Forecast for Latin America: Cold (War) Winds from Russia

Forty-six years ago this week, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved when President John F. Kennedy agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey. In his pact with Nikita Khrushchev, Kennedy also agreed that the U.S. would neither invade Cuba nor allow an exile invasion of Cuba, a decision that converted America from Fidel Castro's enemy to his de facto protector. The Soviets, for their part, agreed to remove the missiles they had snuck into the island nation under Kennedy's nose.

Just a year after the missile crisis Kennedy would be assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a communist admirer of Fidel Castro, and Cuba would remain an important client of the Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War.

Well, global warming be damned; it may not be another Cold War yet but it's starting to get very chilly in Latin America thanks to a Russian breeze that's blowing in from across the Atlantic. On Monday, Reuters reported, "The Russian and Cuban military will exchange experience in organizing tactical air defense and in training officers."

This is the latest in a series of eyebrow-raising actions by Russia in Latin America. In September, two Russian strategic bombers landed in Venezuela to conduct "training missions." Also in September, Russia announced that it would dispatch warships to Venezuela to conduct joint exercises in November.

One thing is certain; Russia is trying hard to get attention from the U.S. Or perhaps it's simply trying to unload weapons in exchange for Venezuelan petrodollars. Or probably both.

Russia under Putin and now Dmitry Medvedev, Putin's puppet president, has acted in ways that are reminiscent of the bad old days of the "evil empire." Many observers believe Russia is acting out in response to NATO's expansion, which has left Russia surrounded by former Soviet states that are now allied with the U.S. Some also see these actions as a response to proposed missile defense systems in Europe.