Moscow has apparently decided to set up a military base in the Caribbean Sea. This base would be on the island of La Orchila, roughly 120 miles northeast of Caracas. The recent arrival of two Tu-160 supersonic bombers is for this new base.
This move reportedly is a response to US President Donald Trump’s intent to abandon the Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile treaty signed with the Soviet Union decades ago. This news was reported by Tsarizm.com:
Russia has decided to develop a long-term military presence in the Caribbean in conjunction with the socialist nation of Venezuela, on one of its islands in the Caribbean Sea. The move seems to be a response to the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The recent flights of Russian Tu-160 long-range nuclear bombers are part of this effort.
“According to military envoys, Russian authorities have made a decision (and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro did not object) to deploy strategic aircraft to one of Venezuela’s islands in the Caribbean Sea, which has a naval base and a military airfield. Ten years ago, Russian experts and Armed Forces commanders had already visited the island of La Orchila, located 200 kilometers northeast of Caracas. Venezuelan laws prohibit the setup of military bases in the country, but a temporary deployment of warplanes is possible,” reported Russian state news agency TASS.
“It is the right idea to include Venezuela in long-range aviation missions,” military expert Colonel Shamil Gareyev told the Russian newspaper Novaya Gozeta, adding that it was also economically reasonable. “Our strategic bombers will not only not have to return to Russia every time, but also won’t perform aerial refueling while on a patrol mission in the Americas. Our Tu-160 aircraft arrive to their base in Venezuela, conduct flights, execute their missions and are then replaced on a rotating basis. This is how it should be done.”
“The arrival of Russia’s Tu-160 strategic bombers to Central America is kind of a signal to Trump to make him realize that abandoning nuclear disarmament treaties will have a boomerang effect,” added another Russian military expert.
On December 10 and 11, TASS, the Russian News Agency, reported that two Russian Tu-160 supersonic strategic bombers and other heavy military aircraft were sent to the troubled nation of Venezuela for participation in that country’s joint military drills. However, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used Twitter to slam this action, in most undiplomatic language:
The were greeted by a rather enthusiastic RT reporter in this video:
However, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, used Twitter to slam both Russia and Venezuela for this action, using very undiplomatic language:
#Russia's government has sent bombers halfway around the world to #Venezuela. The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer. pic.twitter.com/bCBGbGtaHT
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 11, 2018
The United States regards the Western Hemisphere as its own “domain”, this due to the attitude espoused by the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, which opposed European colonialism in the Americas. However, Russia is arguably not attempting to make Venezuela a colony – or is it? However, the Tsarizm piece does indicate a Russian response to US intentions.
Before this most recent update, the situation was being treated as more of a diplomatic scandal. On Dec 11, Sputnik News and TASS both reported on the Russian and Venezuelan reactions to Secretary Pompeo’s statement:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments about the deployment of Russian aircraft to Venezuela were not in keeping with his role as the US’s top diplomat, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
“We understand, of course, that the Twitter format does not usually oblige anyone in the United States to anything; users are free to speak out as they please, and decide for themselves whether they wish to step outside the boundaries of elementary decency. However, in this case we are talking about a public figure, therefore such a clear disregard for the norms of diplomatic etiquette cannot just be considered as just a passing episode. What was said by the Secretary of State is unacceptable, not to mention completely unprofessional,” the ministry statement said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Pompeo’s claims “quite a serious accusation,” and said they were “absolutely inappropriate.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called Pompeo’s reaction to the Tu-160 flight “outrageous” and hypocritical, hitting back at the secretary on Twitter.
“@SecPompeo’s reaction to military cooperation between Russia & Venezuela is not only disrespectful but also cynical: the US possesses at least 800 (known) military bases in 70 countries. Today, 75 out of 107 US security assistance programs operate in Latin America.
“It’s outrageous that the US gov’t questions our sovereign right to defense and security cooperation with other countries when @realDonaldTrump has threatened us publicly with a military intervention. If you want to cooperate, lift your sanctions against Venezuela.
“If the US is so concerned about squandering money,it should review its enormous &unjustified military budget of over $674 billion for 2019.Certainly the 50 million poor people and families with no access to health care in the US can suggest a better purpose for those funds”
Sputnik also noted that relations between Washington and Caracas have been poor for almost twenty years, made arguably more bitter by a recent attempt by US-allied political forces to overthrow President Hugo Chavez in 2002. It is certainly the case that Venezuela serves at least as the propaganda straw man for the United States’ viewpoint on domestic security and foreign policy overall in the Western Hemisphere.
Venezuela’s close relations with the Russian Federation, give the two countries a rather unique status as the part of “whipping posts” of the East and West for American foreign policy wonks. Given this set of attitudes, Mike Pompeo’s comments can easily be seen in context, but they are tiring for the Russians, who repeatedly maintain that they do not have hostile intentions towards the West.
Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov offered more comments as covered by TASS:
“It certainly is rather undiplomatic,” he said, commenting on Pompeo’s statements. “We consider this statement to be totally inappropriate,” Peskov added.
He pointed out that US President Donald Trump also could evaluate those statements.
“Perhaps, an evaluation of Mr. Pompeo’s undiplomatic statements will follow in the future,” the Kremlin spokesman said.He noted that Moscow did not agree with Pompeo who had said that the mission was a misuse of public funds. “Moreover, it is not appropriate for a country half of whose defense expenditure would be enough to feed all of Africa’s people to make such statements,” Peskov said. According to him, Russia continues to search for ways to build constructive relations with the United States and expects Washington to respond in kind.