Friday, December 12, 2008

The Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the next 7 days.

That which is not a thread topic, goes here. Also, any topic you want to bring back from the dead or any suggestions for a new topic, goes here.

caveat: the usual rules apply.

Refresher Course on the usual rules:
. Play Nice.
.. This is the place for all those random thoughts, political or other, that you feel should be out here in public view.

CAVEAT: This is not an invitation to mayhem, and comments that run wildly astray will get deleted with no further notice.


Kate said...

Hi, LDG. Not quite sure what the specific rules for the open thread are, as I am relatively new to the blog, but I wanted to throw out a query regarding the joint naval exercises between Nicaragua and Russia taking place, and ask for your perspective. I see it from the Central American perspective, but would be curious as to how you view it in terms of geopolitics.

Thanks, and as always, a great blog. I am really enjoying it.

L.Douglas Garrett said...


Hi there, and again welcome!

I did a revision to the thread post here so you (and others) can see the Open Thread rules. I need to remind myself to repost those regularly now and then. Thanks, and thank you for your kind words as well!

re: The Russian Navy Rum Run

First noting that being almost anywhere else than Murmansk in December is a good thing ((grin)), do also recall that the Russia-Venezuela Naval Exercise has achieved a hype-value far greater than what was expected when it was planned.

When it was planned back last Spring, I believe it was conceived of as basically a hugely expensive sales promotion tour. Russia and Venezuela were swimming in Oil profits and that market looked to only go higher (they thought). Russia could now afford deployments, and Venezuela could either buy more weapons or subsidize purchases by "allies".

When the Russo-Georgian conflict came along, the hype about geopolitics happened. Coincidence. The plan was already in place to cruise around visiting (first the Med and then) Caribbean "friends-of-Volodya".

From the Hugo Chavez point of view, well, he got to act like he was important. I've commented previously on that:

"Very well then, that all seems to show that the sum total of those headlines is a minor complication to U.S. military and political affairs, sufficient fighting power to potentially put the continued liberty of Aruba at risk, and a major threat to the supply of fruity cocktail drinks at any resorts open to off-base leave by the visiting team."

Other notes:
What I find most telling about such deployments is that the Russians do a couple of things that draw attention to weaknesses: The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko is the most heavily deployed vessel in the Russian Navy. It is almost like they don't trust other ships to leave port, and; The Russian Navy never sends a major vessel (battlecruiser or carrier) to sea without a seagoing tug in the flotilla.

By the way, if you'd like to read more about this from the Russian side, but in English, here is a link to Russian Navy Blog. Good source.

More about Russian Navy capabilities at force projection can be read here at Information Dissemination which is one of the premier Navy-focused 'blogs out there.

Hope that helps.

Susan said...

Interesting background Kate has-- I lived in Bogota, Kate-- as well as a couple other spots in South America-- bien venida!

It has been awhile since I visited here... lots of stuff going on!

L.Douglas Garrett said...


Welcome back! You were missed.

L.Douglas Garrett said...


A little more, Nicaragua-specific, about the Russian Navy Rum Run:

The Flotilla will visit Nicaragua, but as the port facilities are quite limited on the Caribbean side, the big ship of the group will have to stay well offshore.

Bluefields is the only significant port on that side, and it is rather limited by modern standards.

The visit, like the Panama tour, is a "show-the-flag" visit, not a military exercise as per se.

*here* is the Miami Herald's version of the AP report (filed from Moscow).

Kate said...

@LDG, thank you for the links, very interesting and informative. Particularly interesting the Russian Navy blog, curious to see what it comes up with next week following its adventure in Nica.

The visit to Nicaragua, or at least the carrying out of the exercises given the timing, still puzzles me a bit, in that, politically, in wake of the 9N municipals and the fraud alleged by all members of the opposition, Ortega does not carry a great deal of support to host such an activity which is in express violation of Art. 92 of the Nicaraguan Constitution. I don't pretend to assert that the Rule of Law, or even a semblance of it, exists in the country now, but such a move would further seem to deteriorate any credibility that the Ortega government might have left. Ortega did not even attend the welcoming ceremony.

Kate said...

@Susan: Vivia en Bogota? Que deli! I have also lived in Chile, a lovely country, but it has nothing on my Colombia :)

@LDG: Bluefields is an interesting spot, I have a friend from there. Curiously close to Monkey Point where the Iranians want to build a deep water port.

L.Douglas Garrett said...


Hm, well let me see... Article 92 of the 1995 Constitution was recently amended, if I recall correctly, but it is part of Title V's establishment of the role of the military. I do think that under the Congressional Approval requirement for entry by foreign Naval vessels, there is a statutory violation there. (Note however that in the La Prensa article you cited, there is the explanation that Congress is not in session).

It would be an interesting comparison to note what was required of the U.S. Navy during this summer's USS Kearsarge aid visit. Don't have the particulars on that to hand from here now, though.

re: Bluefields and related developments (Monkey Point) -- The real oddity of that Iranian offer is that the East Coast of Nicaragua is still not connected to any interior transportation network other than riverine (and less-than-reliable air transport), so anything built up there would either serve external purposes or export materials gathered on the East Coast. 'Course that all presumes the Iranians were not promising something they never intended to do.

(side note: I've always been interested in the fact that the Moskito Coast almost ended up a British Protectorate. Odd twists and turns of history, and all that.)

Kate said...

@LDG, it is part of Title V, which deals with the role of the Nicaraguan military, but the article itself does not provide specific stipulations if the Congress is not in session. (It has been out of session for approximately a month.) Today there was an article attempting to explain the steps taken, but it merely made the military look foolish and at the same time a mere arm of the presidency. This politicized role of the Armed Forces in Nicaragua is yet another way to augment the cleavage already existing in political and civil society.

Regarding the accessibility of Monkey Point, I think that plays quite well into Iran's interests, if they choose to move forward with their plans. They would be able to operate under the auspices of being regulated by Nicaraguan authorities, but in reality, would probably have more freedom than one might think prudent.

L.Douglas Garrett said...


I understand, and appreciate the finer point of that all: The military was de-politicized and it best stay that way for the good of the country.

re: Iranian interests
"...would probably have more freedom than one might think prudent."

heh, given my feelings about certain of their activities, giving them *any* freedom of action is far more that I consider prudent.

L.Douglas Garrett said...


re: Russian Navy in Nicaragua

*this* Reuters item has a comment that the Opposition party refused to let the Congress meet...

Any other source on that, or is this just another stringer playing propagandist on a major wire service?

Kate said...

@LDG, will check. I spoke briefly today with a friend of mine who lives in Managua and she tells me that the recess is normal, starting on the 15th (yesterday), but for the past month and a half or so, there have not been quorums, so none of the important legislation (the budget in particular) has not been passed. They would be in session for a day, and then not do anything for over a week, except fight. Hopefully when I speak with her later this week she will be able to clarify what Reuters said. To be frank, I don't trust them too much to do much more than hype the situations up; I guess 2D and their reporting will always be in the back of my mind.

KC-Fresno, Ca. said...

Howdy LDG

Been awhile, but Iam still here. I see I have many topics to read and catch up on.
Even tho I rarely comment, trust me, I am here alot. Love your blog and the knowledge you share.

L.Douglas Garrett said...


Thank you! It will be good to know more about this.


Hi there! Welcome back, and thank you for the kind words. It has been a busy couple of days for topics here. Sorry to snow you under a bit, but like forecasting the weather one can't always predict when a lot of news will break all at once.

Enjoy the reading, and as always do ask any questions that come to mind.

Kate said...

@LDG, I think Tim Rogers explains what we have been discussing on this post here quite well.

L.Douglas Garrett said...


Thank you, yes that is just the sort of explanation needed.

A Good Find!


rolling forward to the new Open Thread for the next week.

further comments go there, please.