Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
The thought of Russian warships cruising the waters of the Caribbean instinctively revives memories of such Cold War episodes as the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Russia is sending a heavily armed nuclear-powered cruiser and other ships, aircraft and troops for a joint naval exercise with Venezuela, its first big manoeuvres in the United States’ self-declared backyard since the end of the Cold War.
It is extremely unlikely the deployment will provoke a crisis as dangerous and dramatic as 1962, but it is still an irritant to Washington.
Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez has replaced Fidel Castro’s Cuba as its chief bugbear in Latin America.
He was a suave central banker and she a “gas princess”, a young politician desperate to make her mark. In 1998 Yulia Tymoshenko, now Ukraine’s prime minister, said she knew her destiny lay with Viktor Yushchenko, who went on to become president.
“We understood that we are a team,” she said at that time.
It’s an assertion Yushchenko disputes — a clash of views that has defined this partnership since they overturned a Soviet-style leadership in the 2004 “Orange Revolution” and vowed a modern, Western future for Ukraine’s 47 million people.
“Stop Russia,” says the first. The second is a quotation from British World War Two leader Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”
Tension is mounting around the Black Sea following Russia’s recognition of two Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent states.
Russia said its navy was monitoring ”the build-up of NATO forces in the Black Sea area” as the U.S. Navy shipped humanitarian supplies to Georgia on Wednesday.
The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were celebrating on Tuesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognising the independence of the two regions.
Western leaders responded with harsh words. U.S. President George W. Bush said it increased world tensions and Britain called for “the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” where the two regions lie.
At the time the faultlines between Russian and British imperial interests ran from the Balkans through the Crimea and the Caucasus to Central Asia and Afghanistan. That is remarkably similar to some of the faultlines creating upheavals today.
Western support for the opposition — open and behind the scenes – helped many people overcome fear of Soviet-style reprisals to stand for days outside Georgia’s parliament in 2003 or to pitch orange tents on Kiev’s main thoroughfare in late 2004, providing a lasting image of “people power” overthrowing a stale leadership.
It is hard not to view Poland’s decision to accept the U.S. missile shield in the context of tensions over Georgia – a point Russia, which loathes the project, was quick to make.
And although Warsaw and Washington dismiss the idea and diplomats say a compromise on the long-negotiated deal was hammered out before Russia’s intervention in the Caucasus, there is no smoke without fire.
There was an awkward moment on Sunday, when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stood next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Tbilisi and thanked her for having “initiated” plans to bring his country into NATO.
Anyone who followed NATO’s last summit in Bucharest back in April knows that it was Merkel who broke with Washington and spearheaded opposition to such a move.
In 2001 President George W. Bush famously declared that he had looked into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eyes and got a sense of his soul. He invited the Russian leader to his parents’ seaside estate
in Kennebunkport, Maine, where the former Texas oilman and ex-KGB spy went fishing and ate lobster. Bush then visited the Russian leader at his vacation villa in the Black Sea resort in Sochi, all to repair a friendship that had developed cracks.