Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is ready to provide the territory of his country for the provisional deployment of Russian warplanes. At the same time, Chavez is not willing to develop the cooperation with Russia in the field further on. China has been showing its interest in the region lately too. Chavez strives after Venezuela’s secure co-existence with the United States, and he is ready to balance between Russia and China to achieve his goal.
The Venezuelan president has recently offered Russia to use his country for the provisional deployment of Russian strategic bombers. Chavez also denied the rumors about the creation of a permanent Russian air base in the country. He probably looked through the Constitution of Venezuela, which does not allow the deployment of any foreign army bases in the country.
An army base in Venezuela would be quite a costly initiative, not to mention the fact that it would be absolutely pointless from the military point of view. A cruise missile would quickly hit strategic bombers at the moment when they prepare to start their engines. The political aspect is much more important here.
Two Russian Tu-160 bombers landed in Venezuela in September 2008 as a result of a training flight. It became the first landing of Russian strategic bombers in the Western hemisphere after the end of the Cold War. Washington was highly concerned about the event. Norton Schwartz, a senior US Air Force officer, said that Russia would cross a red line if it were to base nuclear capable warplanes in Venezuela. The general probably forgot that the United States had crossed the red line in Afghanistan, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Russia and Venezuela held joint military drills in the Caribbean Sea in December 2008. One shall assume that Russia had shown an adequate reaction to the US missile defense system plans.
Both Russia and the United States try to overcome the current economic difficulties and stand against external threats. The US administration did not give Russia any real promises, nor did it hit the “reset” button of its relations with Russia.
Russia’s foreign political efforts in Latin America are aimed to keep the balance with the neighboring states of the USA. Russian intends to both raise its status in the international energy system and improve its possibilities to regulate the prices on fuel under the conditions of fluctuating world prices on oil.
As for Venezuela, Chavez’s prime goal is to expand his influence in the Latin American region. He also needs to strengthen his power, take anti-crisis measures, struggle with the US pressure and do his best to win the presidential election of 2012.
Venezuela also wants to find new buyers for its fuel not to be dependant on the USA. China used the opportunity. Beijing is very well aware of the energy drawbacks of its economy. Therefore, the country tries not to let Moscow take an advantage in the oil-rich Venezuela. China does its best to become an important partner for Chavez. The later skillfully balances between the two great superpowers. He lets Russia in Venezuelan oil and gas fields, looks at China as the chief consumer of its energy resources and threatens to cease fuel shipments to the United States.
Venezuela is expected to increase the volume of its oil shipments to China up to one million barrels a day by 2012. Venezuela’s PDVSA and China’s Sipopec have already agreed to build three refinery works in China and one in Venezuela.
The plans of economic cooperation between Russia and Venezuela look quite modest against such a background. Russian companies will have to explore the gas fields near the Caribbean islands and organize its deliveries to the home market.
Russia and Venezuela are interested in running cooperation in the defense field. Venezuela has already become one of the major buyers of Russia’s military hardware. It is not ruled out, though, that China will put competitive pressure on Russia at this point too.
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