Russia, Venezuela leaders vow closer ties ahead of navy exercise
Caracas (AFP) Nov 26, 2008
Russia and Venezuela's leaders on Wednesday vowed closer cooperation to establish what they called a "multi-polar" world, ahead of naval exercises seen as sending a defiant signal to the United States.
President Dmitry Medvedev defended Russia's arms sales to Venezuela -- criticized by the United States and Colombia as potentially destabilizing -- and said military cooperation with firebrand leftist President Hugo Chavez would continue.
Russian military cooperation with Venezuela "is not a market relationship or aimed at any other state but is based on partnership ... It should strengthen multi-polarity in the world including in South America and Latin America," Medvedev said.
"We will develop our military cooperation," Medvedev said.
Chavez said US "hegemony" was the source of global "catastrophes" after he greeted Medvedev at a ceremony featuring scarlet-clad soldiers carrying spears, in a courtyard decorated with palm trees, fountains and statues of Classical gods and dolphins.
"We should fight to make a world of catastrophes caused by hegemony and unilateralism a thing of the past," said Chavez, going on to denounce what he called the "dictatorship of the dollar" and announcing efforts to move away from dollar transactions in trade with Russia.
On the commercial front the two countries signed a cooperation agreement in the civilian atomic energy sector.
The head of Russian atomic energy corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said Venezuela had the right to peaceful nuclear energy and had given no cause for "questions" about its fitness for nuclear energy.
Officials also signed an agreement on cooperation in the fossil fuel sector, aimed at stepping up existing exploration projects in Venezuela by companies such as Gazprom.
Medvedev and Chavez went on to dine with leaders of several South and Central American countries, some of which have formed an economic group meant to counter-balance US influence.
On Thursday, Medvedev was to visit Russian warships that arrived in Venezuela this week to carry out exercises in the Caribbean Sea close to US waters.
Medvedev's visit was part of a tour aimed at revitalizing Cold War-era ties with left-leaning countries of Latin America and was seen as aimed at rebuffing US moves in formally Communist-ruled parts of Europe such as planned missile defense facilities.
Medvedev earlier visited Brazil, which announced it had agreed to buy 12 attack helicopters from Russia.
The arrival in Venezuela of the Russian warships led by a nuclear-powered cruiser has been portrayed by Russian media as mirroring US deployments in the Black Sea in support of Moscow's adversary Georgia.
Russian officials have repeatedly denied the exercises are aimed at "third countries" and Venezuela's president rejected talk of provocation on Monday, describing the exercises as an exchange between "free, sovereign countries."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the arrival of Russian ships could hardly reflect a change in the regional power balance.
"A few Russian ships is not going to change the balance of power," she said.
On a tour that also includes Peru, Brazil and Cuba, Medvedev has said he wants to restore "privileged relations" with Latin American countries that had close ties to the Soviet Union in the Cold War, when the region was the scene of fierce superpower rivalry.
Russia has been a major arms supplier to Venezuela, providing radars, fighter jets, helicopters and tens of thousands of Kalashnikov rifles -- prompting concern from the United States and its ally Colombia about a potential arms race and regional destabilization.
Some analysts detected an element of bluff in the Russian moves, saying that the economic crisis buffeting Russia is likely to hinder plans such as possible involvement in a South American gas pipeline.
Others have criticized the timing of Russia's show of defiance given a wave of international goodwill towards the United States after Barack Obama won the country's presidential election.
Russian says Venezuela arms ties strengthen 'multi-polar' world
"It's not a market relationship or aimed at any other state but is based on partnership and a pragmatic view of the situation," Medvedev said.
"It should strengthen multi-polarity in the world including in South America and Latin America. We will develop our militaries' cooperation," Medvedev added.
The two countries on Wednesday signed seven accords, including a deal to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but did not sign new arms deals.
They have signed 4.4 billion dollars in bilateral arms deals since 2005, including radars, 24 Sukhoi-30 planes, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov automatic rifles.
Medvedev also invited Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Moscow in 2009 and hailed his country's growing ties with Venezuela.
"Our collaboration in recent years has strengthened considerably and is flourishing. I think that it has great prospects for the future and we will actively work on it," Medvedev said.
Apart from the nuclear deal, the accords included oil exploitation, industrial cooperation, and removing visas for each other's citizens.
Medvedev's visit is part of a Latin American tour aimed at revitalizing Cold War-era ties with left-leaning countries of the region and is seen as a bid to rebuff US moves to install a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The Russian ships moored in the port of La Guaira are due to hold patrol and rescue exercises with Venezuelan forces starting on December 1.
earlier related report
The Russian naval squadron conducted exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean en route to Venezuela.
Russian warships, which have never been to Venezuela before, are now sailing the Caribbean Sea for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The current Russian show of flag is a simple and effective method for using naval units in peacetime.
By dispatching their warships to any specific region, naval powers show that they have strategic interests in that part of the world, display a readiness to defend those interests and force their rivals to monitor a new potential threat.
This is also the best way to remind the world about the existence of naval powers and to raise their popularity in countries being visited by warship units.
The best and most powerful warships always take part in such visits. Suffice it to recall the number of voyages involving British battleships over the ages.
The arrival of the Russian squadron in La Guaira also illustrates this concept. Moscow's friendly relations with Caracas are a highly important element of Russian foreign policy striving to enhance the Kremlin's influence in Latin America.
A recent Russian-Venezuelan exercise involving two Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers and the latest visit will serve to improve Moscow's reputation.
Russia and Venezuela plan to conduct a joint naval exercise involving joint maneuvers, high-seas rescue operations, ship inspections and in-motion refueling and materiel transfers. Naturally, the visit does not threaten U.S. domination in the Caribbean region in any way.
The Russian warships will remain in Venezuela until Dec. 1 and will then sail into the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope.
After reaching its new destination, the squadron will exercise with Pacific Fleet warships, namely, the guided-missile cruiser Varyag and the ASW ships Admiral Tributs and Marshal Shaposhnikov.
Instead of merely showing its flag, Russia wants to resume regular naval presence in the region, probably the most difficult high-seas theater of war in the world.
It would be pointless to try to use the Pyotr Veliky and the Varyag for fighting Somalian pirates in the Indian Ocean because this would be a classic case of cracking a nut with a sledgehammer.
The Pyotr Veliky displaces more than 25,000 metric tons, carries 20 Granit anti-ship missiles, including nuclear-tipped missiles, 96 S-300F long-range surface-to-air missiles -- SAMs -- 96 Kinzhal -- Dagger -- short-range SAMs, a 130mm twin mounting, other short-range anti-aircraft weapons and various ASW weaponry, including three helicopters.
The Varyag displaces 12,000 metric tons, carries 16 Vulkan anti-ship missiles, 64 S-300F long-range SAMs, short-range SAMs, artillery systems and ASW weapons.
The guided-missile frigate Neustrashimy -- Intrepid -- now fighting local pirates will, most likely, be replaced by the Admiral Tributs or the Marshal Shaposhnikov.
Apart from showing the Russian flag and maintaining regular naval presence in key areas of the world's oceans, this and other voyages make it possible to train ship crews and to enhance combat readiness.
(Ilya Kramnik is a military commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
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