Aljazeera | 03 April 2010
Russia and Venezuela have agreed to work more closely on defence and energy issues, saying that such co-operation was vital to ensure a “multi-polar” world.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, assured Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, that his country would continue to sell arms to Caracas after arriving on Friday with a delivery of four military helicopters.
“We’re very happy to receive this new batch of helicopters,” Chavez said. “These are very important fruits of the co-operation between Russia and Venezuela.”
Venezuela has spent more than $4bn buying fighters jets, helicopters and Kalashnikov rifles from Russia since 2005, prompting the US to warn that such purchases could spark an arms race in Latin America.
It has also received $2.2bn in credit lines for more Russian arms, including T-72 tanks and the S-300 advanced anti-aircraft missile system.
“The Yankee empire doesn’t want us to have one single little plane,’ Chavez said at a news conference with Putin on Friday.
However, he denied that the military support provided by Moscow was aimed at Washington.
“We are not building an alliance against the United States. We don’t care what Washington thinks,” Chavez said.
Speaking about the US’s refusal to supply Venezuela with weapons and ammunition, Putin said: “Well, for us that’s good”.
Chavez has repeatedly criticised US foreign policy and has said that Venezuela needs to beef up its military following a deal between neighbouring Colombia and Washington over the use of military bases on its territory.
Russia and Venezuela also launched a joint business to tap vast oil deposits in eastern Venezuela’s Junin 6 field.
Venezuela expects the venture, which will require $20bn in investment over the next 40 years, to begin producing 50,000 barrels a day by the end of the year.
The Russian consortium involved in Junin 6, state giant Rosneft, private major Lukoil, Gazprom, TNK-BP and Surgutneftegaz, paid Venezuela the first $600 million of an agreed $1 billion signing fee on Friday.
Venezuela’s state- run PDVSA holds a 60 per cent stake in the project, while the Russian firms are also in talks to create joint ventures to develop three more Orinoco blocks, Junin 3 and Ayacucho 2 and 3.
Chavez said Moscow had offered to help Venezuela set up its own space industry including a satellite launch site.
“Venezuela has already entered the satellite space race. Russia’s experience is gigantic in this regard,” Chavez said.
“We could even install a satellite launcher here and a factory. We are already doing so with China, but Russia is offering to support Venezuela build its own [space] industry.”
The US state department mocked the suggestion of a Venezuelan space industry.
“We would note that the government of Venezuela was largely closed this week due to energy shortages,” PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman, told reporters.
“To the extent that Venezuela is going to expend resources on behalf of its people, perhaps the focus should be more terrestrial than extraterrestrial.”
Worsening electricity shortages prompted Chavez’s government to decree public holidays throughout this week to save energy. A severe drought has pushed water levels to precarious lows at the dam that supplies most of Venezuela’s electricity.