>This month, following the arrival in Moscow of delegations from the leftist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Guyana, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a former Soviet apparatchik, will make his first official visits to Nicaragua and Guatemala, as well as Cuba and Mexico. Lavrov will visit Cuba between February 11 and 13, Nicaragua on February 14, Guatemala on February 15, and Mexico on February 15 and 16. During his Latin American excursion Lavrov will discuss bilateral military, energy, and oil exploration cooperation.
Communist Cuba, of course, is a long-time Soviet ally, while the Sandinistas are once again trying to consolidate a communist dictatorship in Nicaragua.
Mexico’s ruling National Action Party is center-right in its orientation, but that country’s narco-insurgency has the potential to transform Mexico into a failed state, unless the US government expedites the delivery of badly needed military equipment, such as combat helicopters, to the Mexican army. Mexico’s drug cartels obtain much of their own firepower from the Russian Mafia, which provides a convenient cover for agents of the Kremlin’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), formerly the foreign component of the Soviet KGB, and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU).
Guatemala’s first center-left president in 50 years, Alvaro Colom, is not apparently a red, but he has hooked his country to the Havana-Caracas Axis by way of receiving subsidized petroleum via Hugo Chavez’s Petrocaribe. Although Colom was recently cleared by the United Nations of complicity in the 2009 murder of a Guatemalan lawyer, the primary internal threat against his presidency is the drug-related violence that has bumped up Guatemala’s murder rate to 18 corpses per day.
In 2008 Lavrov denied that the revitalization of Russia’s interest in Latin America was part of a “diplomatic tug of war” with the USA, which Moscow berates for fashioning a “unipolar” world around its own interests. “Disapproval of attempts to impose unilateral approaches, readiness to respect partners’ interests not in word but in deed, to honor the principle of non-interference in sovereign nations’ affairs, and to choose crisis and conflict settlement through talks has brought Russia closer to Latin America,” he intoned at the time. Sure, Comrade Sergei, whatever you say.
If one day Washington decides to take Moscow to task for “setting up shop” in America’s “backyard,” then the response from the Soviet strategists will be predictable. Moscow will simply take Washington to task for persisting in deploying anti-missile defenses in its old stomping grounds, Eastern Europe.
Indeed, the Kremlin has not only threatened to beef up its Baltic Fleet in response to next month’s planned deployment of a Patriot Air Defense Unit in Poland, near the border with Kaliningrad, but is now demanding “clarification” with respect to US plans to deploy “missile defense elements” in the “former” Soviet Bloc state of Romania by 2015. Although Obama scrapped predecessor George W. Bush’s plans to install long-range interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic, the White House is moving ahead with alternate plans to install the tactical missile defense offered by the Patriot system. On Thursday Romanian President Traian Basescu, moreover, announced that his country had approved a US plan to deploy Aegis interceptor missiles as part of a missile shield to protect Europe from Iranian attack.
This week the Islamo-Nazi regime in Tehran highlighted its long-range missile capabilities by launching a third satellite, Kavoshgar 3 (Explorer), into a short orbital insertion. On board were a rat, two turtles, and worms. In 2008 Iran fired two rockets, Kavoshgar 1 and 2, into space but neither was carrying any payload. Notwithstanding the drama in the Middle East, the Kremlin is not buying Washington’s specter of a menace from Middle East mullahs.
“We expect the United States to provide an exhaustive explanation, taking into account the fact that the Black Sea regime is regulated by the Montreux Convention,” Lavrov huffed on Friday. He added: “Russia acted on the assumption that there is an agreement between the two presidents [Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev] on the joint study of common threats, with the participation of the European Union. When we understand that we have a common understanding of possible threats, it will be possible to say what measures could be taken in response.”
A Russian military analyst, retired Colonel Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, is even less impressed by the new US-Romanian pact. “We are talking about the placement of the land-based Aegis system in Romania by 2015 which uses the new Standard Missile interceptor, SM-3. This weaponry, without a doubt, could significantly reduce Russia’s deterrent capability,” complained Korotchenko, adding:
SM-3 missiles would be able to intercept Russian ballistic missiles shortly after launch and on their initial flight trajectory. Russia must warn Romania that if the elements of the U.S. missile shield are placed in the country they will become a target of Russia’s preventive missile strikes.
With ship-based SM-3s in the North, Black and Mediterranean seas, and mobile land-based SM-3s in Central Europe the western borders of Russia will be surrounded by U.S. missile interceptors by 2015.
In that Korotchenko articulated these sentiments to state-run Novosti, it is very likely that an “offended” Kremlin is telling Washington to “back off.” That Romania’s “ex”-communist president would acquiesce to a US military presence in his country, however, only suggests that Basescu is purposely luring the USA into yet another confrontation with his masters in Moscow. Warsaw and Prague have also endorsed Washington’s new and improved missile plan. Much the same, therefore, can be said with respect to the Czech Republic’s interim prime minister, Jan Fischer, yet another “ex”-communist in the saddle in Eastern Europe. In this Soviet-scripted confrontation America plays the bully who needs to be “put in his place.”
The Kremlin’s new “preventive nuclear strike” doctrine, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev last week, will provide the Russian Armed Forces with the legal tool needed to “take out” US air defense units in “former” Soviet Bloc states. “The president informed the members of Russia’s Security Council on Friday that he has approved two documents – the military doctrine and the Fundamentals of the state policy on nuclear deterrence until 2020,” related Medvedev’s press secretary Natalia Timakova.
According to Russian officials, reports Novosti, the “adjustment” of the country’s military doctrine was prompted by “real threats and challenges.” The state-run news agency chronicles the transformation of Russia’s “post”-Soviet military doctrine from a purely “defensive” posture in 2000 to one of “prevention”:
Under the new doctrine, Russia will continue developing and modernizing its nuclear triad, increasing its capability to overcome missile defenses of a potential enemy. The new military doctrine also aims to transform the Armed Forces into a more effective and mobile military force. Their structures will be “optimized” through the use of combined arms units performing similar tasks. The previous document was adopted in 2000. It outlined the role of the Russian military in ensuring the defense of the country and, if necessary, preparing for and waging war, although it stressed that the Russian military doctrine is strictly defensive.
The Kremlin reportedly plans to hike the current defense budget of US$40 billion by 50% over the next three years.