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Putin Bases Down South
Russia Turns Gaze to Latin Autocrats

Vladimir Putin has a knack for cozying up to illegitimate regimes. Butcher Assad, Raúl Castro, and now-former President Yanukovych all call Russia their friend. Now it looks like Putin is ready to add new comrades to the list.

A Venezuelan news site, El Nacional, claims that Russia is in the final stages of cementing an agreement with Venezuela to set up military bases there. Unsurprisingly, Maduro’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in recent days doesn’t bother the Kremlin. Citing Russian Defense Minister Serguéi Shoigú, the report mentions that Russia is also working on agreements for bases in Cuba and Nicaragua, which has seen its fair share of repression under an increasingly authoritarian President.

This means a few things. Back home, Putin is trying to bolster his narrative that Russia is back on top. His KGB background ensures that he understands the value of cheap publicity in foreign policy, and headlines like these make him look taller (or a little less short) than he is. But he has sided with the B-listers in Maduro and Castro; bigger players like Mexico and Brazil don’t seem to be interested.

That Russia is building ties with the least democratic and most anti-American governments in the hemisphere should help us as we gaze into his eyes and try to see his soul. He doesn’t actually like us very much, and doesn’t wish us well. This kind of stuff is particularly problematic for the two flexibility experts in DC—Kerry and Obama—who have consistently reached out to Russia in hopes of a better or at least more pragmatic understanding.

It’s hard to think of many goals that the Obama administration has pursued so consistently as the reset with Russia. News like this reminds us that it may have all been in vain.

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  • Fat_Man

    I don’t suppose the current administration is interested in the Monroe Doctrine. Feckless bunch of dweebs.

    • Jim__L

      They’re all about Change. The Monroe Doctrine is so old-fashioned!

      Hope, too, that everything will be OK without any effort on the US’s part.

  • Jim__L

    “He doesn’t actually like us very much, and doesn’t wish us well.”

    … and he knows we won’t do much of anything about it.

  • znanab

    More power to Putin and Russia, then. If setting up second-rate bases in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua is what Putin fancies, well let him. Those are truly great nations, right? Let’s hope this latest venture turns into another “win over Obama” just as Syria and Ukraine have turned out to be great “wins” for Putin.

    Even when facts on the ground clearly point to Putin losing his marbles, as long as he is up against the “feckless” Obama (in some minds), he must be winning. We can all see how Putin has succeeded in transforming Syria (with the Tartus Naval Base) into a shining example for Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua to follow. And who can fail to see Putin’s great diplomatic success in Ukraine. Any day now they will be naming streets after him in Kiev, right?

  • lukelea

    For a most extraordinary inside look at how Russian society really works look at this congressional testimony by American journalist Anne Williamson

  • qet

    Not to trivialize the matter, but maintaining a credible world-wide military presence requires a kind and level of domestic economic and social organization that Russia does not appear to have, just as the USSR before it didn’t have. Military bases, especially naval ones, and a modern naval force generally, is an extremely complex and expensive proposition, both technically and financially. I really don’t see how Russia can build and maintain such a force and deploy it credibly to all of these places. They are certainly able to get an outstanding PR return on their investment, though. But such a return is ephemeral, I think.

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