Remember that promise vice presidential candidate Joe Biden once made?
"It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
Headlined on Drudgereport this morning from the AFP:
Russia could use bases for its strategic bombers on the doorstep of the United States in Cuba and Venezuela to underpin long-distance patrols in the region, a senior air force officer said Saturday. "This is possible in Cuba," General Anatoly Zhikharev, chief of the Russian air force's strategic aviation staff, told the Interfax-AVN military news agency.
The comments were the latest signal that Moscow intends to project its military capability in far-flung corners of the globe despite a tight defence budget and hardware that experts consider in many respects outdated.
He noted that the Venezuelan constitution prohibited establishment of military bases of foreign states on Venezuelan territory and described the Russian possibile use of the facility there as "we land, we complete the flight, we take off."
Zhikharev said Cuba had a several air bases equipped with the long runways needed by the heavy bombers and said the facilities there were "entirely acceptable" for use by the Russian aircraft during long-distance patrols.
The general also said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had offered to let Russian strategic bombers use a military airfield on La Orchila island, a military base off the west coast of the country.
It really is not a question of political will for Cuba and Venezuela, they'll accept a generous deal from just about any anti-American government (Iran was just in Venezuela - it doesn't get more politically provocative than that right now). Both countries have severe economic problems, aging infrastructure, along with worsening food rationing as oil prices plummet and socialism fails. No, the political will must come from Russia, who fully appreciates that they are replaying the 1962 Cuban missile crisis with an even less experienced American president. It is written that new President John Kennedy left his meetings with Krushchev thoroughly outplayed, and that fed the confidence of the USSR that they could put SAM installations, and then long range nuclear missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States:
Immediately following the final session on June 4 Kennedy sat for a previously scheduled interview with New York Times columnist James Reston at the American embassy. Kennedy was reeling from his meetings with Khrushchev, famously describing the meetings as the "roughest thing in my life." Reston reported that Kennedy said just enough for Reston to conclude that Khrushchev "had studied the events of the Bay of Pigs" and that he had "decided that he was dealing with an inexperienced young leader who could be intimidated and blackmailed." Kennedy said to Reston that Khrushchev had "just beat [the] hell out of me" and that he had presented Kennedy with a terrible problem: "If he thinks I'm inexperienced and have no guts, until we remove those ideas we won't get anywhere with him. So we have to act."
In that crisis we ended up on the brink of war until they accepted our offer of capitulation, and soon after came the Vietnam war. It might be that Russia all along was playing to get us to remove our missiles in Turkey, but the impression of Russians at the Vienna conference that our leader was weak brought antagonization; it wasn't perceived as idealism, and it didn't make the world any safer. President Obama is being invited to a game of wills. Everyone will be watching as he is measured. Who do you think will blink first this time: Putin or Obama?
Cuba and Venezuela only await a place to sign the deal. If Russia chooses to provoke the predictable reaction it expects from the United States, it will be declaring its hostility directly (who else in that hemisphere is such a threat?). We've already signaled our willingness to abandon the missile shield in Eastern Europe, done as a goodwill gesture, but we may have handed away one of the few bargaining chips we have with Russia. What will they take in exchange for refusing the open hand of local regimes hostile to America? Will Obama acquiesce to a demand that we withdraw support from our allies in their region? Would they ask that we relent on Iranian nuclear aspirations? What coalitions will gather, and who will stand behind us when catastrophe seems most imminent?
What this situation does do is give the Obama admiinistration a chance to show us how unlike president Bush they are. The current president has been backhanding the Bush administration for two years now. Now we face another potential crisis that will tax an already exhausted leader, and if there was ever a time to start respecting our allies, this is it. That red reset button, a prop passed along with so many words, will be put to the test. Let's hope that pressing it won't send devastation our way.