Spheres Of Influence

The Russian counterargument to what it perceives as Western imperialism and interference concerning issues like Russo-Georgian relations and the status of relations between Russia and other former Soviet states in general is that Russia is merely exercising its power in its own sphere of influence. Implicit in that argument is that Russia would not interfere in the spheres of other great powers and especially not in the sphere of a superpower like the United States.

Fair, right?

Well, maybe. But even assuming that it is, the Russians have decided that they don’t do “fair”:

Several Russian ships and 1,000 soldiers will take part in joint naval maneuvers with Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea later this year, exercises likely to increase diplomatic tensions with Washington, a pro-government newspaper reported on Saturday.

Quoting Venezuela’s naval intelligence director, Salbarore Cammarata, the newspaper Vea said four Russian boats would visit Venezuelan waters from November 10 to 14.

Plans for the naval operations come at a time of heightened diplomatic tension and Cold War-style rhetoric between Moscow and the United States over the recent war in Georgia and plans for a U.S. missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Missile defense systems are, of course, defensive. Russian naval maneuvers can easily be seen as having an offensive purpose.

The Russian economy, the actual state of its military and Russian demographics all argue against Russia emerging as a great power threat against the United States in the near term or even years outside the near term. But it is not as if the Russians aren’t trying. And the danger is that great power or not, Russia may well instigate a conflict between itself and the United States that costs lives and deteriorates security down the road.