Moscow has reportedly accused the United States of “taking aggressive steps” that “pose a threat” to Russian “national security.”
The day after, the Kremlin announced it was transforming its Tartus base in Syria into a permanent facility equipped with nuclear-capable missiles and other defenses and also expressed interest in building military bases in Egypt, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, and Singapore.
Last week, Russia also said its was considering reopening its Soviet-era bases in Vietnam and Cuba.
Russia continues to maintain a presence in the America’s backyard — Latin America and the Caribbean — where U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) reported earlier this year:
Russia’s actions are directly connected to its broader global efforts to demonstrate that Russia is a global power capable of challenging U.S. leadership. … Over the past year , Russia continued to maintain a presence in Latin America, collecting information about the region and the United States … [and] regularly broadcasts anti-American propaganda in Ecuador, Argentina, and Venezuela.
The U.S. military command center noted that the Kremlin has been disseminating anti-U.S. propaganda “via Russian state-owned RT-TV [Russia Today], which also broadcasts to the United States, and via online news and Sputnik Mundo, which is targeted to Latin American audiences. Russia uses this media to create doubts about U.S. intentions and criticize U.S. policies.”
Now Russia, following the breakdown in negotiations with the United States for the war in Syria, is accusing the U.S. of fueling “aggressive Russophobia.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that the United States had been taking aggressive steps that threatened Russia’s national security, the RIA news agency reported, according to Reuters.
“We have witnessed a fundamental change of circumstances when it comes to the aggressive Russophobia that now lies at the heart of US policy towards Russia,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying on Sunday.
“It’s not just a rhetorical Russophobia, but aggressive steps that really hurt our national interests and pose a threat to our security,” he added.
Last week, the U.S. suspended negotiations with Russia for the war in Syria, accusing the Moscow for the collapse in peace talks and of joining Iran in backing forces loyal to Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad in targeting civilians and committing other war crimes, particularly in the besieged northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
“Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course … targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need,” declared John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, last Monday.
Russia has accused the United States of backing Syrian rebels whom Assad, Russia, and Iran consider terrorists. Iran has deployed thousands of Shiite militias, including members of the Iranian terror-proxy Hezbollah, to fight on behalf of the Syrian regime.
Last Tuesday, the day after the U.S. suspended negotiations with Russia for the Syrian conflict, The Washington Post (WaPo) reported that American airstrikes against Assad would be reconsidered by top national security officials at the White House.
“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the [Assad] regime,” an anonymous senior administration official told WaPo. “The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”
However, the report noted that “there’s little prospect President Obama will ultimately approve them.”
SOUTHCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in Latin America in the Caribbean, in its annual posture statements submitted to Congress during the last few years, including 2016, expressed concern about Russia’s expanding presence and operations in Latin America.
In this part of the world, Russia’s actions are directly connected to its broader global efforts to demonstrate that Russia is a global power capable of challenging U.S. leadership and the established rules-based international system. Russian officials’ rhetoric, high-level political visits, and military-security engagements are designed to displace the United States as the partner of choice in the region.
We need to engage proactively and deepen security cooperation with our partners in the Americas. We strongly suspect that Russia’s actions in the Western Hemisphere are not driven by events in this AOR [Area of Responsibility], but rather are integrated into a larger, more holistic approach. This requires an equally integrated, transregional response on our part. When it comes to transregional competitors, we are closely coordinating with fellow combatant commanders to ensure we are contributing not just in our area of responsibility but across regional boundaries to ensure competitors are unable to exploit seams between our areas of responsibility.
It noted that Russia has participated in “four naval deployments to Latin America in less than twelve months, all of which involved data or intelligence collection,” adding that “Russia also reached an agreement with Nicaragua for simplified port access and logistical support.”