Russia and Venezuela are to hold a joint naval exercise later this year. As well as sending the Peter the Great (Pyotr Velikiy), one of Russia’s nuclear powered heavy cruisers, it was announced that a Russian anti-submarine plane would also be temporarily deployed to a Venezuelan airbase.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed the exercise in his weekly address to the nation. Clearly delighted, if somewhat deranged, Chavez told his northern Pig-Dog neighbours to:
“Go ahead and squeal, Yankees.”
Hmmm. The US responded by wheeling out National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, who is clearly a man with no sense of humour:
“We’ve seen the reports and we’ll see how the exercise goes.”
Anyway, moving on to the substance of the story… the announcement comes just days after a US warship delivered aid to the Georgian port of Poti. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had announced that this American provocation would be met with an ‘unspecified’ Russian response, and lots of people are speculating that this is Russia’s response – ‘you send warships to visit our crazy democratic neighbour, we’ll send warships to visit your crazy dictatorial neigbour’.
A Russian spokesman denied that these exercises were part of a tit for tat naval slanging match though, claiming that the exercises had been planned for some time. So, of course, we can only conclude that Chavez’s announcement this week was entirely co-incidental.
Co-incidence or not, if I was the US government, I wouldn’t be all that bothered by news of this joint naval exercise. After all, Russia is just cosying up to South America’s most oddball leader, and if Chavez and Castro are the only people in the Americas that they can do business with, then Russian stock clearly isn’t all that high. I’d be more concerned if Russia were to announce naval exercises with a major South / Central American state, like Brazil, Argentina or Mexico, as this would mean Russia is gaining enough respectability on the world stage for otherwise responsible countries to start going against the Monroe Doctrine.
Instead of worrying, US naval analysts are more likely to be squealing with joy at the prospect of a prime chance to spy on the Russian navy.