U.S. commander: “We want enemies to fear us”

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Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba “threaten hemispheric security and prosperity,” a top U.S. military commander said today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Russia supports all three of the countries – dubbed the “troika of tyranny” – and may use them to gain a strategic foothold in Latin America, said Craig S. Faller, who leads the U.S. Southern Command.
Admiral Faller told the senators:

As tensions increase with Russia in Europe, Moscow may leverage these longstanding regional partners to maintain asymmetric options, to include forward deploying military personnel or assets.

Faller’s comments appear aimed at shaping a narrative saying that the troika – along with Russia – is a military threat to the United States.
I wonder if U.S. officials will use this argument to try to justify the use of military force in the region.

Excerpts of Faller’s statement, marked unclassified, are below:

We recognize that the success and security of future generations depend on how effectively we build trust with allies and partners in the hemisphere today…
Ultimately, we want enemies to fear us, friends to partner with us, and the Western Hemisphere to shine as a beacon of peace, prosperity, and potential.
The strengths and opportunities of our hemisphere — democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law, and military-to-military relationships rooted in education, culture, and values — are matched with a troubling array of challenges and threats to global security and to our homeland. These include natural and man-made disasters, weak government institutions, corruption, under-resourced security organizations, violent crime, criminal organizations, and violent extremist cells.

Craig S. Faller. Photo: U.S. Navy

Russia supports multiple information outlets spreading its false narrative of world events and U.S. intentions. Iran has deepened its anti-U.S. Spanish language media coverage and has exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere. Russia and China also support the autocratic regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests. We are monitoring the latest events in Venezuela and look forward to welcoming that country back into the hemisphere’s community of democracies.
Russia and China are expanding their influence in the Western Hemisphere, often at the expense of U.S. interests. Both enable — and are enabled by — actions in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba that threaten hemispheric security and prosperity, and the actions of those three states in turn damage the stability and democratic progress across the region. As the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, Iran’s activities in the region are also concerning.
Russia and China also support their authoritarian partners in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, often through propaganda and other information-related tools. Moscow, for example, provides positive media coverage of its authoritarian allies, papering over repression and socioeconomic inequity in Nicaragua. Moscow also seeks to undercut U.S. policies and regional relationships through information operations and intelligence collection, and by influencing political systems, public opinion, and decision makers. Russia published hundreds of articles last year in its Spanish and Portuguese-language media that deliberately distorted our defense engagements.
The linkages between these malign actors are negatively reinforcing. Emboldened by Russian and Chinese support, Venezuela is engaging in increasingly provocative actions, threatening Guyana’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction and providing sanctuary for National Liberation Army (ELN) fighters that threaten Colombian stability. Russia and Cuba are both complicit in Venezuela’s descent into dictatorship, but Cuba is particularly influential in supporting Maduro. Following the Cuban government’s advice and assisted by its intelligence machinery, Maduro is adhering to the autocratic blueprint Cuban leaders have ruthlessly executed for over six decades. Nicaragua appears to be going down a similar path following Cuba’s playbook, with Cuba, Russia, and Venezuela enabling President Ortega’s repression of his political opposition. These relationships give Russia, in particular, a foothold close to our homeland. As tensions increase with Russia in Europe, Moscow may leverage these longstanding regional partners to maintain asymmetric options, to include forward deploying military personnel or assets. We are increasing cooperation with partners to better understand, expose, and counter the malign activities of Russia, China, and their authoritarian allies. We are also working more closely with other U.S. combatant commands and the Joint Staff to ensure that globally integrated plans and operations are informed by threats and opportunities in this hemisphere. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s globally integrated planning is exactly the right approach for addressing the transregional, transnational nature of today’s threat environment.

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