General Shoigu with President Ortega in Nicaragua
President Castro with Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias
Cuban Navy cadets in the Russian church in Havana during the last Easter season
Defence Minister S K Shoigu just ended a tour of Latin America, which in less than one week took him to three countries… Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Everywhere he enjoyed special military honours and welcomes at the highest state level. In Caracas, President Nicolás Maduro Moros received him, in Managua, President José Daniel Ortega Saavedra greeted him, and in Havana, the head of state Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz feted him. He received Venezuela’s Order of National Security Merit and Nicaragua’s Grand Cross. Shoigu’s meetings with the three Latin American national leaders didn’t look like pure protocol events at all. Discussions were friendly, fundamental, and specific and encompassed a range of aspects of world politics. In part, they discussed the events in the Ukraine. Maduro, Ortega, and Castro fully supported Russia’s stance regarding the situation there. In addition, they touched upon Caribbean problems, in particular, bilateral relations in the political and in the military and military-technical spheres.
Russia was and still is the largest provider of weapons and military hardware for the countries Shoigu visited. To Venezuela alone, Moscow provided at least 11 billion USD (682.5 billion Roubles. 68.8 billion Renminbi. 683.6 billion INR. 13.76 billion CAD. 14.14 billion AUD. 9.68 billion Euros. 7.13 billion UK Pounds) worth of armaments over the past few years. Alongside India, China, and Algeria, it’s one of the best customers of Russian aircraft, tanks, APCs, artillery, and air defence systems. The equipment parks of the Nicaraguan and Cuban forces are entirely Russian. True, their equipment isn’t as new as Caracas’s is. Local industries managed to somehow upgrade much of that equipment, but all of their weapons need urgent replacement, or supplies of spare parts and components, or fundamental upgrade, which might prove the most sensible solution of all. The Minoborony delegation included the chief of the military-technical coöperation service, Aleksandr Fomin, whose staff, along with specialists from Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport, apparently have relevant plans and arrangements.
Last year, Nicaragua created with Russian assistance a centre named after Soviet Marshal G K Zhukov for training army specialists. Near Managua, Moscow helped build an industrial facility for disposing of expired ammunition, which is already operational. During the just-ended visit, Shoigu attended a “ribbon-cutting” at a new topographical centre where Russian specialists provided and assembled the equipment. He proposed to Nicaraguan President Ortega that Nicaragua send teenagers to train at Russian army and naval cadet schools. Some Nicaraguans are already at Russian officer schools and academies, so, why not start instruction from a younger age? In that case, trainees would first learn Russian, then, receive elementary military education, to eventually enable them to take courses at higher military institutions, to fit them to become fully qualified commanders for the Nicaraguan forces. Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov said that he made such proposals not only in Managua, but also in Caracas and Havana.
Shoigu’s overseas voyage had a pretty clear strategic message… Russia’s geopolitical rival must remember that Moscow has its own interests in a part of the world that the Americans recently considered as their backyard, and it possesses the ability to demonstrate and protect these interests. Naturally, the USA is unlikely to be very happy about that, but Moscow, and possibly, Havana, Managua, and Caracas have long stopped paying much attention to comments that may follow from the US State Department.
18 February 2015
The Church says, “Socialism is good! The Cuban Healthcare system rocks!” So does the Russian state. The REAL Church has nothing to do with Moonies, Mormons, Pentecostalists, or Teabaggers (those who do are at variance with HH, who believes crapitalism to be a fraud)… the pictures tell a story. ¡El socialismo es bueno!
A waggish friend of mine at the Centre wrote me, “I know why General Shoigu went to Managua! In Moscow, it’s -25 (-13 Fahrenheit)! In Managua, it’s +25 (77 Fahrenheit)!”