Russia takes the Biden Challenge

posted at 10:02 am on March 14, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Joe Biden warned us that Barack Obama would get tested by unfriendly nations in the first six months of his administration because of his inexperience.  That prediction now looks like sunny optimism.  Just days after China aggressively challenged the US Navy in international waters in the South China Sea, Russia now says they may start basing bombers in Venezuela — and Cuba:

A Russian Air Force chief said Saturday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered an island as a temporary base for strategic Russian bombers, the Interfax news agency reported.

The chief of staff of Russia’s long range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, also said Cuba could be used to base the aircraft, Interfax reported. …

Zhikharev said Chavez had offered “a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers,” the agency reported. “If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island … by the Russian Air Force is possible.”

Interfax reported he said earlier that Cuba has air bases with four or five runways long enough for the huge bombers and could be used to host the long-range planes.

It took John Kennedy more than a year to precipitate a military standoff with the Soviet Union over Cuba in the 1962 missile crisis.  It’s taken the Obama Amateur Hour less than two months.

Recall that Barack Obama ran in part on a campaign to “restore diplomacy” in foreign relations.  Hillary Clinton made a big show of bringing a “reset button” to her first meeting with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in which the button was labeled incorrectly and not spelled in Cyrillic.  This followed her bumbling show at the EU, making it clear to the Russians that our foreign service was in complete disarray, run by imcompetents.

Can you imagine Russia trying this with George Bush?  For that matter, can you imagine Bush losing Kyrgyzstan — and a vital military route — to Putin?  Russia is doing this now because Putin and Medvedev understand that they can get away with it.

The Kremlin later said that Zhikarev spoke “hypothetically”.  We’ll see.  I’d guess that it won’t take long for Moscow to start landing bombers 90 miles off our coast if the Obama administration continues the feckless performance we’ve seen thus far.

Update: Daniel Larison attempts to tell us that there’s nothing to see here and we should just move on:

There is a non-story making the rounds that the Russian military might base bombers in Venezuela and Cuba, provided that the Kremlin wanted to do this. In the same story that is being circulated, the Kremlin ruled out the idea as hypothetical speculation. Naturally, this had no effect whatever on wild accusations of Obama’s foreign policy failure.

When a Russian general tells the press that his country might start basing its bombers in Cuba, it’s not just some wild speculation on my part.  Bruce McQuain at QandO points this out to Larison:

However it seems Larison’s research into the story must have omitted this CNN version. The lede:

Russia expressed interest in using Cuban airfields during patrol missions of its strategic bombers, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

I put them in bold so they might catch Larison’s eye. You see, when most people see the words “Russia expressed interest” they interpret them to mean the state of Russia – you know, the country?- is interested enough in something to actually express that interest outloud to where a news agency heard it and reported it. And the words “Cuban airfields” usually mean, well, you know, airfields in Cuba – the object of the Russian interest. The thing airplanes fly off of. The fact that a Russian news agency reported the story about Russia’s interest and Cuba’s airfields, while also mentioning strategic bombers, kind of ties it all together and gives the statement some credibility over and above Larison’s hand-wave of dismissal. It certainly makes it more than a “non-story”.

Well, yes.


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“If you look at the FACTS, this “announcement” was in response to Bush policy.”), but you have no idea what Russia thinks about The Precedent, in terms of whether he’s weak or strong? Is that the set of points you are arguing?

Yeah, pretty much. I think Russia would probably have done the same thing if McCain were president because it is a response to US action in their backyard.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:39 AM

And I actually think that if Russia sees the US as weak, it’s because we’re fighting two wars at the moment and they know our military is stretched to its limits. I think that’s part of the reason why they felt they could invade Georgia despite it being a kind of “pet project” of the US. They knew we were in no position to help them militarily (even though it’s doubtful we would have even if were in that position).

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM

Yeah, pretty much.

Okay. So you think that Russian action in the Western Hemisphere has nothing to do with the current occupant of the White House. You don’t think Russia cares who the President is. If you say so.

I think Russia would probably have done the same thing if McCain were president because it is a response to US action in their backyard.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:39 AM

More likely that they would have done this with McCain or less likely?

And, again, they had tons of time, why didn’t they do it while Bush was still in office? I mean, first you argue that they aren’t doing anything at all (a little talk and then backing away is how you described it, right?) but that they couldn’t do this silly little nothing while Bush was President for what reason? It doesn’t make sense, Tom.

progressoverpeace on March 15, 2009 at 11:45 AM

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:33 AM

Reading for content not a strong suit?

After most of last Fall showing a decrease in shrillness (for want of a better term) vis-a-vis Georgia, there has been a large uptick in shrillness since mid-January.

Why?

After a lackluster Russian Navy visit to Venezuela last summer, and conciliatory Russian statements about it being a mere diplomatic event, last summer, Chavez is gettiung heavy on the pro-Russia bandwagon, and then this “hypothetical” voiced by the Deputy Commander of the Russian Air Force Strategic Command, this past week…

Why?

Does not Obama paly into any of this? Or is Obama largely invisible when it comes to ohter nmations making strategic decisions?

If Obama is invisible, then why was not Bush, or Reagan, or Truman, or any other American President similarly invisible?

Russia’s invasion of Georgia was timed for two events…the Olympics when most of the world leaders were in Beijing, and a factional American political season with an American President less focused than he could be/should have been had other world wevents not taken place.

Was Georgia a mere probe? Testing NATO resolve? American resolve? Testing the resolve of a largely unknown Dem candidate? One could easily answer in the affirmative to all of these.

This is Obama’s watch…he owns all of it. All of it. Until 1-20-2013.

coldwarrior on March 15, 2009 at 11:45 AM

I mean, first you argue that they aren’t doing anything at all (a little talk and then backing away is how you described it, right?) but that they couldn’t do this silly little nothing while Bush was President for what reason?

Let me help you try and understand. You and Ed are implicating that Russia waiting for Bush to leave office to make this announcement. But there’s simply no evidence for this. First off, there’s the evidence that Russia felt OK with invading a US ally while Bush was president. Second, this statement seems to be in response to an offer by Chavez. They may have engaged Chavez to get the offer, there could have been negotiations, who knows… but, there are many other reasons aside from Obama being president that this “announcement” came now and not while Bush was still in office, namely Russia and Venezuela had to come to this agreement. I don’t know the logistics of such a deal, but I could imagine is may take months to come to.

But, again, that’s all speculation. But what doesn’t make sense is that you don’t think Russia would say something like this when Bush was in office when Russia invaded a US ally while Bush was in office.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:55 AM

coldwarrior on March 15, 2009 at 11:45 AM

I’m not saying that Obama is invisible in all this. But I am saying that tension between US and Russia rose dramatically while Bush was in office. And this announcement seems like a continuation of that. It’s not like Russia was afraid to test Washington under Bush, then Obama took office and is not saber-rattling. There may be some truth that this is a “test” for Obama. But it seems like this is a route that Russia really does want to go down this road. They quickly downplayed the military’s declaration. To me, it seems like they just floated the idea out there for the US to keep in the back of its mind to help in future negotiations between the two countries.

It’s kind like saying “you want to patrol waters near our country with your warships? well keep in mind that we could move back into the Western Hemisphere if we chose to do so.”

This has more to do with the tensions that escalated between the two countries during the Bush years than it has to do with Obama taking office.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:04 PM

Let me help you try and understand. You and Ed are implicating that Russia waiting for Bush to leave office to make this announcement.

I can’t speak for Ed, but my view is that Russia has seen the incompetence and weakness of the current administration and has started moving in. They don’t fear The Precedent. I wouldn’t, if I were them. The Precedent’s unbelievably moronic trial balloon about trading missile defense in Europe for Russian help restraing Iran pretty much let them know that the idiot messiah is an idiot. I think that Shrillary’s gaffe with the “reset” button (a small and seemingly insignificant event) turned heads around the world. It was clear that the people running the US have no idea what they’re doing, at all. Again, this is what I took away from these events, so I can only assume that others had much the same reactions and thoughts. Even the pathetic attempt to declare a “reset” and apologize all over the place for the nasty nature of our last administration spoke volumes to our enemies and was certainly not lost on Russia.

But there’s simply no evidence for this. First off, there’s the evidence that Russia felt OK with invading a US ally while Bush was president.

Yes, we’ve been through this.

Second, this statement seems to be in response to an offer by Chavez. They may have engaged Chavez to get the offer, there could have been negotiations, who knows…

Well, Chavez was calling Bush “the devil” years ago, so I don’t know that there would have been any problems getting him on the program whenever Russia had thought it a good move.

but, there are many other reasons aside from Obama being president that this “announcement” came now and not while Bush was still in office, namely Russia and Venezuela had to come to this agreement. I don’t know the logistics of such a deal, but I could imagine is may take months to come to.

I thought you said that it was just talk that Russia immediately backed down on?

But, again, that’s all speculation. But what doesn’t make sense is that you don’t think Russia would say something like this when Bush was in office when Russia invaded a US ally while Bush was in office.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:55 AM

You’re hanging it all on the Georgia invasion, which I think coldwarrior covered quite well in terms of the timing, in addition to the arguments I have offered you for that.

progressoverpeace on March 15, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Russia’s invasion of Georgia was timed for two events…the Olympics when most of the world leaders were in Beijing, and a factional American political season with an American President less focused than he could be/should have been had other world wevents not taken place.

This was on Bush’s watch. Russia invaded a U.S. ally while Bush was president. Couldn’t you just as easily — in fact more easily — say this shows they think the US president was weak?

Throwing some rhetoric out there that no one thinks they are serious on following through on and invading a US ally are at the very least on the same level of provocation — and the invasion is clearly more of a provocative act than this latest rhetoric. As I said, looking at the facts, this is more an escalation of the tensions that were started under Bush than Russia seeing a new “weak” leader and deciding to provoke the US.

You guys seem to have amnesia about the events that brought us to this point. And you’ll use any excuse to bolster your narrative that Obama is weak, facts and reason be damned. And this is not criticizing a president. this is deliberately trying to undermine his power. You’re ignoring facts and reasons and trying to paint him as a weak leader. That’s inexcusable.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:19 PM

Tom,

Let me ask you one other simple question; what actions or policies has The Precedent taken to demonstrate strength in foreign policy? Just one or two examples will suffice. I can name tons of examples of incompetence and weakness, but I’m not sure that any examples exist for the other side of the equation. (And you can’t use anything about Iraq or Afghanistan/Pakistan for examples of strength, not that any exist anyway, since you have already argued that our being embroiled in those conflicts is interpreted as weakness)

progressoverpeace on March 15, 2009 at 12:20 PM

progressoverpeace on March 15, 2009 at 12:20 PM

I’m not going to get into an analysis over Obama’s foreign policy two months into his administration. What I’m discussing here is the logic you guys are using IN THE SPECIFIC CASE to paint Obama as weak. The logic you are using is faulty and flat out wrong. And you guys are deliberately trying to make the president look bad, fact be damned.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:27 PM

The logic you are using is faulty and flat out wrong.

You already said that you have no idea if the world views The Precedent as weak or strong, so how could you possibly know if my logic is “flat out wrong” or not?

And you guys are deliberately trying to make the president look bad, fact be damned.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:27 PM

LOL. Like I said before, was I trying to make him look incredibly stupid by forcing him to say “profit and earnings ratios” or telling him to buy DVD’s for Gordon Brown, or telling him to have the US prostrate ourselves in front of Iran, or running around apologizing to the whole world for the terrible character of the last administration, … and on and on and on. And, as you pointed out, it’s only been two months.

BTW, do you think that Russia looked at the totally different reactions from McCain and the idiot messiah, during the Georgian invasion, and came to any different conclusions about the two and how Russian policy would depend on which one won the election?

progressoverpeace on March 15, 2009 at 12:42 PM

And you guys are deliberately trying to make the president look bad, fact be damned.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Hang in there, Tom. You only have 3+ years remaining to keep sticking fingers in the dike leaks. I’ll bet it seems like an eternity, doesn’t it?

a capella on March 15, 2009 at 1:01 PM

I honestly don’t know. He’s been in office for two months. I haven’t seen anything that would suggest the world thinks he’s weak or strong.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:24 AM

Says the blind man to his deaf wife…

right2bright on March 15, 2009 at 1:08 PM

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:19 PM

You little Tom foolery…could you define the term “sabre rattling”?
Russia is doing three things, first, what I just mentioned, second to see how weak or strong our defenses are…and three, how committed is Obama to protecting our sovereignty?
Now you may want to wait for a Russian bomber to enter our air space to test our defenses…I prefer we take steps to counter that…when do you shoot down a Russian bomber, over Miami, over Houston, over D.C.?
No one wants to be put in that position, especially Obama…he has about 10 minutes to decide what to do…it’s 3 am…

right2bright on March 15, 2009 at 1:15 PM

Russia invaded a U.S. ally while Bush was president. Couldn’t you just as easily — in fact more easily — say this shows they think the US president was weak?

of course not, because of the U.S./Bush response that fully negated Putin’s plan for conquest of Georgia and assassination of Saakashvilli. Now, if it was obama on the other hand, who showed marked mealy mouth weakness and moral equivocation between an agressor (russia) and victim (Georgia) in his response, the result was going to be much different.

I’m not going to get into an analysis over Obama’s foreign policy two months into his administration.

there is absolutely no reason not to get into analysis of Obama’s foreign policy from day one of his administration. He is not going to get a pass just because his cheerleaders want him to.

runner on March 15, 2009 at 1:17 PM

The logic you are using is faulty and flat out wrong. And you guys are deliberately trying to make the president look bad, fact be damned.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:27 PM

Tom, he can’t choose major cabinet members, what makes you think he can make these important decisions.
His first and “only man” for the job of treasure is a complete failure, others have tax problems, and many won’t serve under him…if he can’t make these basic decisions correctly, how can anyone have faith in much more important decisions.
I mean just today is announcing he is going to tax health care, something he attacked McCain for suggesting…He doesn’t have a clue, and when he does, he can’t be depended on to keeping his word.
We have to rely on history, not faith like you, and his history is: Breaking campaign promises, not being able to find people to fill cabinet positions, concerning himself with talk show hosts, forming committees to attack his political opponents, promising “daylight” and signing the most important economic bill in the past 50 years in the dark of night with no debate.

You have faith in him, we are using actual history:

…and his recent history shows a man incapable of holding a promise, making a decision on his own, choosing strong leaders to guide him, and an unusual interest in radio talk show hosts…

right2bright on March 15, 2009 at 1:22 PM

Russia invaded a U.S. ally while Bush was president. Couldn’t you just as easily — in fact more easily — say this shows they think the US president was weak?

If you were honest and you are not.
You would have stated Bush’s response, and Obama’s response…
Obama had no idea what to do…Bush made an definitive stand with Georgia.
Obama waffled for several days, you must remember what a stink that made…the first real indication of Obama’s lack of political understanding, and it showed his strength.
Look back, Tommy, and study what happened to Kennedy after his first talk with Russia. They ridiculed his weakness, and withing weeks went ahead with the Berlin wall.

right2bright on March 15, 2009 at 1:26 PM

It is kind of sad that we have neither a president nor a secretary of state right now.

Vashta.Nerada on March 15, 2009 at 1:28 PM

It is kind of sad that we have neither a president nor a secretary of state right now.

Vashta.Nerada on March 15, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Thats a bit of a stretch.

ernesto on March 15, 2009 at 2:07 PM

It is kind of sad that we have neither a president nor a secretary of state right now.

Vashta.Nerada on March 15, 2009 at 1:28 PM

Thats a bit of a stretch.

ernesto on March 15, 2009 at 2:07 PM

But only a bit. LOL

ddrintn on March 15, 2009 at 2:20 PM

Can I imagine Russia messing with Bush like this? Well no. Bush would hypothetically threaten to destroy said bases.

Terrye on March 15, 2009 at 5:36 PM

Heh…I’m reminded of SecDef Gates’ comment on the Russian “Blackjack” bombers in January:

“It’s important for us to keep perspective about their capabilities,” he said.

“When they complained about our escorting their Blackjack bombers to Venezuela, I wanted to say that we just wanted to be along there for search and rescue if they needed it.”

Pilgrim on March 15, 2009 at 5:44 PM

Thats a bit of a stretch.

ernesto on March 15, 2009 at 2:07 PM

It is a bit of a stretch. We certainly have those positions filled and I would wager the people in those positions have led directly to the moves by Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba.

Pilgrim on March 15, 2009 at 5:49 PM

this is more an escalation of the tensions that were started under Bush

Actually, the tensions started under Clinton. In fact, the Russians were apoplectic when Clinton made war on their cousins the Serbs. Clinton then promised them a strong post-war role. When the time came, he totally stiffed them. That made them even madder. That’s why the Russians are screwing with us.

It’s true that Bush never helped the situation, especially when he established military bases in the former Soviet central asian posessions, supported the nationhood of Kosovo and proposed to base an anti-missile defense in Poland.

Bush never corrected the situation but the real damage was done by Bill Clinton.

lonesomecharlie on March 15, 2009 at 6:18 PM

I repeat what I said in the Hillary embarrasses herself thread:

Nikita Khrushchev is laughing in his grave.

Apparently the Obama plan to distract our enemies for 4 years with uproarious laughter at his ineptitude isn’t working out.

BKennedy on March 15, 2009 at 7:26 PM

Hillarybeast - take that button and shove it.

Branch Rickey on March 15, 2009 at 9:10 PM

Just Great!

Cuban Missile Crisis Redux.

This is troubling to say the least.

conservnut on March 15, 2009 at 9:24 PM

Is the Zero going to enforce the Monroe doctrine or not? No foreign powers in the western hemisphere.

cjs1943 on March 15, 2009 at 11:21 PM

Who is BARRY SOETORO?

BHO Jonestown on March 16, 2009 at 2:32 AM

Obama’s first reaction will of course be to advise America to act with restraint.

darktood on March 16, 2009 at 3:02 AM

Obama’s first reaction will of course be to advise America to act with restraint.

darktood on March 16, 2009 at 3:02 AM

Even worse. Much worse. Just look up-thread a bit at what Tom_Shipley was saying, over and over and over. He views this as a Russian reaction to US aggression. Forget restraint. We’re going into full back-down mode, on all fronts.

progressoverpeace on March 16, 2009 at 3:08 AM

I agree with your first paragraph, but what Ed and others are trying to say is that Russia wouldn’t try this sort of thing with Bush in office. And that the only reason Russia made this announcement was that Obama is weak. It’s just plain ridiculous.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 11:14 AM

They made this announcement shortly after Zero offered to delay the missile defense shield in exchange for help dealing with Iran.

Russia said they couldn’t help with Iran – but as long as Obama is throwing out the missile defense system as a negotiating chip the Russians counter with this.

Worst case scenario they use this as a chip to get Zero to delay the missile shield without actually giving up anything at all.

Putin wins. Zero gets played.

Mr Purple on March 16, 2009 at 4:13 AM

But I am saying that tension between US and Russia rose dramatically while Bush was in office. And this announcement seems like a continuation of that.

Tom_Shipley

But, Obama’s election was supposed to usher in an era of peace and understanding among all nations, right? I mean, if Russia’s still going to be mad at us when we get rid of the cowboy, then what’s the point of switching to the lefty?

hawksruleva on March 16, 2009 at 9:11 AM

And you guys are deliberately trying to make the president look bad, fact be damned.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:27 PM
LOL. Like I said before, was I trying to make him look incredibly stupid by forcing him to say “profit and earnings ratios” or telling him to buy DVD’s for Gordon Brown, or telling him to have the US prostrate ourselves in front of Iran, or running around apologizing to the whole world for the terrible character of the last administration, … and on and on and on. And, as you pointed out, it’s only been two months.

progressoverpeace on March 15, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Don’t forget the 57 states comment. And the Caterpillar hiring mixup. And the Bill Richardson nomination.

hawksruleva on March 16, 2009 at 9:18 AM

And you guys are deliberately trying to make the president look bad, fact be damned.

Tom_Shipley on March 15, 2009 at 12:27 PM
LOL. Like I said before, was I trying to make him look incredibly stupid by forcing him to say “profit and earnings ratios” or telling him to buy DVD’s for Gordon Brown, or telling him to have the US prostrate ourselves in front of Iran, or running around apologizing to the whole world for the terrible character of the last administration, … and on and on and on. And, as you pointed out, it’s only been two months.

progressoverpeace on March 15, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Don’t forget the 57 states comment. And the Caterpillar hiring mixup. And the Bill Richardson nomination.

hawksruleva on March 16, 2009 at 9:18 AM

Or when he tried to enter the Oval Office thru a window, or confusing Ottowa and Iowa, Sunrise and Sunshine, Souix Falls and Souix City, 10,000 dead in a Kansas tornado (it was 12 people), the Selma comments, the uncle who liberated Auschiwtz, the bumbling ‘what they’ll say is’ video, the ‘my muslim faith’ comment.

The guy is in so far over his head it isn’t even funny.

He can’t even be honest about who he is because he has built his entire life on lies, deceit, selling propaganda and manipulating of the cracks in the system.

Mr Purple on March 16, 2009 at 9:38 AM

Geez, seems like the foreign adversaries are closing in on all fronts, now that Obama’s in charge. Have to wonder how far he’ll compromise our security before he wises up.

His response to the Russians moving into Cuba will no doubt be ‘Kumbayah.”

Probably the Jihadists will pounce on us too, once they stop laughing at our incompetence and lethal naivite’.

petefrt on March 16, 2009 at 9:39 AM

Russia now says they may start basing bombers in Venezuela — and Cuba:

Ed Morrissey

Oh I hope they do, what sweet targets they would be.

Maxx on March 21, 2009 at 4:16 PM

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