Russian President Dmitry Medvedev continued his Latin American tour on Thursday with a visit to avowed US foe Venezuela, before a scheduled visit to communist Cuba.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in Venezuela on Thursday as part of a four-nation tour aimed at boosting Latin America ties, was due to attend military exercises in the Caribbean with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez.
Medvedev, who arrived in Caracas late on Wednesday and was due to travel to communist Cuba later on Thursday, was to board the nuclear-powered Russian battleship "Peter the Great," among a flotilla of Russian ships that are the first to enter the area since the end of the Cold War.
The joint military maneuvers are seen as bringing a defiant message to the
Experts regard the visit as a retort also to
Military exercises part of greater cooperation unlinked to US
Russian officials have denied the Caribbean exercises are in any way linked to a
Although critical of the
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that 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 Thursday, Chavez said, "This is against no one, we're practising our right. And we'll keep working with
The maneuvers, dubbed "VenRus 2008" and including some 1,600 Venezuelan forces and 700 Russians, are due to take place between December 1 and 3.
The two leaders on Wednesday vowed closer cooperation to establish what they called a "multi-polar" world after signing a string of deals, including on a project to build a joint nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes, AFP reported.
Experts said that while Medvedev’s visit was timed partly to send a political message to Washington, there was a larger economic imperative, with Latin America – and Venezuela in particular, a potentially lucrative market for its arms and other products.
In a July trip to
“They're selling a lot of arms in Latin America, not just in
Although they signed no new arms deals on Thursday, Medvedev defended Russia's growing arms sales to Venezuela -- criticised by the United States and neighbour Colombia as potentially destabilising -- and said military cooperation with firebrand leftist Chavez would continue.
Chavez on Thursday denounced what he called the "dictatorship of the dollar" after announcing efforts to move away from dollar transactions in trade with
Officials also signed an agreement on cooperation in the fossil fuel sector, aimed at stepping up existing exploration projects in
Serbin joined other Latin America experts in pointing out that Chavez had long sought a strategic alliance with
He said while Russian intolerance of
"I would say the last two or three years there had been an offensive from
A struggle for preeminence in
Calling Chavez the “great polariser,” Serbin said the president hoped to thwart the “emerging and very strong regional and global leadership of
“So you have two different approaches to what is going on the in the world: both are looking for a multi-polar world. Chavez is looking for an antagonistic approach to the
Professor Arlene Tickner, head of the Political Science department at Universidad de los Andes in
“If you look at
“Many of the weapons being purchased are intended to replace older systems, while there is very little indication that Chavez – beyond his rhetoric – would actually be interested in using them to attack any of his neighbours, or even defend democracy in a country like Bolivia, as he threatened he would.”
Medvedev earlier in the week visited
Prof. Tickner said declining oil resources meant declining influence for Chavez in the region and said that this in itself might temper his relations with
“Anti-US discourse is going to deflate, both as a result of declining oil income and as a result of Obama’s election. He is now vying for visibility with the new government, which has ignored him, wisely I think, for now.”
Lincoln Chafee, former Republican Senator from
“President-elect Obama has no shortage of repair work to be done around the globe and our relationship with the Venezuelans and the Russians should certainly be a priority,” he said.
Date created : 2008-11-27