Russia Arms Central America…Again

President Ronald Reagan
President Ronald Reagan

In the late 1980’s President Ronald Reagan successfully demanded that the Soviet Union cancel plans to place advanced military equipment in Nicaragua. His stance against Russian advances in Central America was rooted in a U.S. policy that extended as far back as the Monroe Doctrine.

His willingness to face down the expansion of Soviet military influence, combined with his arms buildup, was a vital component in the downfall of the U.S.S.R., one of the true turning points in the Cold War.

Thirty years later, the unwillingness of the Obama Administration to stand firm against Moscow’s current moves to place landing facilities for nuclear bombers and a spy station in Nicaragua, along with plans to place other heavy military equipment in the country, indicates that Washington’s current leadership lacks the courage or concern to confront aggressive nations, and is unwilling to face threats even within its own hemisphere.

nicaragua-mapThe McClatchy news service reports that “Russia is rekindling its once-strong ties to Nicaragua, possibly including providing the Central American nation with jet fighters, stoking unease as far away as the Andes in South America… The chief spokesman for the Sandinista Front on international matters… said Nicaragua’s relations with Russia have taken a ‘qualitative leap’… Former Sandinista President Daniel Ortega won elections and returned to power in 2007… Nicaragua’s neighbors recoiled. ‘One doesn’t combat drug trafficking with that kind of heavy military equipment for fighting wars,” Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González said …”

The U.S. Naval Institute revealed in May that “In late April Russia shipped the first 20 of 50 T-72B tanks ordered by Nicaragua. The cost of the 50 tanks reportedly totals $80 million. That is $9 million more than Nicaragua’s total 2015 defense budget. The acquisition of tanks is particularly perplexing to many in the region since Nicaragua has relatively good relations with its neighbors

This puzzling move turns out to be one of several in recent years in which Russia has provided foreign assistance and weapons sales to their old allies in the ruling FSLN party under President Daniel Ortega… These echoes of the Cold War beg the question-why? It does not appear to be domestic politics, or some ambitious plan of the Nicaraguan government; rather, it is more likely driven by Putin’s desire to create mischief in America’s sphere of influence at a low cost…”

The Center for Security Policy calls Russia in Latin America “The problem we have chosen to ignore… Russian activities closer to home in the Western Hemisphere have been largely overlooked or perhaps just disregarded. There have been reports of increasing Russian military cooperation with countries in Latin America that are hostile to the United States, mainly Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

There is little doubt that the weaponry Moscow has chosen to provide to Nicaragua has America as its target. Nuclear bomber bases and modern tanks are certainly unnecessary in any hypothetical Central American conflict.

Nicaraguan first lady Rosario Murillo was named to be the running mate of her husband, Daniel Ortega
Nicaraguan first lady Rosario Murillo was named to be the running mate of her husband, Daniel Ortega

Last month Sandinista President Daniel Ortega purged Nicaragua’s opposition from Parliament. In November he will run for a third five-year term with his wife, Rosario Murillo, as his vice-presidential candidate.

Mr. Ortega has returned to power by exploiting democratic rules and then changing them once in power. …All of this has happened with nary a peep from the Obama Administration. Contrast that with the way the White House aggressively mobilized Latin American governments in 2009 when Honduras used constitutional means to remove a law-breaking president and then insisted that new elections be held on schedule. Latin Americans have noticed the U.S. double standard, and Nicaraguans are paying the price.”

When Ortega became President of Nicaragua in 2007, Ahmadinejad considered his ascension so important that he was in Managua to attend the inauguration. Ortega told the press that the “revolutions of Iran and Nicaragua are almost twin revolutions…since both revolutions are about justice, liberty, self-determination, and the struggle against imperialism…What are all those Iranian diplomats doing in Nicaragua? …What is becoming dangerous is that Nicaragua is providing a safe place where Iran can send Revolutionary Guards and move them in and around the region. It is clear that the Iranians are allowed to come and go as they wish and there is no surveillance by the Nicaraguan regime. It is not far fetched to think that the embassy and the mosque could be used to store weapons and to develop and execute plans to attack American interests. What is certain is that urgent vigilance is required.”

The ramifications of the White House’s timidity have ramifications across the globe, as anxious allies take note of an America that fails to guard against rising threats even within striking distance of its own borders.

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