By Martin Arostegui
The Washington Times
A Russian fleet sailing toward the Caribbean for military exercises with Venezuela‘s navy next month reflects a chill in Russia-U.S. relations, though analysts are divided on whether the drill represents a threat to U.S. interests or is merely a demonstration to embarrass Washington.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says the drill seals Venezuela’s “strategic alliance with Russia,” which he announced during a recent visit to Moscow, in which he signed billions of dollars worth of arms deals.
Like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, much of Mr. Chavez’s political career has been based on his opposition to the United States.
On Russia’s end, many analysts see the move as a face-saving payback for U.S. naval deployments around the Black Sea to show support for Georgia in its conflict with Moscow that led to a brief war in August.
U.S. Navy ships were used to bring food, medicine and other relief supplies to Georgia while keeping their distance from the Russian fleet.
Still, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would respond to the deployment in an unspecified manner and with “calm.”
U.S. officials have dismissed the Russian maneuvers as insignificant….