In a military first certain to raise eyebrows in the United States, Russia will carry out joint naval maneuvers in the Americas with Venezuela, the Venezuelan navy said Saturday.
Four Russian ships with almost 1,000 sailors aboard will carry out joint maneuvers with the navy of Caracas' leftist government in Venezuelan territorial waters November 10-14, the navy said in a statement.
"This is of great importance because it is the first time it is being done" in the Americas, Venezuela's navy joint chiefs strategic intelligence director, Rear Admiral Salbatore Cammarata Bastidas, said in a statement obtained by AFP.
Leftist-populist President Hugo Chavez is a harsh critic of the US government. Moscow has been clashing with Washington over formerly Soviet Georgia.
Chavez, who has forged closer ties with Moscow including arms supply and production deals, is proud to claim a "strategic alliance" with Moscow. Chavez has supported Moscow in the Georgia conflict, and stressed that: "Russia is rising up again as a global power."
Cammarata Bastidas said the joint maneuvers also would include Venezuela's air force, and submarines.
Meanwhile in the US administration's most hawkish remarks since Russia's five-day war with Georgia last month, Vice President Dick Cheney, traveling in Italy, reminded the West of its "responsibilities" and criticised Russia for its "chain of aggressive moves."
Cheney's tough talk came hours after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that Moscow was a "force to be reckoned with," as tensions between Russia and the West soared to heights unseen since the Cold War.
Medvedev accused the United States of rearming Georgia under the guise of humanitarian aid, after Friday's arrival of the US Navy's Mediterranean flagship at a key Georgian port close to where Russian troops are patrolling.
"I wonder how they would like it if we sent humanitarian assistance using our navy to countries of the Caribbean that have suffered from the recent hurricanes," Medvedev said.
Russia's defense ministry in July denied a report it was considering basing bomber aircraft in Cuba in retaliation for US missile defense plans in Eastern Europe. "We regard these sorts of reports from anonymous sources as disinformation," RIA Novosti quoted defence ministry spokesman Ilshat Baichurin as saying.