Medvedev’s visit in Belgrade. “The center is expected to be an equipped logistics base, and Niš is a good location because of the airport and good infrastructure,” Dacic expounded.
In a possibly related story, the Serbian state media reports that on October 29 Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac and Serbia’s top general, Miloje Miletic, visited the military base at Cepotina, where they announced that by the end of 2009 the facility would more than double in size. “We are currently expanding the base. We want to increase its present 35 hectares by another 65 and build training areas to prepare our members for participation in peace missions,” Sutanovac explained later to reporters, adding: “The Cepotina base is also important in terms of security in southern Serbia.” When asked about the future Serbo-Russian emergency situations center in Nis, Sutanovac admitted that “The center will be under the complete control of the Serbian Ministry of Interior.” This means, of course, communist police chief Dacic will be in “complete control” of Serbia’s emergency situations program.
This week Shoigu also visited the Kremlin’s allies Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela. Shoigu began his Latin American tour on Tuesday, when he arrived in Managua. There Shoigu met with Nicaragua’s top general, Omar Halleslevens, with whom he signed a memorandum on bilateral cooperation during natural disasters, as well as the liquidation of land mines planted by the first Sandinista regime in its war against the US-backed Contras. On November 5 Hurricane Ida slammed into Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. This natural disaster appears to have provided the neo-Soviet leadership with an ideal opportunity, or “cover,” to consolidate linkages with President Daniel Ortega’s second Sandinista regime.
According to the terms of the new Moscow-Managua pact, Russia will supply the Nicaraguan National Army with machinery, equipment, and “specialized techniques” to enhance the Central American country’s ability to alleviate the problems associated with natural disasters, like hurricanes. “At this time of limitations in the world economy, we greatly value the meaning of collaboration for the period 2009-2010,” gushed Halleslevens, a former Sandinista guerrilla. “We know how important it is for Nicaragua to act against problems of emergencies of different kinds, like earthquake, flood, volcano, fire and forest fire, and hurricane,” Shoigu piped up. At the same time, Russia will help Managua to locate and eradicate some 179,000 anti-personnel mines buried during the 1980s. Only 175 mines have been rendered harmless since 1989 when the mine clearing operation started.
After confirming Managua’s place in the Communist Bloc, Shoigu flew to Havana, where he formulated a “cooperation plan” with his Cuban counterparts that would include “information exchange and training for Cuban specialists.” Cuba’s communist dictatorship is presently implementing “extreme measures” to reduce energy consumption and thereby prevent regular electrical blackouts. “The energy situation we face is critical and if we do not adopt extreme measures we will have to revert to planned blackouts affecting the population,” announced a recently circulated message from Cuba’s Council of Ministers. Since last year Havana has received several of the Kremlin’s highest-ranking officials, including Medvedev; Igor Sechin, deputy prime minister and Cold War-era pointman for the GRU’s gun-running operations in Latin America; Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council and former FSB/KGB boss; and General Nikolai Makarov, chief of the Russian General Staff. Vladimir Putin, then president and now prime minister, visited Cuba in 2000.
After wrapping up its Havana pit stop, the Russian delegation under Shoigu’s leadership then flew to Venezuela on Friday.
Russia’s civil defense czar visited Moscow’s Latin American allies at an eventful time. For one thing, Moscow has promised to modernize Cuba and Nicaragua’s Soviet-era weapons, as well as train both their troops and police. The Kremlin has already sold billions of dollars worth of armaments and delivery systems to oil-rich Venezuela. Russian warships are slated to show up in Havana Bay this December, the second time since the Cold War. Last December, several months after two Blackjack bombers touched down at a Venezuelan air base, the Russian and Venezuelan navies drilled in the southern Caribbean Sea.
Since last November, when fraudulent municipal elections were contested by the opposition, Nicaragua has teetered on the brink of another civil war instigated by power-hungry red dictator Ortega. On November 9 Nicaraguan authorities expelled Dutch politician Hans van Baalen after the conservative Member of the European Parliament urged Nicaragua’s liberal opposition to form a united front against the second FSLN regime. During his short stay in Managua, van Baalen met with former president Arnoldo Alemán, who was sentenced in 2003 to 20 years in prison for raiding US$100 million from the Nicaraguan treasury. As a result of a sordid compact with Ortega reached in 1999, however, the hopelessly corrupt Aleman was released from jail in early 2008.
Meanwhile, in response to last month’s US-Colombian military pact that will permit the deployment of 800 US counter-narcotics troops in neighboring Colombia, Hugo Chavez is “going ballistic.” Venezuela’s communist tyrant has once again dispatched troops to the border with Colombia with the intent of either intimidating the pro-Washington government in Bogota, or possibly rendering moral and/or material support to Colombia’s Marxist insurgents. During the March 2008 Andean Crisis the Venezuelan and Ecuadorean armies moved only 6,000 and 3,200 troops to their respective border with hated rival Colombia. Last week Chavez ordered the deployment of 15,000 troops to Venezuela’s southwest region, reportedly to combat Colombian anti-communist paramilitaries training in his country. For a number of years Chavez has accused the USA and Colombia of preparing to invade Venezuela, where he has been imposing a socialist revolution since 1999.
Last Sunday, during his weekly televised rant, Chavez told his military commanders: “Prepare yourselves for war. If you want peace you have to be ready for war.” In response, on Wednesday the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations Security Council, alleging that Chavez’s most recent threats against Bogota are tantamount to a declaration of war. “We’ve handed over a letter explaining in detail concerns Colombia has about remarks by President Chavez and other sensitive matters,” Colombia’s foreign minister Jaime Bermudez told Reuters at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Singapore. He added: “We have always said the door for dialogue is open … we have still not had any contact.” Bogota and Caracas do not presently have diplomatic relations with the other.