Caracas, November 27th,
2008 (Venezuelanalysis.com)--Russian President Dimitri Medvedev became the
first Russian president ever to visit Venezuela on Wednesday.
As a Russian naval fleet arrived in Venezuela to
carry out joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy, Medvedev and Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez advanced an array of joint energy projects, agreed
to cooperate to stabilize the price of oil, and discussed the possibility
of Russian participation in the Venezuela-led trade group called
the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).
Medvedev, in the Venezuelan presidential building,
Miraflores, said, “Venezuela
is considered one of our most important business partners in Latin
accords with Venezuela
are “not a cultural relationship, nor are they aimed at any third party,” said
Medvedev. “The relationship is based on association, in the pragmatic
understanding of the actual situation.”
Chavez made reference to Russian history. “We value the
resurgence of the great Russian fatherland. You were born during a crisis, and
you experienced a disaster, and suffered imperialist and fascist aggressions.
And now Russia
is back on its feet, playing the role it must play in the twenty-first
century,” said the Venezuelan president.
The naval accords include Russian training of the Venezuelan
navy and assistance in repairing and upgrading Venezuelan fleets.
Luis Márquez, the commander of the Venezuelan Navy, said
there is no intention of firing artillery during the joint exercises with Russia, and
that the Russian ships “do not carry nuclear weapons, but rather a nuclear
The naval cooperation comes six months after the United
States Southern Command re-activated its Fourth Fleet, which had been inactive
for half a century, to patrol Latin American waters.
plans to build a new naval base on its island state, Nueva Esparta, for
national defense and to combat drug trafficking.
The Russian president said that even though his
administration is not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC), it would cooperate with OPEC nations such as Venezuela to
stabilize the price of oil. Chávez advocated the elimination of speculative
intermediaries in the oil supply chain.
Chávez and Medvedev also discussed the possibility of
Russian participation in ALBA, but did not specify in what manner Russia would be
involved. ALBA member
countries include Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua,
Bolivia, Dominica, and Honduras.
“If this will be useful for the development of Latin
American states, if it corresponds to our vision of a multi-polar world… then
why not?” said Medvedev.
“We have also approached China
in the name of ALBA, and now Russia…
I am sure that in the future we will be able to establish connections,”
President Chávez commented.
Consistent with statements last week that Venezuela plans to
build a nuclear reactor with Russian assistance, Chávez and Medvedev signed a cooperation
accord on Wednesday to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in
Over the past six months, Venezuela and Russia have
significantly expanded their alliance.
The Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, and Russia’s
Gazprom, along with four other Russian energy firms, formed a joint energy
company last month, and initiated the exploitation of natural gas off the
This was in addition to a previously formed mixed
enterprise, in which PDVSA controls the majority 60% stake, to extract oil from
Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt.
Venezuela also indicated earlier this month that it intends
to nationalize its strategic minerals such as gold, and grant gold mining
concessions to Russian firms.
Venezuela has spent $4.4 billion on Russian weapons and
military equipment since 2005, and in September Russia approved a $1 billion
loan to Venezuela for future arms purchases. Chávez said the upgrades are for
national defense, and that Venezuela turned to Russia partially because the
U.S. cut off military equipment sales to Venezuela.
The two nations have also signed accords to guarantee mutual
investments in an array of industries including the automobile sector,
facilitate visa processing, and expand commercial flights between Moscow and
On his current Latin American tour, the Russian president
has visited Peru and Brazil, and plans to visit Cuba. Brazil, Russia, India,
and China plan to hold a summit in Russia next year.
The U.S. government has criticized Venezuela’s alliance with
Russia, saying it reflects Cold War politics, while Russia and Venezuela say
the alliance is aimed at promoting “polycentrism” and balancing out a world
currently dominated by Washington.
U.S. Press Secretary Sean McCormack dismissed concerns about
Russia eclipsing U.S. influence in Latin America. “I don't think there's any
question about ... who the region looks to in terms of political, economic,
diplomatic and as well as military power,” McCormack said in a press conference.