President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela said his country would be willing to host Russian bases there, the Russian news agency Interfax reported. “Russia has enough resources to secure its presence in different parts of the world. If Russian armed forces would like to be present in Venezuela, they will be welcomed warmly,” Mr. Chávez told reporters on Tuesday, in response to a question about whether Russia could put bases in Venezuela. “We will raise flags, beat drums and sing songs, because our allies will come, with whom we have a common worldview,” said Mr. Chávez, who was in Moscow for talks with President Dmitri A. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.
According to an article by the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, which cites Reuters: the offer of a "warm welcome" was made in response to a question from a journalist at a press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Both of the Cuban and Venezuelan stories broke just about contemporaneously. In the Chinese press article linked above, President Chavez has denied that the reported offer was made: he said,
Such media reports were absolutely "false," Chavez told a joint press conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates after they met at the Sao Bento Place in the Portuguese capital, their third meeting in less than a year.
Chavez said he was the victim of a "media war" plotted by the West, noting his reported pledge to Russian leaders to allow Russia to establish military bases on Venezuelan territory was a rumor designed to show the world a "provocative Chavez, a violent Chavez."
"But the Venezuelan people only want peace and justice," he said.
It is not clear that Cuba actually made a similar offer, although it was reported that Russia is considering the establishment of military bases in Cuba.
Russia is considering the use of bases in Cuba for its nuclear bombers, in a move that revives memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, according to reports in a Russian newspaper.
Russian military sources said that Moscow is contemplating using Cuba as a refuelling base for its nuclear-bomb carrying aircraft. The move would be in retaliation for the Bush administration's plan to site a missile defense shield in Europe. . . . Russia today officially denied the report but the fact that it had appeared in a newspaper so closely affiliated with the Kremlin encouraged observers to take it seriously – if only as a way of showing Russia's anger at the US missile shield. . . . "Russia, guided by its peaceful policy, is not creating military bases at the borders of other states," Russian news agencies quoted Ilshat Baichurin, acting head of the Russian defense ministry's information department, as saying.
It would seem strange for the Russian press to raise such a possibility without prior governmental consultation with Cuba. Fidel Castro, in a cryptic statement, praised his brother, Raul, for maintaining a dignified silence but neither confirmed nor denied the reports. U.S. General Schwartz commented,
Russia would cross "a red line for the United States of America" if it were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba, a top US air force officer warned on Tuesday.
"If they did I think we should stand strong and indicate that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America," said General Norton Schwartz, nominated to be the air force's chief of staff.
Why have Venezuela and Cuba made such offers, if they have actually done so? What's in it for them, and what could Russia gain? Although I certainly don't have the answers, I do find it interesting to speculate.
Is this just a bit of ambient noise, or something more serious? Is the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant) cabal conspiring with Russia, Cuba and Venezuela to give Senator McCain a campaign issue? That seems to be a thought well deserving of consideration; for the trash bin.
Facially, it all seems more like background noise. Russia has about as much strategic or even tactical need for a bomber base, a bomber refueling base or other military base in Cuba, or for that matter in Venezuela, as it has for a cavalry regiment mounted on cement bicycles. A nuclear attack by Russian bombers launched from Cuba could, most likely, be dealt with by the U.S. much more effectively than a missile attack launched from within Russian territory. At the first hint, via satellite photos or otherwise, of a Russian bomber presence in Cuba, the U.S. would almost certainly have a pretty good jet fighter force ready to shoot them down or turn them away should they invade U.S. air space. At least, I hope so. The Russian missiles based in Cuba in the early 1960's were seen pretty quickly during U-2 overflights, and one hopes that U.S. satellite technology is far better now. Even the free version of Google Earth provides some very clear close up, but dated, satellite photos of Cuba. A bomber attack launched from Venezuela would be even less likely to succeed. Either would almost certainly spark a war such as the world has never before seen. It does not seem likely that Russia would like that, or that it would initiate it; Iran, maybe, but Russia has too much to lose and so does the U.S. So, for that matter, do even Venezuela and Cuba.
Venezuela's President Chavez certainly has a big mouth, from the exercise of which he seems to derive nearly orgasmic pleasure. By comparison, even "the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant)" seems to be a restrained, diplomatic statesman. So, once upon a time, did Fidel Castro have a tendency toward orgasmic articulation, but he is now pretty much suffering from political ED.
The only decent explanation of which I can think for these offers coming from Venezuela and Cuba — if they indeed came from there — is that they are strictly for domestic consumption or, perhaps, for consideration by each other — in fact, the latter possibility strikes me as significant.
Chavez seems to become less idolized in Venezuela as each day passes, particularly each day with government policy-induced shortages of basic food. The rate of inflation in Venezuela is the highest in Latin America, globally second only to Zimbabwe. The inflation rate for the first six months of 2008 was 15.1 percent; if continued, that's more than 30 percent for the year. The inability of President Chavez to strut mightily on the Venezuelan stage is becoming more evident, and the opposition parties now have the best chance in many years of kicking him out of power. After his Colombian fiasco, he needs to do something; problem is, he doesn't seem to know what "something" will help him.
Fidel Castro is very ill, and his brother, Raul, now President at 77 years old (almost six years older than Senator McCain), ain't no Fidel. The Cuban economy is nearly as bad as that of Venezuela, upon which it is highly dependent. What will happen when the more pragmatic Raul passes on to join Fidel in the great Socialist Paradise in the Sky? Could the offers, if such they were, have been directed at maintaining the Cuban dependence on Venezuela, or perhaps hinting to Venezuela that Cuba may have less need for her in the future? Overtures to Russia, timed to coincide with those of Venezuela, just might be a way of getting such a hint across; and not only to Venezuela and Russia. This scenario, I submit, bears watching; perhaps it is something of which the U.S. may be able to take advantage, sooner rather than later.
It may well be just a minor domestic thing which has little to do with the U.S. But the coincidence, if such it was, that these events surfaced at about the same time, on or about 24 July 2008, interests, worries and maybe even encourages me just a little bit.Powered by Sidelines