The United States Hopes that the Russian Squadron Fleet Fails to Arrive...

The planned visit of the Russian navy squadron to Caribbean Sea and the scheduled joint exercise with the Venezuelan Navy are viewed as the most significant events of the second half of the year. At last Russia is about to flex its navy muscles, having decided to fly Andreev Flag not in an “insignificant point of the world ocean” but rather not far from the United States. Instead of Cuba or Nicaragua Moscow has chosen Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for a partner, thus demonstrating that prospects of cooperation of naval forces with the countries south of the Rio Grande on a much larger scale are there.

Some 3 to 4 years ago such a “thrust” into the Western hemisphere would have appeared excessive from the point of view of geostrategy for fear of causing Washington’s resentment. Things started to happen afterwards when the drafting and signing of agreements on the setting up of anti-missile systems to be deployed the closest to Russia’s borders, the attraction of the former USSR constituent republics and shattering the fragile stability in the Caucasus came to the fore. On top of that George Bush and his team began to try to establish control over oil and gas flows in the Caucasus-Caspian region. The North American “partner” has evidently been testing the strength of the “Russian bear.” There is not much to say in this context to the effect that the joint Russian-Venezuelan naval exercise is in no way a threat to US interests in the Caribbean basin. Both Moscow and Caracas have stated that.

Hugo Chavez has underscored that the format of the manoeuvres was usual for the region, incidentally referring to the “South Cross” manoeuvres slated for November 12-14, 2008 in the Atlantic with the participation of Brazilian, French and Dutch naval force whose timing almost coincided with the Russia-Venezuelan manoeuvres.

So the aquamarine depths of the Caribbean would be cut by the steely stem posts of the four Russian navy vessels. The flagman is the nuclear-powered missile-carrying cruiser “Pyotr Veliki” that is designed to solve most complicated tasks of the contemporary naval battles, inclusive of neutralization of full-fledged air-carrier units. A second “solo player” in the Russian squadron is the anti-submarine chaser “Admiral Chabanenko” carrying the powerful arsenal of destruction of the latest nuclear-powered submarines. But much more modest tasks will be set out for the pending manoeuvres involving Russian and Venezuelan seamen. They include joint manoeuvring, communication testing and sea rescue operations.

By bringing into the picture of the pending exercise of Russian and Venezuelan navies the arrival to the Venezuelan air base “Libertador” of two “Bears”, the name the Western experts gave to the TU-160 strategic bombers, one can be confident saying that the Russian answer to the United States in the Caribbean direction appears to be both weighted and impressive. It can be admitted that during the naval exercise the Russian nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific would set out on emergency raids to the sites of their regular duty, and the “Bears” would once again be seen in the sky over the Caribbean – quite a clear hint that Russian armed forces have not lost their preparedness to be present in any part of the world.

According to mass media reports US officials were not especially anxious over both the friendly visit to Venezuela of the TU-160s and the announcement of the pending naval exercise. Someone at the State Department jibed venomously that the shabby and uncared-for vessels must have been unable to make such a long way. This statement, so typical of the times of “cold war” reflects the total degree of Washington’s resentment caused by Russia’s foray into the Caribbean. But is this exercise the only reason?

The US administration, the Pentagon and the Southern Group of US Army view the tuning of Russian-Venezuelan military and technical relations that began in may 2001 following Hugo Chavez’s visit to Moscow and his confidential talks with president Vladimir Putin as a sore. Hugo Chavez became a new leader on the once complacent Venezuelan field with its fool-proof dependent team, coming up with his own plans of reforming the army in the spirit of “Bolivarian ideas” and working out a new national defence and security doctrine, standing for the diversification of the nation’s military and technical ties in the interests of strengthening of his country’s sovereignty. Chavez both spoke and acted, taking the pain of the coup d’état of April 11-13, 2002, where the US military intelligence was much more involved than the CIA. The coup failed, but Chavez made his conclusions, given that actually all the military conspirators had been trained in US military institutions.

The Venezuelan leader began to steadily decrease military ties with the United States, making them expressly formal. From time to time US military attaches are expelled from that country after being matter-of-factly accused of espionage and recruiting agents in the Venezuelan army. The Pentagon retaliates with its own repressions: minimizing or cancelling financial aid for the military and refusing to supply spare parts for the US-made hardware. The latter measure was a pain to the Venezuelan Air Force, whose fighting capacity was dependent on US-base F-16 fighters.

The United States brought pressure against Western suppliers of armaments who refused to honour their Venezuelan contracts. Attempts to bring pressure upon Russia and its leaders failed. Relying on Russia’s assistance Venezuela is now successfully modernizing its armed forces that have now 24 Sukhoi-24 aircraft with the state-of-the-art electronic equipment and serious fire power. Combat and cargo MI helicopters prove efficient in the rugged terrain of Venezuela. Kalashnikov-103 attack rifles also proved reliable and practicality. The military continue bilateral negotiations. For example, they discuss terms of the purchase by Venezuela of three diesel Varshavianka-class submarines, sales to Venezuela of anti-aircraft systems and anti-tank equipment.

Chavez’s adversaries relay on the “cold war” stereotypes, accusing his country of unleashing the arms race in South America, even though the biggest military spenders there are Columbia, Chile, Peru and Brazil. Washington’s favourite project is the army of Columbia with its many years of experience of fighting leftist-Marxist guerrilla units. Columbia’s oligarchic leadership continues to cultivate enmity towards the Chavez regime, and according to the assessment of Venezuelan military experts could in certain circumstances be used by US “hawks” to unleash war on Venezuela.

Chavez frequently says: “The United States is ready to go to any extremes to capture our oil fields.” That’s why his desire to strengthen his country’s defence capability in full. Aside from Russia, it gets assistance from China, Belorussia and Iran.

It should not come as a surprise that 2009 could see the joint exercise of the Chinese and Venezuelan navies in the Caribbean. According to experts, China will in the short-term perspective begin to receive Venezuelan oil in excess of 1 million barrels a day, so the topic of the joint Chinese-Venezuelan exercise is easy to conceive. It can be the protection of the tanker fleet from potential terrorist attacks.

And finally, the pending visit of “Pyotr Veliki” will also be significant in that it could coincide with another Russian visit. But let us say no more, as surprises are only good when they are unexpected.

[Source: Strategic Culture Foundation, Moscow, 14Sep08]

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