Russia Backs Venezuela for Security Council Seat

Russia's President Putin presented his Venezuelan counterpart with a departing gift yesterday, as he gave his public backing to President Chavez's campaign for a seat for Venezuela on the United Nations Security Council.

Caracas , Venezuela, Julio 29, 2006—Russia’s President Putin presented his Venezuelan counterpart with a departing gift yesterday, as he gave his public backing to President Chavez’s campaign for a seat for Venezuela on the United Nations Security Council.

The seat will be vacated by Argentina in October and, since two seats are conventionally held by Latin American countries, this one will again be filled by a country from that part of the world. Venezuela and Guatemala are the two contenders fighting for the support needed to win the seat.

During a meeting with President Chávez in the Kremlin Putin said, "We applaud Venezuela’s legitimate aspirations to occupy a seat as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council."

There are ten non-permanent members of the Security Council, each serving two years, with five being replaced each year. By convention normally only Latin American countries would choose their representative by consensus. However, as this time their are two clear contenders, the UN General Assembly, made up of all the world’s nation states, will choose from the two in a secret ballot on a one member, one vote basis.

It is widely believed that a major reason for Chávez’s international tour is to win support for Venezuela’s campaign to overcome US resistance to its membership. The US is a strong and vocal supporter of Guatemala and has been doing a fair bit of arm twisting in order to divert votes in the Central American country’s direction. This has not gone down well everywhere, however.

In typical menacing fashion, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced after a meeting with Chilean Defense Secretary Vivianna Blanlot that he would “not understand it” if Chile voted for Venezuela. Blanlot actually concurred in a public statement but she has since been rebuked by President Bachelet. Bachelet said Chile would not be pressured by the US and that no decision had yet been taken. It is still unclear who has most support.

Three Billion Dollar Arms Deal

As more details emerge over the arms deals Russia and Venezuela have signed, it appears that they will be worth three billion dollars not the one billion originally reported. The deal includes 24 Sukhoi-30 fighter planes and 53 attack helicopters, in defiance of U.S. requests to Russia not to make the deal. A few months ago Venezuela had already agreed to purchase 100,000 kalashnikov automatic rifles.

Chavez said of the deal in Russia, “ Russia has stretched out its hand to us in the face of international pressure, and even an embargo that was to be imposed on us. It gives our soldiers a special spirit of firmness when we hand them Kalashnikov rifles that replace old 1940s guns.”

Russia ’s President Putin, seeking to calm U.S. supposed concerns, said the new Venezuelan weapons are “ not directed against other states.”

Other deals that Venezuela signed with Russia include one with Gazprom, Russia’s largest gas producing company, which will not only play a part in the Gasoducto del Sur, but also plans to partner with Venezuela in the development of Venezuela’s gas sector. Technicians from both countries will spend the next twelve months working out a production and development plan for the next fifty years.

Additionally, a study is to be undertaken on the viability of a new Aluminum plant opening in Venezuela. If approved, the Russian firm SUAL would, in partnership with CVG, a Venezuelan state owned company, process Aluminum and manufacture high-value added products for export. Aluminum is processed from the mineral Bauxite Ore, of which Venezuela has plenty.

Chávez explained the strategic reason for welcoming Russian foreign investment diversity. He bemoaned Venezuela’s long standing reliance on solely US investment, saying, “The idea is to diversify technology, the market, and investment,” adding that Venezuela had no intention of breaking economic ties with the US.

Diversity of products for international trade, especially high value products, mean a much more stable economy, less vulnerable to the whims of international oil prices. And diversity of investment means more competition among investors which means a better deal for Venezuela. It also means a single country has less of a grip on Venezuela’s economy, using threats of withdrawal as leverage to squeeze out maximum capital.

Chávez has often said his project is long term. He spelled out his vision for Venezuelan-Russian co-operation at the end of his trip, saying, "Every process has its phases. Five years ago Russia was not present in Venezuela at all. In the energy sector, nothing. Now, Lukoil has an office in Venezuela. We have Gazprom, and its technicians are already studying a project to build a gas pipeline from Venezuela to Argentina. Lukoil works in two areas. One is the rehabilitation of old fields. The second: oil production in the Orinoco basin. A system is already in place and production will start at the beginning of 2007."

William Brownfield, US Ambassador to Venezuela, expressed concern over the Venezuela’s Russian military hardware agreements. He said that Venezuela had a responsibility to the “International Community” to carry out arms negotiations with clarity and transparency, something he suggested it wasn’t doing in the recent agreements with Russia.