Re: CENTRAL AMERICA: The US and Soviet/Cuban military presence

Tim Brown says:The last time we sent troops to Nicaragua was in the 1920s, and since the 1980s  we have never sent any troops there or to El Salvador. Nor have we ever had air or naval bases in either of those countries. Between 1980 and 1990 there were many times more Cuban military personnel in Nicaragua than there were American military in all of Central America combined and, according to the records of the Nicaraguan FSLN,  more Sandinista People's Army troops were trained by Cubans during that period than there ever were Contras.  As to El Salvador, the records of the FMLN itself indicate that about 30% of its guerrillas were trained in Cuba and another 30-40% in Nicaragua by the Sandinistas and,  since these records are far from complete, they greatly understate actual expenditures. Even so, these records clearly show that the Soviet Union and East Bloc spend far more money training and arming the Sandinista Army than we even thought of spending on the Contras.
I find it both fascinating and representative of his biases that John Heeley asserts that since 1980 the US has merely "pretended" that it faces national security threats. Most other people, even including the Soviets themselves, believe that the US and the Soviet Union were very real and dangerous adversaries until after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And, of course, there has since been 9/11, which some of us, but obviously not Mr. Healey, firmly believe demonstrated that there are still serious threats to US and European security
But, I suppose, to those for whom unsubstantiated - even counterfactual - polemics are the preferred form of discourse, all evidence to the contrary of their beloved opinions is just fantasy.

RH: "We have never had naval bases in El Salvador or Nicaragua".  True, but the US had plans to build one in the Gulf of Fonseca which lies between the two countries, but it gave up the plan.
Jon Kofas writes: Tim Brown tries to outline a case that Central America served as a conduit for the Soviet Union and posed a national security threat to the U.S. and to its interests during the 1970s and 1980. It would be unrealistic to think that the USSR and Cuba did not want to create trouble for pro-U.S. regimes in Central America and to gain influence there. But it would be equally unrealistic to assume that El Salvador, Nicaragua, or all of Latin America combined has ever in their entire history posed any type of threat to the U.S. By contrast, Latin America has lived in the shadow of a hegemonic U.S. that has invaded Latin America dozens of times from the Polk administration's invasion of Mexico to Reagan who sent marineTim Brown writes: Jon Kofas suffers from several strategic illusions: One is that Latin America is not, never has been and never will be of any strategic importance to anyone, most especially the US. That is not and never has been true. Two, that physical size is the sole measure of actual or potential threat. It is not.  Mr. Kofas may well suffer from the illusion that geography is unrelated to strategy, but just the opposite is true. Geography lies at the heart of strategy because proximity multiplies threat. During the Cold War the world, and US, came closest to nuclear holocaust in Latin America, Cuba to be precise. If that was not of strategic importance to the US, then nothing ever has been or will be.  Proximity was the key. Further, since more than 40% of all logistical supplies earmarked for NATO in case of war would have had to transit within 40 miles of Cuba, NATO strategy included protection of the SLOC running between Cuba and Florida as a key objective. Logistics was the key. More widely, under the Sandinistas the largest air base between Panama and the US was built at Punta Huete, designed specifically to support long-range Soviet Bear Ds and Fs and advanced MIGs that could only perform strategic missions. Geography was the key.  On Grenada, Cuban Special Forces and engineers were busily building bases on the island, including most especially a potential submarine facility that could have supported Soviet nuclear subs, bioth attacks and boomers. Since this would have posed a direct threat to Caribbean SLOCs, this potential threat involved all three - proximity, logistics and geography. In response to Jon Kofas' rhetorical question: "Does any one with any common sense and modicum of realism actually believe that the U.S., which spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined, has legitimate security concerns regarding Latin America?" the answer is a resounding YES.

RH: "Bioth" is a medical term and "boomers" are babies, but I do not know what the words mean in this context.  Here is what the Miami Herald (7/18/99) said about Punta Huete: The Sandinistas had a commitment for MiGs from the Soviet Union. Yhe Sandinistas began building a base for the jet fighters at  Punta Huete, a remote site on the east side of Lake Managua.  The site included a 10,000-foot concrete runway -- the longest in Central America  -- capable of handling any military aircraft in the Soviet fleet, and protective bunkers for 16 aircraft. It was top secret, but somehow the Americans found out  anyway. Nicaraguan pilots trained to  fly the MiGs in
Bulgaria. But in 1987, soon after the Punta Huete site was finished, the Soviets backed out. Soviet advice was that it was time to achieve a  regional settlement of security problems,'' made the Sandinistas realize that they  could no longer depend on the USSR for help. Quickly the Sandinistas signed onto a regional peace plan sponsored by Costa  Rican President Oscar Arias, which required peace talks with the U.S.-backed  contra army. Those talks in turn led, eventually, to an agreement for internationally supervised elections that resulted in a Sandinista defeat in 1990.

s to Grenada, arguing that the tiny island posed a security threat! Does any one with any common sense and modicum of realism actually believe that the U.S., which spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined, has legitimate security concerns regarding Latin America? Are we going to use 9/11 as a pretext to justify global hegemony in the next half century, in the same manner that we used "international Communism" in the second half of the 20th century? And does majority in the rest of the world take seriously U.S. arguments that its is fighting to preserve its national security while spreading freedom and democracy, or do most people on this planet view the U.S. as the real threat to global security, freedom, and democracy?

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 8, 2005