A New York Post columnist and former Bush foreign policy adviser warns that the current Kremlin leadership is trying to extend Russia’s sphere of influence beyond Asia, the Caucuses, and Europe.
Russian warships were recently deployed to Venezuela to coincide with President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Caracas — the first ever by a Russian president. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Russia’s deployment of the naval squadron was "not a provocation," but rather "an exchange between two free countries."
Peter Brookes, a senior fellow for national security affairs at The Heritage Foundation, says Russia is signaling it has interests in Latin America.
"I think it’s to strategically distract the United States. I think it’s a bit of payback for American warships which went into the Black Sea — which Russia considers a Russian lake — during the Georgian crisis a few months ago," he contends. "So I think that there’s a lot of symbolism here in terms of this ship visit. I think it also says that Russia sees itself as a world power; it’s not just a regional power."
A day after the U.S. presidential election, in his first major address since taking office, Russian President Medvedev delivered an extremely anti-American speech. Brookes believes that speech was a signal to the U.S. and the incoming Obama administration.
However, he notes that the Russians have backed down a bit from their "harsh rhetoric" after an Obama foreign policy adviser said the president-elect had not committed to deploying a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.