Two news items this week underline the cost of the Bush Administration’s bungling anti-Russia policy. Both relate to Russian activity in its old stomping ground in America’s Latin backyard.

The first is news that Russia is thinking about putting manned bombers in Cuba in response to US efforts to install anti-missile defense systems in eastern Europe:

Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons could be deployed to Cuba in response to U.S. plans to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, a Russian newspaper reported Monday, citing an unnamed senior Russian air force official.

That’s from Izvestia. It may be unlikely — one source calls it psychological warfare, but still. It drew a sharp response from a top US air force official:

A top U.S. Air Force officer warned on Tuesday that Russia would be crossing “a red line” if it were to use Cuba as a refueling base for nuclear-capable bombers. … “And if they did, I think we should stand strong and indicate that that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America.”

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is in Moscow, talking about an alliance with Russia, ostensibly aimed at defending his country against the United States but in fact closely tied to Russia’s worldwide oil diplomacy:

The South American said he wanted a strategic alliance with Russia to protect his country from attack from the United States. Shortly after his arrival in Moscow he said: “[The alliance would mean] we can guarantee Venezuela’s sovereignty, which is now threatened by the United States. We want peace, but we are forced to strengthen our defence.”

President Dmitry Medvedev said Russian-Venezuelan relations “are one of the key factors of security in the [South American] region.”

The deals could include oil exploration in Venezuela and a joint bank.

Venezuela’s state-run oil company signed separate deals with three Russian energy companies, Gazprom, Lukoil and TNK-BP, during the first day of Chavez’s visit.

Chavez said the deals signalled the “creation of a new strategic energy alliance” between the two countries.

Chavez is also reported to be interested in purchasing Russian military hardware. One newspaper reported that the potential contracts could be worth up to $2 billion.

Furthermore, the newspaper Kommersant reported that Chavez is looking to order Ilyushin jets, diesel-powered submarines, Tor-M1 air defence systems and possibly tanks.

Pretty interesting stuff.