Gates’s nonchalance on Russia

Gates’s nonchalance on Russia

In his testimony before the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates raised a few eyebrows by saying that he was far more worried about Iran’s “frankly subversive activity” in Latin America than Russia’s recent military activity to the region. He had a good line about the Russian navy’s visit to Venezuela:

“In fact if it hadn’t been for the events in Georgia in August, I probably would’ve tried to persuade the president to invite the Russian ships pay a port call in Miami because I think they would’ve had a lot better time than they did in Caracas.”

It seems like Gates has been going out of his way lately to make it clear that he is totally unfazed by the Russian military threat. His recent Foreign Affairs piece was another indication.

I’m certainly glad that the secretary of defense isn’t overreacting to the Russian threat. Despite developments like today’s meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and Raul Castro, Russia’s military capabilities aren’t exactly what they used to be. Still, I wonder if constantly reminding Russia of its military weakness might not be the best way to encourage more conciliatory behavior from Russia leaders.

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