Russia Flaunts Strength in Panama

Russia, in an attempt to flaunt a growing influence in the Central/South American region, announced Wednesday sending a destroyer to the former U.S naval base. Referring to it as the ‘Rodman naval base’, a term last used in cold war era. The journey is more of a symbolic move rather than one of purpose. An obvious sign of Russia’s discontent with U.S actions leading to the Georgian conflict, it is not a threat U.S officials will take to heart.

The Russian destroyer, Admiral Chabanenko, participated in joint war exercises with Venezuela earlier in the week, finishing on Monday. President Hugo Chavez and President Dmitri A. Medvedev remarked that the war exercises were called for increased security, bringing Russian-Venezuelan relations closer, and to ward off the potential threat of the United States.

A seemingly innocent ship arrival, buried with deep symbolic meaning. Just what is the significance of Panama? Phillipe Bunau-Varilla signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty which granted rights to the United States to construct and operate the Panama Canal for an unspecified amount of time, it was opened in 1914. The treaty became a hard fought diplomatic issue between the United States and The Republic of Panama, finally pouring over on Martyr’s Day(9 January 1964).

The riots that ensued on Martyr’s Day were over the sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone and the tearing of a Panama flag at a protest in an effort to fly it alongside the United States Flag.

Why is this such a symbolic action? The Panama Zone has largely been a prized asset of the U.S., operating many bases in the region with it’s growing influence. As America’s influence in the world begins to falter, many previous American strongholds suffer from lack of interest due to heavier issues at hand regarding the war on terror.

With Obama as President Elect, President Hugo Chavez extended warm congratulations, showing a promising sign of cooling tensions, the polar opposite of McCain during many political attacks. While McCain denounced Venezuela’s expulsion of U.S Ambassador Duddy, Obama took a stance of neutrality.