Dangerous games

Friends, partners, and comrades
Friends, partners, and comrades. Landlord and tenant? Nyet.

“The Venezuelan geographical space is an area of peace. No foreign power or coalition may establish foreign military bases nor any other kind of military-purpose installations.”

That is part of Article 13 of the Venezuelan Constitution, and it is crystal clear. Which is why the news that Russia was looking to build military bases in, among other places, Venezuela, came as such a shocker.

The foreign media has taken these comments with a heavy dose of alarm. For example, here is Mary Anastasia O’Grady in today’s WSJ:

“On Wednesday, as Venezuelan strongman Nicólas Maduro was promising more repression to crush relentless student protests, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters that Moscow plans to put military bases in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. A few days later a Russian spy ship arrived in Havana harbor unannounced.

The usual Cold War suspects are back. More accurately, they never left. Former KGB officer Vladimir Putin is warning President Obama that Russia can make trouble in the Americas if the U.S. insists on solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Meanwhile, Latin America’s aging Marxists are lining up behind Mr. Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chávez.”

The possibility that Russia might plant itself on Venezuelan soil is certainly dangerous. At a time when the Cold War has never shown more signs of springing back to life, with Putin invading his neighbor and the US finding itself at odds with how to deal with him, the Russian President’s ambition is to stir the American pot as much as he can. If he can get away with military bases in Latin America, he will.

The problem is that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua has already said that, no, according to the Constitution, Russia cannot have a military base in Venezuela.

Could Jaua and Maduro go back on their word? Absolutely. But in the meantime, we need to be careful about stirring up old ghosts and nonexistent threats.

I’m no expert on the Cold War, but if there is one thing we learned from it, it’s that countries like ours were treated as roadkill in the bloody games played by higher powers. We need to nip this idea of Russian military bases in the bud, and prevent it from escalating. It’s the only responsible thing to do.