Peter Brookes

There's precedent: A pair of Russian Tu-160 "Blackjack" strategic bombers visited Venezuela last fall, conducting patrols over the Caribbean for a spell before returning home to Mother Russia. The Blackjacks were later joined by a Russian flotilla, doing a little muscle-flexing in joint operations with the Venezuelan navy perhaps in a tit-for-tat for US Navy ships' operations in the Black Sea during last year's Georgia crisis.

Not surprisingly, both Moscow and Caracas have downplayed the general's comments, characterizing his suggestion as a mere hypothetical which it is, of course, until it happens.

The Kremlin clearly hasn't hit that reset button it's sticking to the same course it's charted for years: that is, rebuilding and reasserting Russian power by chipping away at US influence and position around the world, using ties with "unfriendlies" (such as Iran) if needed to check Washington.

Of course, Moscow could just be gathering bargaining chips in advance of the first meeting between Presidents Medvedev and Obama next month at the G-20 in London. But the Kremlin's notion of "reboot" isn't the same as the White House's: For Moscow, a restart in relations means a significant retreat in Washington's interests in Europe and elsewhere in the face of a resurgent Russia.

Editors' Note: This piece originally appeared in the New York Post.

Peter Brookes

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
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