“The Russia-Venezuela condominium is emblematic of geopolitical forces rising to challenge US leadership and influence,” Ariel Cohen, a former Soviet expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, wrote in a recent report.
Even taking into account a legitimate need for military modernization, the US has made clear it is uncomfortable with Venezuela’s frenetic pace of purchases, which critics insist could spark a regional arms race. Venezuela, meanwhile, insists that sitting downwind and unarmed from the world’s sole superpower is just as uncomfortable.
In a world defined solely by geopolitics, the military buildup is frightening but the geopolitical argument taken alone ignores the billions of dollars worth of commerce linking regional economies. For example, Venezuela and Colombia are both among each other’s most important trading partners and both sides have taken concrete steps towards improving their frayed ties since President Juan Manual Santos replaced Álvaro Uribe last year.
“While this may not fully appease skeptics about Chávez’s intentions, it is a gross distortion to define the Venezuelan leader as a 'security threat,' ” the Council of Hemispheric Affairs wrote in a policy report earlier this year.