Hugo And Vladimir Make A Deal

Bosom BuddiesIn the age of terrorism, the international arms bazaar is alive and well. While George W Bush myopically marches forward in his War on Terror, the rest of the world is quietly arming themselves and taking sides. Last week, America’s "strategic partner" and George W Bush’s soul mate Vladimir Putin inked a $3 billion arms deal with the always-entertaining Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Washington protested feebly as Moscow counted the money.

In a multi-year deal, Venezuela will purchase 24 Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets and 53 military helicopters. In addition, Venezuela will begin manufacturing Kalishnakov rifles under license from Russia. There are also reports that Venezuela plans to purchase surface-to-air missiles and a submarine from Russia in the future. This new deal comes on the heels of a deal signed with Russia last year for 100,000 AK-47s and 10 military helicopters. Like the current deal, the previous deal also faced feeble protests from the United States.

Russia isn’t alone in selling arms to the oil rich South American country. Last year even Spain got in on the act by selling Chavez naval patrol vessels and transport planes for "peaceful purposes". It goes without saying that the United States complained to Spain about the arms sale and was promptly ignored.

The United States has imposed a unilateral arms embargo on Venezuela to try to squeeze Mr. Chavez. Predictably, the arms embargo opened the door to the rest of the world to feast on Venezuela’s vast oil wealth. Venezuela is purchasing the Russian fighter jets to specifically replace American F-16s that it now possesses. With no spare parts available for the F-16s, it was only a matter of time before Venezuela found a more willing arms pusher.

Enter Vladimir Putin. Since taking office he has increased Russian arms exports by 70%. The revamped Russian arms export business brings much needed revenue into the Russian economy. While the United States busies itself by selling arms to allies in the War on Terror such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan, Vladimir Putin’s Russia picks up the slack by supplying arms to China, India, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Myanmar and the Palestinians. There is no ethics in the arms business. It is a profit-driven multi-billion dollar industry that has littered the 20th century with the deaths of millions. Now the same stellar record of death and conflict all over the Third World continues unabated in the 21st century. The wars and politics have changed, but the profit motive remains the same.

While each side accuses the other of arming countries that commit human rights abuses, the only sure result is a better-armed world. Russia, for its part, says that by selling arms to some states the United States might consider disreputable, it is violating no international embargoes or laws:

Russia says it abides strictly by international embargoes, and does not engage in trade with banned regimes. But rights groups criticize it for not unilaterally limiting itself.

The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) says Russia has sold weapons to states whose forces have committed abuses. "In Russia’s export control system, there is virtually no reference to controlling arms exports for reasons connected with respect for international human rights and humanitarian law," the network of agencies said in a June briefing paper.

While the United States obsesses over the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction, it is the proliferation of small arms in the Third World that poses the greatest threat to the average citizen of the world. Not surprisingly, the Bush Administration opposes any treaty banning the trade in small arms because it may weaken its stance on the Second Amendment.

By itself, the Venezuelan arms deal does not pose an immediate national security risk to the United States. However, it does pose a long-term challenge to the stability of the region as Venezuela modernizes its armed forces and sets up its own arms manufacturing capability. Inevitably, if left unchecked, Venezuela will become an exporter of arms to other countries in the region. Given Chavez’s well-known distaste for the Bush Administration, the possibility of miscalculation exists both in Caracas and in Washington. Furthermore, with characters like Otto Reich and Elliot Abrams in the Bush Administration, any apparent provocation from Venezuela might trigger a neo-con fantasy war in South America. Having failed in 2002 to overthrow Chavez, the neo-cons in the Bush Administration would love to get another crack at him.

Now is the time for tough and nuanced diplomacy with Venezuela to diffuse what could become, without active diplomacy, a serious national security issue for the United States. However, I am not optimistic that the Bush Administration is capable of preemptive diplomacy. Its Doctrine of Preemption is strictly military. The irony of course is that by following its doctrine, the Bush Administration ignores the very diplomacy that would have prevented the need for preemptive war. Having proved its value in the Middle East, the Bush Administration is likely to bring its failed Doctrine to South America.

Here’s to hoping that time runs out on this Administration before a regional concern turns into a regional war.

[Cross posted at Taylor Marsh]

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6 Responses to Hugo And Vladimir Make A Deal

  1. Ingrid says:

    Gee, doesn’t it kind of remind you of the Cold War without the ‘cold’ part ?? 🙁 (obviously you recuperated from a very late night!!;) ) I have been thinking more and more of the fact that this is THE time for Independents to step up and break up the democratic party. (what???) If you want politics with more integrity, and with a politician on no ones’ payroll except the voters’ of this country, I honestly advocate a change of politics that will tackle the worlds’ and economic issues with wisdom and also pragmaticism. Diplomacy would be a big part of that since corporations would not own anyone. This is my hope for the demise of this Bush regime (as in, a stop to republican control with the democrats feeble counter pointing, two sides of the same coin) and a turn back to the kind of US that people respected. All this arms proliferation is crazy, it is a veritable return (or had it ever gone away??) of Cold War politics, pitting one side of the globe against another, and any one in between is playing with fire if they want to stay neutral; you’re either with us, or against us!
    Ingrid (remembering being a fearful teenager that some dumbass in the US or Russia would wipe her little frog country of the map)

  2. Group Captain Mandrake says:

    Ingrid–sounds good in theory, but no one has ever been able to “blow up a party” and put the pieces back into a power base overnight–it takes DECADES. Fragmentation and division among the opposition is what the Re-thuglicans want MORE THAN ANYTHING now! That’s why you have a lot of independents and moderate republicans registering and intending to vote democratic now…

    In other words, you don’t split into factions on the eve of re-taking power–unless you don’t really want a change that is! I agree that a new course is needed by the Dems…but I think they need to get into a branch of govt. before we can start thinking about new directions. It’s useless to talk strategically from the sidelines, as even gutless punks like Rove know…that’s why the few changes we’ve seen in the GOP (throwing a minimum-wage bone poisoned with a permanent estate tax cut) are only cosmetic and designed for November. If they manage to hold on, it’ll be same ol’ same ol’.

    So, as disappointed as the Democrats have often left me, after 6 years of the GOP in complete power, I’d vote for a can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli if it was running against a Republican in my district. It’s time for a change in government first and foremost.

  3. Mash says:

    Ingrid, such is the dilemma for the Democrats these days. I said earlier that this is a winning political story for Bush and the Republicans because it splits the Dems.

    I agree with Mandrake that we still cannot afford for the Republicans to control both the Congress and the Presidency. They are running this country into the ground.

    I will support the Dems in the November election – if only to try to get the Congress back. Then they have two years to prove to me that they are not Republican lite. Otherwise they do not get my vote in the Presidential election.

    I can live with the Congress in Democratic hands and the Presidency in Republican hands. It will cause less damage that way. But I will not contribute to giving the Dems both branches of government until they show some leadership and backbone.

    Thats my two cents on the domestic politics of this.

    I intend to write something about Lamont-Lieberman in the next few days. To clean up the Dems we need to jettison the likes of Lieberman. The Connecticut primary will be a good start.

  4. bharath says:

    because it may weaken its stance on the Second Amendment.

    Rarely in history has US ever applied the same rule it has applied to other nations to itself. Recently I read in an East African newspaper about the militia situation in Somalia, and the main concern expressed was the rampant and loose access to small weapons in the black market.

    I am only reminded by Cornel West’s remarks on Bush approach to terrorism

    I quote from this page:

    The ugly terrorist attacks on innocent civilians on 9/11 plunged the whole country into the blues. Never before have Americans of all classes, colors, regions, religions, genders, and sexual orientations felt unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hated. Yet to have been designated and treated as a nigger in America for over 350 years has been to feel unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hated. The high point of the black response to American terrorism (or niggerization) is found in the compassionate and courageous voice of Emmett Till’s mother, who stepped up to the lectern at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago in 1955 at the funeral of her fourteen-year-old son, after his murder by American terrorists, and said: “I ­don’t have a minute to hate. I’ll pursue justice for the rest of my life.” And that is precisely what Mamie Till Mobley did until her death in 2003. Her commitment to justice had nothing to do with naïveté. When Mississippi officials tried to keep any images of Emmett’s brutalized body out of the press—his head had swollen to five times its normal size—Mamie Till Mobley held an ­open-­casket service for all the world to see. That is the essence of the blues: to stare painful truths in the face and persevere without cynicism or pessimism.

    Much of the future of democracy in America and the world hangs on grasping and preserving the rich democratic tradition that produced the Douglasses, Kings, Coltranes, and Mobleys in the face of terrorist attacks and cowardly assaults. Since 9/11 we have experienced the niggerization of America, and as we struggle against the imperialistic arrogance of the us-versus-them, revenge-­driven policies of the Bush administration, we as a blues nation must learn from a blues people how to keep alive our deep democratic energies in dark times rather than resort to the tempting and easier response of militarism and authoritarianism.

  5. Mash says:

    bharat, thank you for that. I have read about the brutal crime against Emmett. Terrorism has always been here. Now it just has a foreign flavor. Hate has a heck of a lot of receptacles it can hide in.

  6. Group Captain Mandrake says:

    Thanks for that interesting take, bharath…I wouldn’t have thought of it that way, but it makes a lot of sense…

    Just as background…the Till case first exposed the civil rights injustice to me more than anything else, even the murders of King or Evers. When I was a little kid I just couldn’t get my head around someone being tortured and killed MERELY FOR WHISTLING at someone (hell, I still can’t quite get it)…anyone who wants to know what it’s like to live as a second-class citizen under a brutal, fascist regime with no respect for humanity or decency can just ask any black person who grew up in the deep south…they’ll get an earful! Like my man Mash says, now THAT’S terrorism defined.

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