Thursday, September 18, 2008

Venezuelan and Russian interests begin to intersect

"[The United States is confident that its own relations with Western Hemisphere countries] "will in no way be diminished by a few, aging Blackjack bombers visiting one of Latin America's few autocracies." --Sec. of State Condaleeza Rice on the imminent death of the Monroe Doctrine, Ap, 09.18.2008

Caracas, Venezuela--Blackjack, or Applejack? As a point of fact, the "Blackjack bomber" Tu-160 isn't as old as our still-operational B-52 bomber (deployed after 1952), having first been deployed in 1987. The Tu-160 was stationed in the Ukraine, and by its appearance, was a response to the development of the American B-1 bomber. One look at it tells you that it works and that it's a worthy weapons platform, Rice's overblown rhetoric aside.

It's only logical that a nation will begin arming itself because a neighboring country has been illegally invading and destabilizing other nations and has become interventionist again, and that's exactly what Venezuela and Russia are doing these days. They aren't alone in this.

Iran and China are also entering into economic relations and blocs with nations like Venezuela. With American military aggression under the administration of George W. Bush and the last few sessions of Congress at a fever pitch, who could blame any nation for a defense buildup? The American press, of course:

Russia's economic influence is clearly expanding in the Americas. Bolivia announced Thursday that it would sign an oil and natural gas exploration deal with Gazprom. Terms of the deal weren't immediately disclosed.
And Sechin announced that five of Russia's biggest oil companies are looking to form a consortium to increase Latin American operations. State-controlled Rosneft, Lukoil, Gazprom Neft, Surgutneftegaz and TNK-BP hope to build a US$6.5 billion refinery to process Venezuela's tar-like heavy crude, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported. ("Venezuela-Russia ties deepen despite US pressure," AP, 09.18.2008)
Your point? The community of nations has good reason to think that such interventionism will not end with the Bush administration, even with a "President Obama." There are numerous historical precedents in American foreign policy history to believe this, and it has its beginnings in the years before our first great expansion westward.
In his December, 2nd, 1823 speech to the Congress, President James Monroe enunciated the three tenets of what would become known as the Monroe Doctrine, still an inherent-part of the State Department's doctrine towards the Western Hemisphere.
As anyone but Sarah Palin knows, this has meant--in practice--that the United States considers this hemisphere as its own backyard to do with as it will, high flown rhetoric aside. But Monroe wasn't exactly being coy about it. That's because he didn't have to be euphemistic at the time he made his comments. Attitudes have changed some since then, though not in ruling circles, and today the interventionism and the meddling has to be sold to the public in a softer, gentler tone, especially when they're in no mood for yet another intervention at their expense.
Like all land-grabs, it didn't take much for the Monroe Doctrine to embolden immigrants and pioneers to begin streaming as never before past the Appalachians. We can romanticize these folks all we want, but it was all fundamentally illegal and transgressive. In that same 19th century spirit, we look at Venezuela and Bolivia as part of our back yard, just as we still do with Cuba, Haiti, and the rest of this hemisphere. This is finally eroding, but are we are entering a new Imperial age with different players? My own hunch is no, at least in the case of Russia in this region, if not around the Caucasus mountains. However, that part of the world is of great interest to the State Department.
The Putin regime shows more of a tendency at reconstituting the traditional Russian Empire, not the global-wide interventionism of the American State Department. At this point, there is no "Putin Corollary" or a "Putin Doctrine" other than this reconstitution. The record of American foreign policy in this era is interventionist in a way that has no corollary currently.
As Sarah Palin should have known, the Bush Doctrine after late-2002 is to preemptively strike nations deemed a threat by our government, namely decided within the executive branch. This isn't very different from the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine of 1904, where the 26th president expanded the original doctrine to interventionism.
You don't need a Bush Doctrine in South America, invading Venezuela has already been covered withing the bureaucracy for over 100 years. Roosevelt wrote:
All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may lead the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.
Of course, it was all rhetorical rubbish. We wanted our own sphere of influence rather than to spread democracy in throughout the domains of the old empires. At that time, we'd been meddling in Cuba, Venezuela, the Caribbean, and much of the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Once "the apple had dropped from the tree" of European influence, we went right for it, and boldly in the Spanish-American War. Untold atrocities were committed in the name of American Enterprise and Manifest Destiny that are continuing into the present.
But the rhetoric isn't all that different today: we're just always just trying to bring freedom to others, the American lot and "the white man's burden" of spreading a Westernized commerce and civilization. This might have washed with people in other countries 100 years ago as the old European colonial system was disintegrating, but it's laughable today, and why Venezuela and Russia are conducting some very pointed commerce of their own.
Rice's comments on Russian weapons platforms is telling, and can be viewed as a kind of commercial for American weapons contractors. Russia and China are now becoming very competitive at the arms trade, but anyone with even a little knowledge understands that the efficiency of the Ak-47 and the RPG is in how cheap and effective they are on the battlefield against more sophisticated and expensive weaponry. Over a year ago, Venezuela purchased 100,000 Kalashnikovs and is being aided by Russia in constructing a plant to manufacture more of them in the next few years.
These types of cheap and low-tech systems have kept us on our toes in Southeast Asia, Africa, Iraq, and everywhere else America has intervened. War brings-out an untapped ingenuity possible under no other circumstances. The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is a startling example of this, and there have even been examples of exotic weaponry (gold-tipped RPGs) and tactics are being field-tested successfully against the American war machine in the Middle East.
Then, I have to look back at Rice's comments regarding Russian weapons systems: we have a strange way of combining our commercial culture with our political one. We sell expensive-junk weaponry, which is why you have to ply those representatives with so many gifts, meals, drinks, drugs, and women, that they say uncle and give-in to the demands of the war-profiteering sector. So does the press. Why else would be hearing endless stories about the Litvinenko affair, the so-called unilateral "invasion of Georgia," and-so-on. Our crimes simply don't exist. It doesn't matter.
None of this affects the reality on the ground very much these days (just ask the Treasury Secretary), and it's one where the guns are now being pointed-back, a lesson we're trying not to learn from 9/11. We've been bad, so very bad, and the check is coming due. Nations have a right to defend themselves, and we're the initiators of a new arms race. It's our fault, and a few decades of isolationism and a military drawdown would do us a lot of good.
"Venezuela-Russia ties deepen despite US pressure," AP, 09.18.2008:

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