“EASTERN EUROPE, AN ETERNAL ENIGMA”

Written by David Savić based on the interview with Mr. Francisco de Borja Lasheras

     For a brief moment, I felt like I am back home as Mr. Lasheras welcomed me on Serbo-Croatian language by saying “Dobro došli!“ (Welcome) on which I replied on traditional way by saying „Bolje Vas našli“ (Good to find you).

     Currently, Mr. Francisco de Borja Lasheras works for the European Council on Foreign Relations as an Associate Director of the Madrid Office and Policy Fellow focused on Eastern Europe, security policy and Spanish foreign policy. Mr. Lasheras and I have met for the first time about three months ago, at the conference held at our university where he was one of the guest lecturers regarding Eastern Europe, including Western Balkans and the Ukrainian crisis.

Image

Mr. Francisco de Borja Lasheras

     Our discussion that day originally started with the talk about Yugoslav war and Bosnia specifically. Mr. Lasheras was actually a perfect person for this panel as he worked several years as Spanish secondee, first as human rights officer for the OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina and then with the Head of Mission in Albania.

     Before we started, Mr. Lasheras kindly apologized for not being able to speak to me on Serbo-Croatian when it comes to very complicated issues of foreign relations in Ukraine and its comparison with the Yugoslavian war, to which I replied with the smile and understanding.I have explained Mr. Lasheras that as Serbian who lived in Yugoslavia during 90’s with my entire family and also him who worked in that region, we can both see strong similarities between Ukrainian crisis and Yugoslav wars but from different perspectives.

      At the bare beginning, Mr. Lasheras said that Ukraine probably represents one the major security crisis in Europe, certainly since the Yugoslav Wars. My first question to Mr. Lasheras was, to witch extent the West is able to completely understands the situation in Ukraine and the whole collapse of USSR and Yugoslavia for example, as there seems to be a feeling that the West is just simply imposing the rules of its own (EU, OSCE and NATO) , and its engagement, without fully understanding the issues such as ethnicities, nationalities, political relations with other countries etc.

      Mr. Lasheras noted that, true, policy by Europe and the US is often fraught with contradictions, and that the West overall has lost a lot of its credibility, authority and hegemony in international politics which was enjoying especially in the 90’s. The Iraq war or Kosovo independence have thus been touted by the Kremlin as examples of double standards. However, he pointed out that choices and decisions in the foreign policy are never “a clear cut business.”

      Focusing on Ukraine, Mr. Lasheras suggests that the EU underestimated the critical role of Russia and this country’s strategic objectives with Ukraine and the whole region. These have been recognized as mistakes, but the complexity of multiple factors involved should also be taken into an account.

     On my additional question on, how far does he think that Ukraine and all the other smaller ex soviet and ex communist countries in the Eastern Europe are really free to choose their political destiny, Mr. Lasheras noted that he believes that any of these countries indeed has a right to choose in which direction they want to proceed (EU, NATO, other organizations and alliances). It is equally true that they are still trapped between Russia and EU. Mr. Lasheras briefly reminds us that regarding the political choice, it was Yanukovich and his government who were the one to lead the way towards the EU and the association agreement. However, the conditions which were set by the EU to Ukraine could not be met by the government, a core point of disengagement between the EU and Ukraine. Moreover, the circumstances gave a perfect opportunity to Russia to be able to blackmail Ukraine with the import duties on the Russian gas and political pressure overall, including threatening messages for Ukraine to refrain from signing the agreement with the EU.

      This point led my next question which was related to one of the Mr. Lasheras articles which bears the title “EU enlargement and the Western Balkans: Old habits die hard.” The article precisely points out at the fact that the EU is to some extent to blame for its too high standards which are imposed on transitional countries, such as Bosnia or Ukraine. Besides that, the article mentions a Balkan saying on Serbo-Croatian, “čvrsta ruka“ (the iron fist), the political way by which many of these countries were led by and how population within these countries are used to follow strong, influential and authoritarian leaders since the communist era. Therefore, how far these countries are actually capable to adopt democracy as a political regime?

     „Democracy is an awfully difficult business even in the Western Europe. Just look at what is going on with some of our fellow EU states. It’s even more difficult when you were under some form of the dictatorship for over 40 years. Besides that, some of these countries never had statehood.  Albania is a good example, as a country which never had a sustained statehood experience (being independent in 1912) and was under very harsh dictatorship. I am very critical in many aspect of EU enlargement process especially the short period of time within which reforms are required.” Mr. Lasheras agreed that “the iron fist” still holds strong; however, some political changes are visible, but not so much in the element of the life quality within the common society.

     We moved on towards the territorial legitimacy and the differences in legalities between Kosovo Republic and Crimean territory. The question is, why did the independence of Kosovo was a legal act and was accepted by majority of countries, whereas Crimea was seen as an illegal act of aggression?

     As Mr. Lasheras agrees this is a fairly legitimate question, we have good elements to make distinctions between Crimea and Kosovo. Kosovo’s independency cannot be seen as an illegal act according to international laws and by the ICJ (as it could be seen by its 2010 on Kosovo’s declaration). It is a secession, unlike Crime which is an annexation by force and by a third country, a great violation of international law. “However, secession is very disputable, international law does not recognize a right to secession bar extreme circumstances, but annexation is a clear illegal and unacceptable act of invading countries”

     As time was running out unfortunately, this very insightful conversation was ended with one more final question regarding the expectations about newly elected Ukrainian president, Poroshenko. He duly noted that the elections were a positive thing; however, Poroshenko will have to deal with maintaining the constitutional order and try to solve the current security crisis.

     “Poroshenko is an oligarch, however, but this is a continuing challenge in Ukraine. EU should still foster a real transformation towards democracy. This is the present challenge. What took many people to the streets and Maiden Square is the fact that people have been fed up with corruption, with the lack of justice, empowerment and capability. I still think that Ukrainians should be able to decide, if they want to stay neutral or not as a country. Ideally they should have good relations with both Russia and EU. However, bear in mind that in Ukraine there is a serious political contest among their own elites and the external actors”

ME: “Hvala Vam  još jednom….”  (Thank you very much….)

Mr. Lasheras: “Bilo mi je zadovoljstvo….” (It was a pleasure….)

New challenges for European Monarchies

Europe, the old continent, has traditionally been the cradle of Kings and Queens. Monarchic regimes have taken place in democratic political systems, which are the ones that survive today, in opposition to the absolute monarchic regimes, generally supported by an army and big businesses, that are now abolished in the european region. The debate of the legitimacy of monarchies is back on track in these days due to the recent abdication of the King of Spain in his son, Felipe de Borbón and Prince of Asturias

Since the authoritarian Kingdoms of the Middle Ages, monarchies have suffered big changes until nowadays. We could say that, over the years, Kings and Queens have been progressively losing power in favor of other institutions, such as the Church in the past or in the present, to the Parliaments. We could say that the figure of a Monarch in our times is better related to a neutral figure whose main aim is to represent the country outside its frontiers and that must help to create and improve political dialogue.

European_monarchies

European Current Monarchies

 

Nowadays, there are only 10 monarchies left in Europe, as shown in the map in the   left.

Countries in red are the ones in which monarchies still exist. The blue ones represent countries in which a republic is the established regime.

Spain, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Low Lands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco and Liechtenstein are the only monarchies that have survived the many changes that have taken place over time. The Vatican is an elective and theocratic monarchy; Andorra is a Principality with two Co-Princes elected by two independent ways: one is the President of the French Republic and the other is the Bishop of Seo d’Urgel.

As we can see, Europe is far from what it used to be long time ago, when tens and tens of monarchies were spread through the whole continent and even the world (the case of the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon), which have been progressively disappearing whether in a pacific or violent way, mainly since the XIX century when the French Republic lived a period of peak that caused that other states changed from a monarchy to a republic following its example.

These changes have been normally caused by social movements that questioned the legitimacy of the Royal Families and their stay in the throne. This is exactly what is happening now in Spain where a big debate is open about the continuation of the Monarchy in the country. Although the King, Juan Carlos I and his son, Felipe de Borbón, are quite loved in Spain, many people express their opponency that the Prince become the new King of Spain, Felipe VI.

Many critics have been spilled over the figure of Juan Carlos I and in general, over the whole Royal Family of Spain, due to different recent facts that have damaged the public opinion of the Crown. Also, many experts defend that what is being seen now in Spain is not an isolated case but something that could challenge other monarchies in Europe in the next years. The main reason is the wealthy image of the Royal Families in a time of Austerity, which really contrasts the image of the majority of the citizens during the crisis.

The fact of giving or passing the throne to a younger heir, is the reason why not only the Spanish King, but also other Monarchs have recently abdicated, willing to get support and improve the image of the Monarchy. Some examples of this are: the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlads, who in 2013 abdicated in favor of his son, Willem-Alexander; Albert II of Belgium, who gave the Crown to his son Phillipe. Sweden could become the next country to live an abdication due to the recent unpopular image of the King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Though incentivating the image through integrating a new generation may be only a temporary solution, monarchies must try to do must more to recover the confidence and the support of the people.

An issue that have been debated a lot in relation to one regime or another (Monarchy or Republic) are the differences between them in terms of costs, constitutionality and some others.The main differences between them are summarized in the next chart:

Monarchy

Republic

Why?

Costs

It’s been shown that the costs of a Republic are considerably higher that those of the Monarchy
Constitutionality

Though a Republic is a constitutionally legitimated figure, in Spain is not reflected in the national Constitution so it is not possible if a modification does not occur
Democratic election

Monarchies are not democratically elected, but is a matter of heritage, in opposition to a Republic where the Chief of State is democratically elected.
Temporarity

In the case of a Monarchy the reign is for life; in the case of a Republic the President must be re-elected every few years.

As you can see, advantages and disadvantages are even for Monarchy or Republic, is just a matter of tastes, choices or, better said, of the situation of the country in general.

 

It is true that Monarchies respond to tradition and stability over the changes of political parties in the government, the question is if the people should be asked due to the fact that all these monarchies are democratic, or the legitimacy resides only in law? It is difficult to know or to predict what would be the results in case of a popular Referendum but the truth is that if the law shows a contradiction between what the people say and what must be done, what way should the country follow? Does the continuation of a Monarchy jeopardize democracy? What has been proved is that a Monarch is a figure that unifies the country and that represents a neutral institution that must work in favor of the people of the country. That is what Monarchies should take into account and never forget as well as Republics, because many scandals have also taken place in countries with a Republican Regime, so at the end, what is the difference between them? In our opinion both regimes are possible, there is no difference, but what is true is that there must be only one way for both, work for the country and the people.

 

Divide and Conquer? Ukraine as a battleground of interests

The Ukrainian population is still much divided between the eastern and western influence.   It all started with Crimean peninsula, but the conflict has spread to the whole east of Ukraine and has left the country in a complete chaos. Neither the west nor Russia have really helped the Ukrainian population actually they have just acted according to their interests.

      The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has recently declared that Ukraine cannot escape from the influence of the eastern country. But, why is Ukraine so important for Russia? The main reasons are the features both countries share, such as the language, the culture, and also, the influence of Russian media in Ukraine A key fact that explains the desire of recovering Ukraine would be to turn upside down what happened when the USSR fell apart, a breaking point that started when Ukraine decided to get independent from Russia, and that encouraged other states to follow their example back in the 90’s.

 Image

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, chat during a news conference after talks in Moscow on Dec. 17.

     As an example, Crimea was part of Russia until 1954 and given to Ukraine as a gift by Nikita Khrushchev. The fact of take over Crimea and Ukraine would mean kind of a “revenge” of the past. An important datum for this matter would be the migration between the countries, which is the second biggest in the world after the U.S. – Mexico border, provoking a big interchange of workers between Russia and Ukraine.

     The Russian Government has also declared that they would not tolerate the influence of the west in Ukraine, and to avoid this they would not doubt to act with all the means they have. Also, they support the idea that “a federal structure will ensure that Ukraine will not be anti-Russian”. The influences from both, east and west, put Ukraine in a difficult situation, in the first place, because of the threaten of Russia in terms of the gas supply and in the second place because of the possible loss of support from the western block.

      The Cold War-style balance of power model, they argue, is archaic and out-dated. The curious defect of this logic is the failure of many Western analysts to perceive that from the Russian perspective, the growth of NATO and the European Union is a clear expansion of this supposedly discarded American-dominated power bloc. That NATO and European expansion have been undertaken amid Western denunciation of Russian attempts to maintain its own supposedly obsolete sphere of influence in the region, for example in Georgia in 2008 and more recently this year in Crimea, is the source of much anger and frustration in Moscow.

      Many pro-Russian activists in Eastern Europe have accused the West of hypocrisy and underhand meddling in the political crisis that unseated the perhaps corrupt but, nonetheless, democratically elected Ukrainian president Victor Yannukovych in February. Brian Becker of the anti-war ANSWER Coalition has gone so far as to accuse the US and EU of being ´neck deep´ in a plot ´to carry out regime change´, and bring the ex-Soviet state into the Western fold. While an advisor to President Putin has accused the US of supplying finance, arms and training to anti-Russian protestors in the early stages of the crisis. Regardless of the validity of such claims, this widely held belief, coupled with the escalating criticism of Russian intentions by Western leaders, is only fuelling the continuing deadlock between east and west, with no sign of a constructive attempt by either side to engage in meaningful dialogue, and escape from this lingering crisis.

Image

The US, EU do not finance the protests

     At the end, Ukraine remains to be a battleground of various external interests. When will we see the normalization in the country, no one knows, but it surely depends on strong domestic determination within Ukraine. Hopefully, newly elected president Proshenko will find the way to find a common language with both sides.  

The inside job: “Not all that glitters is gold”

In this post I would like to introduce you a good friend of mine, Maryna Charniakovich. Maryna is 43 year old woman from Belarus. She was my German teacher for a while, and believe me, she was so patient. I remember that she told me stories from her country (just in the breaks, as an eastern citizen she is quite demanding), and she amazed me with her memories.

???????????????????????????????

Maryna Charniakovich

Maryna has a degree in Germanic and Hispanic Language by the State University of Foreign Languages of Minsk. She worked as a German teacher for 15 years in Gomel, a sadly well known city because of being the biggest city of the area affected by the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. Life leaded Maryna to Spain because of the love of her life, her husband, who is Spanish, and she, as an open-minded and adventurous woman accepted to leave Belarus and come to our country to begin a family. About this, she told me she was never afraid of moving to Spain, she had a good image of spaniards and was looking forward to live here.

After having introduced Maryna to you, I would like to focus on the education in the East. We all have the idea (general but not totally wrong) of great professionals and strict methods used in Russia and the Republics, but how does it really works?. First thing I was curious about is how was the education before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Maryna explained me that a big change happened, mainly in the social field. She was taught to believe in the big sacrifice of the eastern bloc, to be proud of the great feat of the peoples, but the confident in their homeland fell apart when they discovered the masacres that Stalin and his acolytes have done to the people they were supposed to defend. Anyway, she explained me that the love for the country was the same, but the people were deceived, in her words “it was like a betrayal to my childhood beliefs”.

That is why when she started at the University with 16, she rapidly began to participate in protests against the Communist Party, when the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics was not even a rumor. She told me that the atmosphere was different at that time, and people started to believe in the power of their acts.

She explained me that it was difficult for her to fight against politics when she became a teacher in her country and has no doubt about the influence of politics in education in Russia, Belarus and the rest of ex-soviet Republics. The main aspect of this influence was patriotism. She tells that she complained a lot against the severity of this aspect in schools, because though she loved her country she did not understand why it had to be on that way, she says “you love your motherland because it is what it is, but you respect it when the compromise and the respect for the citizens is strong”. She explained how she used to complaint out loud, but sometimes it was worthless and other times, when her protest threatened to damage her colleagues, she just had to complaint quietly.

She still thinks that Russia and the Republics are still very influenced by politics, but her words seem to be full of hope, looking forward a day when Belarus and other countries get rid of that political influence and let the people think more freely. She certainly thinks that the idea of the Soviet Union was not totally bad and explains how there used to be a lot of people from different countries fighting together for a common interest, but she believes that Russia still have negative traces that the USSR left.

Anyway, she does not regret at all the education she received, she is very proud of that and defends the methods and the different way of dealing with education there, such as the love for art and music. She comments how children were more free to develop their passion for culture, but she does regret the lack of means the teachers have in order to put their expertise into practice, accepting how herself had to buy material and stuff for her pupils with her own money most of the time. She recognizes that teachers were well prepared, as well as their students, but it is not all thanks to the government. Governments of different eastern countries show off of their education but “let me say not all that glitters is gold”.

Maryna says that if she could change something, she would give their collagues in their country and in the region in general, the freedom of the West and the technical means as well, but she would still prefer the soviet and post-soviet freedom of the eastern students during the teaching process, which really allows the student to progress as a professional but also as  an individual, something she thinks is missing now in Spain.

To finish I would like to highlight a sentence from Maryna that she used to say while she was working in a successful school back in Belarus: “the success of our students pass through the bodies of our teachers”. As you can see, she defends the quality of the education and the knowledge and efforts of the students in the region but she also recognizes that the system lacks of structures and means overall, on her words “just countries that respect, support and help their teachers can be totally proud of their educative system”.

And do you know what? I totally agree!

 

Marina Romero Rivas

Interview To “Ludmila Vinograd” about Russian politics and cultural affairs related with Spain

      My interview has been made to Ludmila Vinograd, she is a friend and Russian teacher. Her family is Russian and although she was not borned in Russia she feels a really close link to the Russian nation. At home she was raised with the typical traditions from Russia and shares the culture. She also has raised her children with this values and one of them currently works as lawyer for Russian immigrants who come to Spain. Since she has lived her whole live away from Russia she has made efforts to keep her identity and in every country she has lived she has maintained close nexus with the Russian population in them.

      In this interview she has explained what is her opinion about some political topics such as the Ukrainian conflict, nowadays probably the most important one for the Russian population and government, others like to what level is Russia really a democracy and finally she shared with me the point of view of Russian people towards Spanish people and how does the Russian people who live abroad from their home country feel about topics concerning their nation.

      Russian people seem to have some kind of affinity with Spanish people. They like our culture and lifestyle. It appears to be similar to theirs. This is really important since Spanish most powerful economic sector is tourism and according to last year’s data, Russian people were majority here in Spain as tourists. The reason why they choose this destination is also because they like the weather and beaches since at their home country they don’t have the possibility to enjoy of this in the same way. Many Russians come to live also to the eastern coasts of Spain and this is also why her son works with them as a lawyer in Alicante.

     After this she explained to me a little bit about Russia´s political system and how even away from home she watches the Russian television and is updated with Russia’s news. Russia from what I got from this interview is a democracy, as we know but it cannot be compared for example with Spanish democracy since there everything is more restricted and controlled by the government. She gets this idea since as I said before watches Russia’s television and everything they say is completely directed in their benefit. It seems to her as if there are some restrictions for free media. For her through the television channel when they talk for example about the Ukrainian conflict they not just only give the government point of view but they accuse Ukrainians and the US as the guilty ones.

     According to her the fact that Russia is not really the best example of a democracy is probably because of the Soviet Union. For her Russian people are used to have strong governments sometimes way to strong and this has caused ion her opinion the need for the Russian people to have a strong leader which according to  what Machiavelli wrote in the prince is necessary for a leader to be efficient. A leader needs to be powerful and kind of despotic to be a good one.

     Secondly we talked about some internal conflicts in the Russian nation such as for example the Nothern Caucasus. Why does Russia wants to keep this regions if really no Russian people really live there? The reason why for her was probably because to give up these regions would mean that the government is weak and for them it is important to maintain this status of strong and powerful. But this issues don’t seem to worry too much the Russian population since the news coverage on this topics are really small. Actually just when a terrorist attack is committed is when they talk about the conflict.

      Another topic we covered is if communism was still on peoples mind. From the Russians that live out of the country at least not. They are even afraid of it, they don´t like it. It is completely normal since the Soviet Union was a really hard place to live. For the ones who have live it is even considered a threat. But obviously there is probably people who can support it but the country is every day becoming more liberal and open in economic terms.

     This lead to the last point which is if right now Russia is trying to build a second soviet Union signing treaties with ex soviet countries and also we talked about the bases Russia is building in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as a response to the US bases on Turkey, Japan and South Korea. In her opinion Russia has always that rival which is the US and even if the situation now is more less okay the tensions are always there.

Written by Miguel Ángel Benza

Interview To Ludmila Vinograd about Russian politics and cultural affairs related with Spain

      My interview has been made to Ludmila Vinograd, she is a friend and Russian teacher. Her family is Russian and although she was not borned in Russia she feels a really close link to the Russian nation. At home she was raised with the typical traditions from Russia and shares the culture. She also has raised her children with this values and one of them currently works as lawyer for Russian immigrants who come to Spain. Since she has lived her whole live away from Russia she has made efforts to keep her identity and in every country she has lived she has maintained close nexus with the Russian population in them.

      In this interview she has explained what is her opinion about some political topics such as the Ukrainian conflict, nowadays probably the most important one for the Russian population and government, others like to what level is Russia really a democracy and finally she shared with me the point of view of Russian people towards Spanish people and how does the Russian people who live abroad from their home country feel about topics concerning their nation.

      Russian people seem to have some kind of affinity with Spanish people. They like our culture and lifestyle. It appears to be similar to theirs. This is really important since Spanish most powerful economic sector is tourism and according to last year’s data, Russian people were majority here in Spain as tourists. The reason why they choose this destination is also because they like the weather and beaches since at their home country they don’t have the possibility to enjoy of this in the same way. Many Russians come to live also to the eastern coasts of Spain and this is also why her son works with them as a lawyer in Alicante.

      After this she explained to me a little bit about Russia´s political system and how even away from home she watches the Russian television and is updated with Russia’s news. Russia from what I got from this interview is a democracy, as we know but it cannot be compared for example with Spanish democracy since there everything is more restricted and controlled by the government. She gets this idea since as I said before watches Russia’s television and everything they say is completely directed in their benefit. It seems to her as if there are some restrictions for free media. For her through the television channel when they talk for example about the Ukrainian conflict they not just only give the government point of view but they accuse Ukrainians and the US as the guilty ones.

      According to her the fact that Russia is not really the best example of a democracy is probably because of the Soviet Union. For her Russian people are used to have strong governments sometimes way to strong and this has caused ion her opinion the need for the Russian people to have a strong leader which according to  what Machiavelli wrote in the prince is necessary for a leader to be efficient. A leader needs to be powerful and kind of despotic to be a good one.

      Secondly we talked about some internal conflicts in the Russian nation such as for example the Nothern Caucasus. Why does Russia wants to keep this regions if really no Russian people really live there? The reason why for her was probably because to give up these regions would mean that the government is weak and for them it is important to maintain this status of strong and powerful. But this issues don’t seem to worry too much the Russian population since the news coverage on this topics are really small. Actually just when a terrorist attack is committed is when they talk about the conflict.

      Another topic we covered is if communism was still on peoples mind. From the Russians that live out of the country at least not. They are even afraid of it, they don´t like it. It is completely normal since the Soviet Union was a really hard place to live. For the ones who have live it is even considered a threat. But obviously there is probably people who can support it but the country is every day becoming more liberal and open in economic terms.

      This lead to the last point which is if right now Russia is trying to build a second soviet Union signing treaties with ex soviet countries and also we talked about the bases Russia is building in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as a response to the US bases on Turkey, Japan and South Korea. In her opinion Russia has always that rival which is the US and even if the situation now is more less okay the tensions are always there.

Written by Miguel Ángel Benzal

 

Venezuela-Russia: The Axis Of Outcasts

      The Venezuelan delegation has arrived to Moscow last week on May 29th with the intentions of discussing the ways to further promote the strategic cooperation between Russia and Venezuela.

      The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergie Lavrov, has expressed at the conference with the Venezuela´s Minister Elias Jaua, Russia´s opposition to foreign interference in Venezuelan internal affairs, such as sanctions against the Venezuelan authorities.

      Lavrov also noted that “We [The Russian government] believe that any problems should be resolved within the constitution, without any foreign interference, such as sanctions or a threat to impose sanctions. “The U.S House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials. The bill prohibits some Venezuelan politicians to travel to the U.S and it will freeze their accounts in the U.S banks, as a punishment for violation of human rights, which were exposed during the last three months of anti-government protests. This unfortunate event claimed 42 people’s lives.

      The two foreign ministers of the world’s richest countries in oil reserves have future cooperative plans and high hopes for the 10th meeting of the Russia-Venezuela High Level Commission. Economic relations between Venezuela and Russia are stable for many years and continue to grow.

      Vladimir Putin admired Hugo Chávez in the past, saying that he was one of the best leaders of Latin America. Putin and Chavez used to conduct various weapon and oil agreements. The trade deals continued to expand as Putin and Maduro have recently declared new multi-million dollar investment plans, concerning the creation of synergic link between Russian oil company, “Rosneft” and the Venezuelan oil company,  “Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.” The political leaders announced the opening of the Russian-Venezuelan bank which would be created for development projects in Venezuela.

      To understand better the current Russia-Venezuela relations it is necessary to go back to the height of the Cold War. The  interactions between the USSR, and many of the countries of South and Central America became notorious, as both the Soviet Union and the United States of America adopted ´aggressive ‘and ´militaristic ´foreign policies with the ambition of establishing ideological allies in governments throughout the region. Both superpowers were willing to achieve these goals through the use of force and political subversion if necessary. Curiously, Venezuela remained somewhat outside of the power play of Cold War politics for most of the period. The country loosely supported the United States, and was generally anti-communist. At the end of the Cold War, with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the brief re-orientation of Russian foreign policy towards Western interests, Moscow´s influence waned in Latin America. Venezuela, on the other hand, witnessed renewed growth, buoyed by an increasing income of petrodollars, and the 1998 election of the charismatic and bellicose Hugo Chavez.

      Russia and the US seem to be in a second cold war, competing between each other in order to gain more power than the other. We see this with the military bases Russia has recently decided to build in the South American countries of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba. According to Russia´s Minister of Defence is because they need bases close to the equator axis but the truth is that the US has already settled bases in South Korea, Japan or Turkey.

      Therefore, is the relation between Russia and Venezuela a potential threat for the US, and could these newly formed economical ties create potentially new “Cuban crisis” or is this just one more example of current Russian spite and their way of indicating to US that the world is a tiny place and each of them should remain on their part of the world?