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article imageOp-Ed: Russia pushes back at West with plans for bases in Latin America

By Ken Hanly     May 20, 2014 in World
Moscow - The Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu has announced a plan to establish military bases in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
Negotiations with the three countries also will permit Russia to use infrastructure and refueling sites. These moves are intended to increase Russian presence in Latin America. The US has a presence in Ecuador and Honduras and reactivated its fourth fleet in 2008 to establish a base in Colombia.
The Russian moves have raised concerns in the US, which would like to retain Latin America in its own exclusive sphere of influence while at the same time it has expanded its own influence in countries in Eastern Europe that actually border Russia.
General John Kelly of the US Southern Command claimed that Russia's sudden increase in military expansion in these areas deserve close attention. He claimed that Russian motives were unclear. The moves could very well be in part a response to western influence on their western borders and to build a counter force to US projection of power in Latin America. US thinking on Latin America still seems to be influenced by the Monroe Doctrine.
Kelly also warned that China together with Iran and Russia are trying hard to increase both their presence and influence in Latin America. This is no doubt a sign that those countries that are having conflicts with the US are no longer willing to accept US hegemony throughout the globe and are working hard to promote their own interests around the globe, including helping countries purchase arms from sources other than the US military-industrial complex. Putin plans to send both navy ships and long-range bombers to Latin America for the first time in years. General Kelly said: “They’re on the march. They’re working the scenes where we can’t work. And they’re doing a pretty good job.” Kelly claims there is a "noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel" in the region. He says that this type of increase has not been seen in three decades. Kelly saw the Russian advances as an opportunity to complain about US defense expenditure cuts noting that 200 effective engagement activities and multilateral drills had to be cancelled last year because of lack of funds.
Iran has upped its presence in Latin America as well as China and Russia. Iran opened up 11 additional embassies and 33 cultural centers in Latin America. China is mostly involved in economic activity and Chinese investment is growing at the fastest rate in the region. On the military front the Chinese navy had a goodwill visit to Brazil and also conducted a naval exercise with the Argentine Navy.
Not everyone expressed alarm about Russia's moves in Latin America. Gabriel Marcella of the Army War College said: "Latin America is seen as an opportunity to challenge the United States in terms of global presence. They want to show the flag to assert their presence and say they need to be counted on the world stage." Angel Rabasa, a political scientist at the RAND claimed that cuts to the defense budget will accelerate a trend of neglect and pulling back from Latin American engagement. Perhaps the problem is that the US tries to be the global cop and hegemon and control events everywhere. Not only can it no longer afford to do this, it cannot do it effectively in any event and is bound to be challenged by other global players.
Tim Kaine, a senator from Virginia, pointed out that 10 countries in Latin America at present had no US ambassador because they had not yet been confirmed or in some cases even nominated. He takes this as a sign that Latin America is a low priority for the US.
What seems to be developing is a more multipolar world as the US is simply no longer capable of projecting its power throughout the globe in an attempt to promote its own perceived interests on a global scale. As this happens, the US appears to be confronting other powerful countries such as China and Russia in a manner that will draw them closer together to form a more powerful bloc that could very well erode US influence even more in some areas. However the US is joining together with the EU in a giant trading bloc the TTIP to compete with Russia. A fifth round of talks has already begun in Arlington Virginia but there seems to be little news coverage of them so far: A new round of EU-US trade talks will take place in Arlington, Virginia from 19 to 23 May 2014. The talks are part of a trade and investment deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. A complementary trade deal to challenge China among other purposes will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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