With Iran investing in cruise missile technology and Vladimir Putin strengthening his ties to Latin America’s leftist strongholds, American military leaders are struggling to fully meet the threat of a cruise missile attack from the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the National Journal, American generals are increasingly concerned that Russia or Iran could establish presences in the Gulf of Mexico that require a sufficient counter-effort. In a congressional hearing last week, General Charles Jacoby admitted the military has met “some significant challenges” in establishing defense mechanisms that would sufficiently protect from such an attack. The Pentagon, he added, is experimenting with a number of different approaches to protect from cruise missiles. Kingston Reif, an analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, told the National Journal that “the idea is to cobble together enough stuff [so] that maybe something will work.” None of the current technologies are considered sufficient to combat this specific threat, however.
Concerns about a Russian attack in the region surfaced years ago, as a report from the Washington Free Beacon uncovered the presence of a Russian submarine in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks undetected. That report added that Russian military had also intruded in American waters off the coast of Alaska around the same time the submarine appeared in the Gulf of Mexico. Russia’s presence in the region went mostly unchallenged in the aftermath of that discovery.
Putin has made clear that Russia has interests far beyond their long-standing relationship with Cuba in the Caribbean and greater Latin America. The Russian leader signed a trade agreement with Venezuela early this month that would solidify the economic power of the government there, just as protests against President Nicolás Maduro’s oppressive socialist regime reached a fever pitch. Putin has also signed agreements with Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina in the past two years.
According to a report from The Hill this week, Putin’s influence of Latin America is slowly inching out of the trade realm and into military activity. The magazine reports that Russia is planning military bases in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. “Latin America is seen as an opportunity to challenge the United States in terms of global presence,” Army War College adjunct professor Gabriel Marcella told The Hill. Fox News Latino adds that the military presence in Venezuela will include missiles, and Maduro has also experiment with Chinese military artillery in attacking protesters.