Just a few days after rumors spread of Russia basing its strategic bombers in Cuba, Hugo Chavez shows up in Moscow trumpeting a strategic partnership to defend against American aggression, while his “friend Vladimir” declares that he wants to strengthen the two countries’ “military and technical” ties. But behind the headlines, the Russians are more motivated to develop an energy partnership with Venezuela, as is demonstrated by the fact that Chavez left Moscow with a handful of energy deals, but no military hardware. The weapons purchases are still in the works, but according to this Kommersant article, Chavez’s ties to the FARC in Colombia, as well as his request for a credit line when gas is at $130 a barrel, aren’t playing very well in Moscow.
But the idea of Russia (or some other power) responding to what it experiences as American encroachments on its borders by trying to extend its influence in the Western Hemisphere is a provocative one, and one that hasn’t really been revisited in the post-Cold War strategic environment. A more savvy (ie. less buffoonish) leader than Chavez, given the same resources and agenda, could use global partnerships to present a much more serious challenge to American interests, and it’s probably only a matter of time before that scenario arises. So much of the foreign policy agenda of the past decade and more has been dominated by the question of when and how America should project its force in faroff corners of the globe. But how does the Monroe Doctrine play out in the 21st century?