Monday, September 8, 2008

Cuba #2: Russia's Second Imperialist Move

Hugo Chavez is again doing his best to piss off the U.S., and Russia in its spasm of nationalism is only too happy to oblige him by sending their warships to do joint exercises in the Caribbean.

Legal, but calculated to annoy us. The formula for Chavez's foreign policy is essentially "What will make me look best to the Venezuelan and Latin American man in the street, thereby ensuring my hold on power? Calling the U.S. names, that's what!" And so he does - but such a foreign policy becomes a little stale after not too long, and his pretend populism has become a little suspicious to some of his neighbors, especially since his adventurism with terrorists in Colombia was revealed (not even by the U.S. - by Interpol).

Over the short term, Russia's behavior (in Ossetia, with Iran, and now with Venezuela) does make it more of a threat to democracy than my favorite target China. China is a long-term concern that should and can become a constructive partner for the rest of the world if its government transitions to a democracy. Like a fever, Russia is self-limiting. It has resources and little else, and it's been losing population every year since the Soviet Union Collapsed. It does not threaten to overtake the US as the world's economic center of gravity. And its military can only do so much. Its recent behavior (and that of its stooges like Venezuela) is self-limited because it is (to put it mildly) not welcomed even by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, many of whose members are (to put it mildly) not democracies. China is obviously not interested in encouraging the independence of subordinated ethnic-minority provinces in other nations (as with South Ossetia leaving Georgia to be annexed by Russia). And even tchough the EU's message is as always tumultuously debated, it's a strong anti-Russia response, even in the case of the Germans. The world has lined up against Russia.

I should add that in the long-term, the Georgian action badly cools Russia and China's tenuous strategic partnership, which is of course is good news in the long-term. Yu Bin's classic, stilted Chinese Communist Party-style column in the Asia Times predictably (and poorly) plays damage control trying to convince us that the relationship is still solid. , in the process reassuring the West that it no longer is. What can we do? Don't buy gas at Citgo, the Venezuelan oil company.

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