While everyone is focused on the Ukraine and eastern Europe, Vladimir Putin has also been projecting Russian power into our own backyard:
Away from the conflict in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is quietly seeking a foothold in Latin America, military officials warn.
To the alarm of lawmakers and Pentagon officials, Putin has begun sending navy ships and long-range bombers to the region for the first time in years.
Russia’s defense minister says the country is planning bases in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and just last week, Putin’s national security team met to discuss increasing military ties in the region.
“They’re on the march,” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said at a Senate hearing earlier this month. “They’re working the scenes where we can’t work. And they’re doing a pretty good job.”
Gen. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command said there has been a “noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel” in Latin America.
“It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence,” Kelly said at the March 13 hearing.
Less obviously, but for a longer time, China too has been establishing a presense in the region:
“In Venezuela, a lot of the money that’s been able to prop up President Chavez and now Maduro has been Chinese money,” Kelly said.
But the push by Russia has implications which can’t be ignored, especially its attempt to establish bases in its old client states when it was the USSR.
Meanwhile, Latin America certainly hasn’t been much of a priority for the US:
According to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), there are 10 countries in Latin America that currently have no U.S. ambassador because they either haven’t been nominated yet or confirmed, a sign that the region is seen as a low priority.
Another sign of an inept foreign policy. If we don’t move quickly to correct the situation, the outcome is pretty easy to predict:
“We will be losing the ability to influence developments in a region that is very important to us because of proximity,” Rabasa said.
Indeed. Likely these warning will be waved off as alarmism until it is too late. And it will then tally as another failure in a long line of foreign policy failures by this administration.