Venezuela, Georgia, and
Washington's double standard
The Venezuelan government is carrying out a modernization of its armed forces, a process that includes replacing obsolete or useless weapons; a 120 million dollar agreement with Russia for the acquisition of transport and assault helicopters and Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles; the purchase of 20 Super Tucano advanced training aircraft from Brazil and 12 transport planes, naval patrol vessels and corvettes manufactured in Spain.
Caracas' decision has generated resentment in different countries in the area, but above all in the United States. Washington has expressed its "concern", with the argument of a supposed Venezuelan threat to the stability of the region and the impact of a militarization that would have a multiplying effect.
As has been the custom, George W. Bush's administration acts with a double standard, in the opinion of the Latin American Circle for International Studies (LACIS), a civil society based organization, specializing in analysis, reflection, research, and the exchange of information, with offices in Mexico City.
If we are discussing threats to peace and the pressure of militarization, there are more tangible and concrete reasons for concern in today's world. On the other side of the globe, Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus, has today become the world leader in terms of militarization.
Georgia's military budget has been growing year by year and in 2007, for example, will increase 50%. The government of Tbilisi (the Georgian capital) purchased considerable arms and weapons from other countries, including from some NATO member states. The countries that sell such weapons know or should know that Georgia is located in a highly conflict ridden area and. therefore, in doing so, they violate international norms and stoke the fires of a conflict that could reach global proportions.
However, the Bush administration is a staunch defender and ally of Georgian President MikhaÃl Saakashvili, who it views as an extremely useful pawn to consolidate the U.S. presence in the Caucasus and threaten Russia's south flank.
In addition, the lack of border controls both in Abkhazia as well as in South Ossetia, regions that aspire to separate from Georgia, and the proximity of this latter country to Chechnya, have facilitated the shipment of weapons to Chechnyan terrorist militias, either via official Georgian channels or through smuggling, almost certainly through the narrow Pankisi Pass.
On the Latin American plane, an editorial in the influential magazine Punto Final edited in Santiago, Chile, published on October 19, warned that, aligned with the U.S. State Department, the right-wing Chilean daily El Mercurio -a loyal instrument of former dictator Augusto Pinochet- has been fully focused on a destabilization campaign under the pretext of the alleged "militarism" of the Venezuelan government.
It is, to say the least, curious, how this newspaper twists, hides, distorts, and manipulates the truth. Chile has been the Latin American country with the highest military expenditures in relation to its size, population, and gross domestic product, specifically spending 3.5% of GDP, 2.80 billion dollars, which is greater than arms purchases on the part of Venezuela (2.20 billion dollars) and Brazil (1.35 billion dollars) in 2005.
In the past few years, Chile has purchased 28 fighter planes, (F-16, 600 million dollars) from the United States, two Scoprence submarines from a French-Spanish consortium (450 million dollars), 200 Leopard tanks and four guided missiles from the Netherlands and two from the Royal British Navy, Spruence warships equipped with Tomahawk missiles (such as those used n the Gulf War), rocket launchers, mortars, grenades, explosives, machine guns, and guidance systems and armored vehicles with water cannons, to disperse demonstrations.
Meanwhile, on virtually the other end of the world, Georgian president Saakashvili has enacted the National Defense Strategy, a document that defines military objectives, tasks, challenges, and threats from now until 2010.
Georgia's entry into NATO, with full rights, has been proclaimed a priority goal. And the number one military threat, according to this strategy, corresponds to the "armed separatist formations", in the background of the "conflicts remaining to be resolved." Tbilisi sees NATO as a shield that would allow it to undertake a radical solution -through the use of force- to the problem of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In both republics, Russian peace-keeping forces are stationed and Tbilisi also views them, as can be deduced from the document, as a threat.
Georgia feels that the extent of its relation to Russia is dangerous. Such elements include the Russian military bases that are rapidly being dismantled in accordance with the agreed-upon calendar; the "instability in the Northern Caucasus (which it should be noted, is partially generated by the terrorists who have found refuge in the Pankisi Valley, in Georgia); and "Russia's connivance with the separatists regimes." Curiously enough, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili points out in an explanatory note that the new strategy only conceives the Russian military, not Russia as a whole, as representing a threat.
Thanks to the Russian military, peace has thus far been maintained in the rebellious republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and, therefore, in all of Georgia. And if both regions have rebelled against Tbilisi, it is because former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia at one point applied a repressive policy that slighted the problems of the autonomous regions.
In fact, in stoking the anti-Russian campaign, the Georgian authorities are promoting their strategy aimed at discrediting Moscow as a mediator. Tbilisi is doing everything possible to achieve the withdrawal of the peace-keeping forces so that it can then, with the help of the West, resolve first the South Osetia problem and than the situation in Abkhazia. But many Western nations reasonably believe that the withdrawal of the Russian peace-keeping forces will give rise to new civil wars in the territory of this trans-Caucasian republic.
Given this panorama, the words of the president of Venezuela, Hugo ChÃ¡vez assume their full significance. The United States, he charged, uses the military confrontation as "a perfect excuse to have a military presence" in Latin America and the world.
"Who gave Saddam Hussein weapons, ammunition, military technology? The United States government. Who armed Osama bin Laden and provided the considerable power held by Al-Qaeda? The United States, only that later they turned against it", he added.
"We do, in fact, have grounds to worry about the infinite military power of the U.S. government and United States military spending", Chavez explained. "They should leave me alone to work", he concluded.