Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Colombia, Caracas and Ukraine

Pro-Russian forces illegally occupying Ukraine's Crimea.
A reason for Colombia to worry? 
Believe it or not, the growing crisis in Ukraine has implications for Colombia - and not positive ones.

Russia's occupation of Ukranian territory has, of course, troubling impacts for the whole world, not least because of the episode's multiple parallels to Hitler's first aggressions: Hitler also started off by occupying ethnically friendly parts of Czechoslovakia, as well as Austria, a German-speaking neighbor. Also like Nazi Germany, Russia is fresh from hosting an Olympics. And impossible to ignore are Russia's discriminatory laws against gays, one of the groups persecuted and murdered by the Nazis.

Putin doesn't appear to be another Hitler. But he does have big territorial ambitions, as Hitler did, and those may grow if the West doesn't stop him here. (It's hard not to ask whether Putin might have thot twice before invading Ukraine if the West had taken firm action against the Syrian dictatorship, a Russian ally, after it used poison gas to massacre its own people.)

Russian military jets' route over Colombian territory.
 (Image: Webinfomil)
Last October and November, Russian military jets flying between Nicaragua and Venezuela - two Russian allies with increasingly authoritarian governments - passed thru Colombian airspace, triggering protests from the Colombian government. Russia's goal was apparently to support Nicaragua´s claims to parts of the Caribbean controlled by Colombia.

More troubling, at the end of last month, Russia's defense minister said that Russia planned to establish military bases across Asia and Latin America, including in Venezuela and Nicaragua. To its credit, an official in Venezuela, whose Constitution declares it to be a 'territory of peace' and bans all foreign military bases, said that no Russian base would be allowed. Yet, considering Venezuela's economic crisis and its government's need for allies, I could certainly see it allowing in the Russian military and just not calling their facilities a 'base'. Venezuela, after all, is full of Cuban 'advisers,' whose presence would in a normal country be called a violation of sovereignty. Venezuela and Colombia have old border disputes in the Guajira region.

If Putin gets his way and the Russian bear is permitted to seize neighbors' territory, Colombia should worry that the Russian bullies will help their allies across the globe grab disputed territory from their own neighbors.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Daniel Trujillo said...


I have been giving some thought to this subject as well, though not from the sovereignty standpoint. However, I believe that the most danger Colombia can expect from what you describe here is additional Chinese and Russian financial support to Nicaragua's new canal. As far as military issues go, I would not worry so much, as an invasion of sorts is a much too difficult task nowadays.
Venezuela has its own problems to solve, and even if they allow the Russian military in (which by the way I believe very unlikely) it would not be done in support of a turf war with Colombia for the Guajira. Rather, it would be done to bolster Venezuela's anti USA claims.
I do worry about the social consequences of the riots and the protests, but that will, unfortunately, have to unfold in its own time.


Miguel said...

Thanks Daniel. A 'hot' war also seems a long way away to me. However, I don't think anybody expect Russia to invade the Ukraine. Don't forget that just a few years ago Chavez ordered his troops to the Colombian border. A desperate government may do desperate things to rally its own population. And a belief that the Russians were backing them could make the Venezuelans more reckless.

I'm not predicting this, and let's all hope it doesn't come to pass. But lots of things are possible.


L fairfax said...

I thought that the consensus was that Chavez knew that Venezuela would lose a war against Colombia - assuming that the Venezuelan military obeyed orders and invaded Colombia which was never 100% certain.

BTW Sarah Palin did predict the invasion of Ukraine so it was not entirely unpredicted.

Miguel said...

Hi Fairfax,

I recall that most analysts believed that Venezuela might have initial successes in a conflict, but that Colombia would win in the long run.

Chavez might have been bluffing all along. Or, he might have changed his mind when some of his tanks broke down on the way to the border.

As for Palin. I don't know what she said, but the trouble is that she says so many things that there's no way to know what to take seriously.



Stuart Oswald said...
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