Two articles from today's press caught my attention:
Cuba renews old ties with Russia: In his first major policy initiative since assuming power, Gen. Raúl Castro signed a far-reaching military-aid agreement with Russia. In September, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, visited Cuba and signed an economic-aid pact providing Castro with $350 million in credits to upgrade Cuba's armed forces, including the acquisition of Russian transportation equipment, air-navigation systems, industrial goods for the energy sector and financing of future Russian investments in Cuba, among other projects. Fradkov met with Raúl Castro in a climate described as ''cordial and friendly'' by the Cuban press.
This accord with the Russians rounds out Cuba's international alliances with key strategic countries. They include Venezuela, China and Iran. Whether the Russian deal was in the making prior to Fidel Castro's surgery or developed as a more recent initiative, it reaffirms Raúl's long-standing admiration and support for Soviet policies in the past and for Russian policies in the present.
Russia creates political dialogue mechanism with Mercosur: Russia and member states of the South American Common Market (Mercosur) signed on Friday a memorandum of understanding to create a political and cooperation dialogue mechanism.
This mechanism is aimed at increasing political, economic, technical and cultural consultations between Russia and the South American block.
Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov and his counterparts from the Mercosur member states -- Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela -- and its associates, Bolivia and Chile, signed the document in Brasilia, capital of Brazil.
If I was using a comic strip as a medium for expressing my view I might have a picture of Putin looking at a map of the Americas saying, "Monroe who?"
While the current administration has been trying to extend US influence in the Middle East, and by most accounts, doing the opposite, Russia and China have been outflanking their efforts in Africa and the Americas. It is as if the more we try to extend our dominion the more we lose what we have, which tends to be the way of power over men- it accrues fastest and most durably when you don't try to gain it- when the choice is freely made.
I've been getting a few emails (please use the comments section) about my "championing" of Russia's cause so I'd like to set the record straight.
To use an ice hockey metaphor, it is not "championing" the opposing team to notice that they have scored more goals than your team has in the first two periods of play. Often such recognition acts as a motivating force. Acting as if you are winning when you are not fosters complacency.
I wish corporate heads hadn't accepted the notion that the End of History was at hand when the Soviet Union imploded, for we are now reaping the harvest sown by the imposition of unfair PSAs. Recognizing the effects of unwise choices is, at least as I view the world, how one learns. If the US wishes to regain its status it needs to avoid such errors and remember that capitalism works best when win-win deals are structured.
I experience no joy watching Russia and China rise to fill the vacuum of honest broker created by our imperial misadventure in Iraq. But it would be silly to not recognize their rise, the context and choices that allowed it to happen, and the eventual effects on the lives of those around me.