Russia and Venezuela commence joint naval exercises this week, coming on the heels of Russian President Medvedev’s four-nation tour of South America. Rose Gottemoeller explains on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal that while Russia’s recent closeness with U.S. neighbors may be an attempt to challenge U.S. regional primacy, the United States should avoid over-reaction. Russia's foray into South America is tempered by its urge to cooperate with the United States and its allies in other regions, most specifically in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
Gottemoeller explained that Russia’s decision to send ships to South America is likely a reaction to the presence of U.S. naval ships in the Black Sea delivering humanitarian aid during the August crisis in Georgia. In addition, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez – who has industriously built up his country’s relations with Russia in recent years in an attempt to challenge the United States – may have played a role in formulating the tour and naval exercises. The Bush administration has so far reacted appropriately, in Gottemoeller’s assessment; although the presence of Russian ships in America’s backyard is symbolically potent, Russia’s aging navy is not a threat to the United States, and the administration’s reaction reflects that.