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: ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
589019_090129_gates5.jpg
589019_090129_gates5.jpg

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 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.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Russia

More from Foreign Policy

Keri Russell as Kate Wyler walks by a State Department Seal from a scene in The Diplomat, a new Netflix show about the foreign service.
Keri Russell as Kate Wyler walks by a State Department Seal from a scene in The Diplomat, a new Netflix show about the foreign service.

At Long Last, the Foreign Service Gets the Netflix Treatment

Keri Russell gets Drexel furniture but no Senate confirmation hearing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron speak in the garden of the governor of Guangdong's residence in Guangzhou, China, on April 7.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron speak in the garden of the governor of Guangdong's residence in Guangzhou, China, on April 7.

How Macron Is Blocking EU Strategy on Russia and China

As a strategic consensus emerges in Europe, France is in the way.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin greets U.S. President George W. Bush prior to a meeting of APEC leaders in 2001.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin greets U.S. President George W. Bush prior to a meeting of APEC leaders in 2001.

What the Bush-Obama China Memos Reveal

Newly declassified documents contain important lessons for U.S. China policy.

A girl stands atop a destroyed Russian tank.
A girl stands atop a destroyed Russian tank.

Russia’s Boom Business Goes Bust

Moscow’s arms exports have fallen to levels not seen since the Soviet Union’s collapse.