Mérida, April 3rd 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Energy and military accords were at the top of the agenda during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit to Venezuela on Friday, which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said marked a shift away from U.S. imperialism and toward a “new equation” in international relations.
The Venezuelan national oil company, PDVSA, created a joint company with Russian oil firms to develop four blocks in the Orinoco Oil Belt, where much of the South American OPEC member’s vast oil reserves are located. PDVSA also signed a deal with the Russian oil and gas shipping company, Sovcomflot, for the construction of new oil and liquid gas tankers.
To help increase Venezuelan electricity production, which has fallen short of the rapidly-growing demand, the Russian energy company INTER-RAOUES will build a thermoelectric plant with a 200-500 megawatt capacity in Venezuela.
Bringing nuclear energy to Venezuela was discussed at the meeting, and Chavez reiterated that Venezuela will use it to solve its domestic energy shortage and to depend less on oil, not for military purposes. “We must prepare ourselves for the post-petroleum era,” said Chavez.
In the latest step of an ongoing effort to increase its defense capacity, Venezuela purchased four Mi-17 helicopters and more than 90 T-72 tanks from Russia.
In a press conference in Caracas with Putin on Friday night, President Chavez advocated a multi-polar world order that is not dominated by any superpower and where nations cooperate to promote socially responsible development.
“We are forging a new, pluri-polar world,” Chavez said. “We are a node of support for all of those in the African, Arab, American, Asian, and European worlds, so that we may fight for the true birth of a world of peace and harmony.”
Russia and Venezuela have significantly increased bilateral relations in recent years by creating a bi-national bank with $4 billion in capital, launching gas exploration off the Venezuelan coast, and investing in the renovation of Venezuela’s infrastructure.
Russia is also building a machine gun factory in Venezuela, and Venezuela has purchased more than $4 billion worth of Russian Sukhoi fighter planes, helicopters, and tanks since 2005.
The Venezuelan government says the threat of U.S. intervention and the U.S.’s decision to stop supplying military equipment to Venezuela in 2006 – soon after the Chavez administration began to advocate “21st Century Socialism” – are primary motives behind Venezuela’s renovation of its military with Russia’s help.
“The Yankee empire does not want us to have even one plane, but they’ve crashed into a new world. They are no longer the owners of the planet,” Chavez said on Friday.
The U.S. dominated Latin America in the 20th Century, but over the last decade its political influence has appeared to wane, as progressive governments were elected and new regional trade blocs and political integration organizations were organized, some of them largely at the behest of Venezuela.
Meanwhile, the U.S. increased its military presence in the region by reactivating the Southern Command Fourth Naval Fleet and increasing its military presence in the Dutch Antilles, Panama, and Colombia. It is currently negotiating military accords with two other countries, possibly Peru and Brazil, with the official purpose of fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, according to a recent report by investigator Eva Golinger.
Also, the U.S. has accused Venezuela of supporting terrorist groups such as Colombian guerrilla rebels, facilitating drug trafficking, and triggering a continental arms race. Venezuela vehemently denies the accusations and says they are meant to falsely justify a military intervention.
In the press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin defended his country’s key Latin American commercial partner against the U.S.-led accusations.
“The question of whether increasing the arsenal of a few small countries could threaten anyone doesn’t seem to make sense to me,” said Putin, pointing out that U.S. military spending dwarfs that of the rest of the world.
With regard to terrorism, Putin pointed out that his country suffered two subway suicide bombings in late March by suspected Chechnian militants, and said, “We have a very good database about terrorism and those who support terrorism, and we never had any information that confirms that Venezuela supports terrorism.”
In other accords signed on Friday, Venezuela purchased 2,250 Russian automobiles, and the two countries established an air route for flights between Caracas and Moscow. In agriculture, Russia considered the possibility of importing Venezuelan coffee and cacao. And, the two countries discussed the mutual recognition of university degrees and the coordination of university student exchanges in some academic areas.
The director of Venezuela’s Civil Protection and Disaster Administration agency, Luis Diaz, oversaw demonstration runs of Russian-made Bravo Eco Be-200 airplanes that are equipped for water take-off and landing and can transport 12 tons of water, dozens of rescue workers, and equipment to the scene of major fires or other disasters. Venezuela is considering purchasing one or two planes.
With regard to the bi-national bank that was established last year, Chavez said the bank is expected to begin operating this year, and could expand its operations to Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.
The Russia-Venezuelan gas exploration projects have helped bring Venezuela’s estimated natural gas reserves up to 14 trillion cubic feet, which Chavez recently said could place Venezuela in fourth place worldwide.