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Russia Isn't Being "provoked." So Maybe We Ought To Provoke Them

One of the topics not covered last night (but alluded to by Barack Obama) was the emergence of by a front of anti-American and populist tyrannies in the Southern half of the Western hemisphere. Their ideological models are Castroite and their symbol is Che Guevara. But no one really believes they are building a new world. Cuba has been too much a bust for official optimism to really capture the minds and hearts of the people elsewhere. You can see this already in Venezuela where the government is wildly unpopular. And where its neighbor, Columbia, is precisely popular because it has put up a winning fight against the Marxist murder gang, FARC.

Hugo Chavez was in Beijing last week and proclaimed himself, no doubt to the dismay of the Chinese population, a Maoist Not a Marxist but a Maoist. No less. His hero, then, is someone who, directly or by indirection, presided over the slaughter of perhaps 40 million. And then went onto the Gods leaving China's billion-plus with the most rapacious capitalism on earth.  Do you recall, for those of you who can remember three and four decades ago, the lies that were told us (and which many of us eagerly received) by Edgar Snow, Wilfred Burchett, Han Suyin, Jan Myrdal, Victor and Ruth Sidel and the students of John King Fairbanks, Marilyn and Ernie
Young, others?

Chavez went from China to Russia, this being his second trip to Moscow in just over two months, according to Catherine Belton in the weekend FT. Perhaps he had neglected to see the Bolshoi the last time. Chavez met with his opposite number Dmitry Medvedev and signed an agreement to borrow $1 billion to purchase military equipment, on top of  the $4.4 billion worth of weapons acquired from Russia in the last two years.

The FT also reports in this article that Chavez' "visit came as a fleet of Russian warships were sailing towards the Venezuelan coast for naval exercises." Neither candidate mentioned the Monroe Doctrine last night.

There is also a disturbing article by Ellen Barry in this morning's Times.  It reports the oil deal with Venezuela. But the dispatch concentrates on the huge military build-up that Moscow is undertaking. "Defense spending will increase by 26 percent next year, bringing it to...its highest level since the collapse of the Soviet Union...By 2020, Mr. Medvedev said, Russia will shore up nuclear submarines armed with cruise missiles and a combined air-space defense system." This will bring Russia to a state of "permanent combat readiness." These are big plans, and they cannot be in response to Washington's peep after the Russian invasion of Georgia.