Venezuela's Chavez Welcomes Russian Warships
Russia and Venezuela boost diplomatic ties: http://www.youtube.comwatch?v=KDU7SHc5QrA
Venezuela prepares for first visit by Russian leader: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e52jc...eature=channel
Russian warships arrived in Venezuela Tuesday in a show of strength aimed at the United States as Moscow seeks to expand its influence in Latin America. Venezuelan sailors fired off cannons in a 21-gun salute as the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko docked in La Guaira, near Caracas. Russians sailors dressed in black-and-white uniforms lined up along the bow. The deployment is the first of its kind in the Caribbean since the Cold War and was timed to coincide with President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Caracas — the first ever by a Russian president. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has eagerly welcomed the ships, basking in the support of a powerful ally and traditional U.S. rival. Chavez wants Russian help to build a nuclear reactor, invest in oil and natural gas projects and bolster his leftist movement's effort to limit U.S. influence in Latin America. Chavez also wants weapons — he has bought more than $4 billion in Russian arms, including Sukhoi fighter jets, helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, and more deals for Russian tanks or other weaponry may be discussed after Medvedev arrives Wednesday.
Russia's deployment of the naval squadron — the behemoth flagship Peter the Great, the missile destroyer and two support vessels — is widely seen as a demonstration of Kremlin anger over the U.S. decision to send warships to deliver aid to Georgia after its battles with Russia, and U.S. plans for a European missile-defense system. But Bush administration officials mocked the show of force. "Are they accompanied by tugboats this time?" U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack joked to reporters in Washington. He noted that Russia's navy is but a shadow of its Soviet-era fleet, and reasserted U.S. dominance in Latin America. "I don't think there's any question about ... who the region looks to in terms of political, economic, diplomatic and as well as military power," McCormack said. "If the Venezuelans and the Russians want to have, you know, a military exercise, that's fine. But we'll obviously be watching it very closely."
Venezuelan sailors stood at attention along the pier where the destroyer docked, while another support ship was visible nearby. The Peter the Great remained out of sight; the largest ship in the Russian fleet, it was expected to anchor offshore due to its size. When Russia sent two strategic bombers to Venezuela in September, some drew comparisons to the Soviet Union's deployments to Cuba during the Cold War. But both countries have also shown signs of trying to engage President-elect Barack Obama. And Chavez told reporters that it's ludicrous to invoke the Cold War to describe the naval exercises beginning Dec. 1. "It's not a provocation. It's an exchange between two free countries," Chavez said. Russia's ambitions to make inroads in Latin America may be checked by global events. Both Venezuela and Russia are feeling the pinch of slumping oil prices, and their ability to be major benefactors for like-minded leaders is in doubt given the pressures of the world's financial crisis.
The maneuvers starting Dec. 1 "should be viewed largely as a propaganda exercise," said Anna Gilmour, an analyst at Jane's Intelligence Review. "Pragmatic Russian policy suggests that it will content itself with a brief high-profile visit, rather than a longer-term deployment that could cause severe tensions with the U.S., at a time when Russia may be looking to re-engage with the new administration," she said. Next week, the warships will participate in "very simple, routine exercises," Gen. Jesus Gonzalez said, enabling sailors to practice reconnaissance, patrol, anti-terrorism and search and rescue operations. Medvedev's tour this week to Peru, Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba was planned before the financial crisis, and Russia must now downsize its ambitions in Latin America because its pockets are no longer so deep, said Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Affairs Magazine. "Russia will have to put off big projects like the construction of a gas pipeline across South America," Lukyanov said.
The proposed natural gas pipeline is Chavez's brainchild, a controversial and ambitious plan for which he has explored Russian investment. But Russia still has an economic interest in selling more weapons and boosting business in Latin America, and Venezuela can help "open the doors," noted Venezuelan political scientist Ricardo Sucre Heredia. "It's a win-win relationship for the two countries," Sucre said. "Russia gains in terms of its international power and its presence, and Venezuela gains in terms of having an ally."
Russian Naval Task Force Starts Venezuela Visit
A task force from Russia's Northern Fleet led by the Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser arrived in Venezuela as part of a planned visit which will see the ships take part in joint naval drills, a naval spokesman said. "On December 1 following the visit, the Russian warships will take part in joint naval exercises with the Venezuelan Navy," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said. Dygalo said the exercises will take place in the Caribbean Sea and will involve joint maneuvers, inspections, rescue and resupply operations. The drills are due to be discussed by both sides during the Russian Navy's visit to the Venezuelan port of La Guaira. "Venezuela's Navy will be represented by two or three ships. Two warships will act for the Russian side - the Pyotr Veliky and the [large anti-submarine vessel] Admiral Chabanenko - as well as support ships," Dygalo said. The task force left its Northern Fleet base on September 22 and has visited ports in Libya, Turkey and France. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the country's air force, primarily a squadron of Russian-made Su-30MK2 fighters, could participate in the drills. He said the exercises were not targeted against other countries. "This is cooperation between two sovereign countries that are rapidly converging strategically." "Cooperation with Russia in different fields is in line with the new realities of a multi-polar world," he added. The arrival of the Russian ships coincides with a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Venezuela on November 26 through 27. Following the Latin American visit the task force is due to take part in drills with ships from Russia's Pacific Fleet in the Indian Ocean.
Russia, Venezuela Warships to Hold Live Firing Drills on Dec.1
Russian and Venezuelan warships will conduct artillery live firing drills on December 1 as part of joint naval exercises in the Caribbean, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Tuesday. A task force from Russia's Northern Fleet led by the Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser hare set to arrive in Venezuela on a planned visit following a two-month sortie in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, which saw Russian ships visiting Libya, Turkey and France. "The exercises will involve joint sea rescue, maneuvering, and artillery firing drills," said Viktor Zavarzin, chairman of the Defense Committee in Russia's lower house of parliament. Two Russian warships, the Pyotr Veliky and the Udaloy class destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, will participate, while Venezuela's Navy will be represented by two or three combat vessels, he said. Zavarzin also said that the exercises will be conducted in line with bilateral agreements and in concordance with international maritime law. They will be held in a zone beyond Venezuela's territorial waters, about 150 nautical miles from the coast. All shipping in the area will be suspended for the duration of the exercises after proper notification due at the end of November. Following the Latin American visit the Russian task force is due to take part in drills with ships from Russia's Pacific Fleet in the Indian Ocean.
Russia's Interest in South America Should Alert the U.S.
Moscow is sending Washington a none-too-subtle warning, but the bigger issue is economic.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's four-nation jaunt through Latin America, which started at an international summit in Peru on Saturday and finishes in Cuba on Thursday, might be thought of as his badwill tour -- not aimed at Latin America, but a country just north of Mexico. Medvedev will clasp arms with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez today even as a small flotilla of Russian warships conducts training exercises alongside the Venezuelan navy, the first time since the end of the Cold War that Russian ships have trained in the Caribbean. Chavez, who has built his political career on baiting the United States, will announce new arms and energy deals with Russia, including a scary proposal for the two countries to cooperate on Venezuela's first nuclear power plant. Then Medvedev will try to invoke the ghost of missile crises past by heading to Havana, where he'll seek to restore Soviet-era ties that were severely damaged when Moscow stopped propping up the island's economy. For the Kremlin, this is about sending a message to Washington: If you trespass in our backyard, we'll trespass in yours. Medvedev and his puppeteer, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, are furious at U.S. intentions to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, as well as Washington's support of NATO membership for former Soviet satellites, its objections to Russia's attacks in Georgia this summer and its backing of Kosovo's independence. There's no sign that the Bush administration is taking the saber-rattling seriously, nor should President-elect Barack Obama. The Russian navy is less a threat to the U.S. than it is to its own sailors, who have a frightening tendency to die in accidents like the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000; the flagship of the forces training in the Caribbean, a cruiser called Peter the Great, was said in 2004 by Russia's naval commander to be in such bad condition that it could explode at any moment. Yet Medvedev's visit does bring up an issue that should concern Obama. Russia isn't the only country casting covetous eyes on Latin America's resources, goods and consumers. Chinese President Hu Jintao also toured the continent last week to drum up business, which is booming: China's trade with Latin America jumped from $10 billion in 2000 to $103 billion in 2007. Obama has rightly signaled that he may ease the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, yet he has also expressed skepticism at the Colombia free-trade pact and even the North American Free Trade Agreement. If the U.S. snubs its trading partners in Latin America, it would leave a vacuum that countries like Russia and China would be only too happy to fill -- to the detriment of both our economy and national security.
Russia's Medvedev Expects $10 bln Trade With Brazil
Trade between Russia and Brazil will soon reach $10 billion annually, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday. "Our trade relations have already reached the level of $6 billion. This year we have a chance to exceed this figure, and soon reach 10 billion dollars," said Medvedev, who is currently on an official visit to Brazil. In 2007, bilateral trade was $5.2 billion. Earlier in the day, Medvedev met with his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. After the talks, he told reporters that Russia and Brazil should create a "technological alliance". "I believe the task of forming a technological alliance between the Russian Federation and Brazil can be successfully fulfilled, and very soon," he said. The Russian leader said the sides are not only interested in raw materials cooperation, but could also interact in hi-tech projects in the power industry, space research, telecommunications, and military and technical cooperation. The head of the Russian military-technical cooperation service said Wednesday that Brazil has shown an interest in buying Russian military hardware, in particular aircraft and armored vehicles. FSVTS chief Mikhail Dmitriyev told RIA Novosti that a framework intergovernmental agreement would be signed on the issue.