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Fact of Life: Strategic Alliance Venezuela-Russia

A Fact of Life: Strategic Alliance Venezuela and Russia

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez met yesterday in Moscow with his Russian counterparts Russian President Dimitri Medvédev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. They seemed to enjoy every moment of the occasion, even though it was rather short when it came to hard developments.

The encounter was arranged to formalize a military and defense alliance between the two countries, dubbed the "Alianza Estratégica." The three leaders placed great stress on the importance of the meeting in which trade deals, arms sales, coordinated energy policies and the expansion of trade and joint financial services were achieved between the two nations.

By 2007, bilateral trade between Russia and Venezuela had reached 1 billion dollars and is now likely to expand exponentially. The Russian and Venezuelan leaders carried out negotiations for the likely acquisition of a large number of tanks, which are viewed by the Venezuelan high command as being indispensable to the modernization of the country's armed forces.

Some Washington's insiders believe that Caracas might be considering the purchase of the first of what could be several Russian submarines, as well as AN-74 military transport aircrafts, while at the same time continuing with talks about importing a Kalashnikov automatic weapons assembly factory schedule to be put into operation in Venezuela.

Moscow's challenge to the U.S.

What Washington has to fear is not so much Moscow's projected arms sales to Venezuela, but that Russia is now planning to sell to the U.S. as much as it receives from the Bush administration.

Russia is intent to show the U.S. that their discontent over Washington desires to build a missile shield in Poland and encourage Georgia and the Ukraine to sign up with NATO. Russia's intent is to show the U.S. that it feels that it can go ahead with.

Some U.S. leaders should estimate Russia to march its deeds by retaliations against the U.S. via Venezuela. Meanwhile, Russia can be expected to express concern for Venezuelan sovereignty and solidarity with Chávez and his populist, nationalist cause, in terms very similar to the bellicose foreign policy being undertaken by the Medvédev-Putin government.

Furthermore, Washington must realize that it is perhaps viewing the first round in Russia's notable reintroduction to Latin America, but this time its policy is fueled not so much by ideology as by a relentless hunt for natural resources and that Moscow is prepared to put at Washington's expense, heavy assets as well as the time necessary to elevate its geopolitical silhouette in the region.

Venezuelan-Russian relationship thickens

Since 2006, Venezuela and Russia have engaged in arms purchases including, Kalishnikov assault rifles, Sukhoi fighter jets and a fleet of helicopters, generating mounting apprehension in Washington.

Another tie between both countries has been the constant flow of military personnel, offering and receiving specialized training, such as Russian technicians flying into Venezuela to instruct local mechanics, as well as assigning flight instructors to train Venezuelan pilots in order to operate recently acquired equipment.

The military relationship established between Venezuela and Russia raises questions concerning Chávez's goal of achieving peace throughout Latin America, while he remains almost paranoid over what he considers to be Washington's hostile intentions towards his left-leaning government.

The consolidation of the country's military forces is being pursued relentlessly by Venezuela, and the process plays an important role in the Venezuelan president's aspiration to spearhead the regional integration movement of light-minded societies, now being witnessed in northern South America.

The international community has been paying close attention to Chávez's visit to Russia and Moscow's impact on Venezuela's future geopolitical capabilities. In addition, the geopolitical situation between these two countries illustrates how Russian relations with Latin America are becoming more important by the day, not only because of its arms sales throughout in the region, but also due to the aggressive "resource diplomacy" that Moscow has been undertaking throughout South America.

The likelihood that the continuing chilly relationship between Venezuela and the United States, along with Washington's increasingly frosting relationship with Moscow, almost certainly will continue to contribute substantially to the strengthening of military and diplomatic connections between Russia and Venezuela, which cannot possibly make the U.S. very happy.

The new fact of life facing Washington is that Russia will be a growing factor when it comes to relating to the left leaning governments of the region who are seeking autonomy from the U.S. policy makers, which Washington deems dangerous, but which Moscow considers just fine.

***

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, please see our web page at www.coha.org

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Raylsiyaly Rivero

July 23rd, 2008

ENDS

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