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Russian Arms For Hugo Chavez By: Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 11, 2006

“The biggest threat which exists in the world is the empire of the United States.”

Thus spoke Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s anti-American leader, in Moscow recently at the unveiling of a bust of nineteenth-century South American liberator-hero Simon Bolivar. But while such poisonous, anti-American rhetoric is standard fare for El Presidente, who sees himself as a second Fidel Castro, the real purpose of the Venezuelan’s trip to the heart of the former Soviet empire was to receive political support for his anti-American position in the form of weapons sales and investment in energy projects. And in both, Chavez was successful.

As a result of the Venezuelan president’s visit, one Russian oil company will now explore in his country’s Orinoco Basin, while a Russian state energy company will carry out work in the Gulf of Venezuela. But, more importantly, in a deal the United States tried to block, Chavez successfully ordered 24 of Russia’s latest jet fighters and 53 helicopters during his time in Moscow. This is on top of the 40 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles the Venezuelan military had already ordered in an earlier transaction from Russia that go to make up the $5 billion in arms Chavez may eventually buy.


Because Washington considers Chavez a dangerous and radical anti-American leftist, who in 1999 on a trip to China called himself “very Maoist all of my life”, American arms producers are forbidden from selling to Venezuela.


Chavez says the Russian arms purchases will help protect his country from an American invasion, a claim Washington calls ludicrous. The Venezuelan president has said that America may one day try to seize his countries oil reserves by force and called an earlier weapons deal with Russia ideal for a war of resistance. Venezuela is currently the world’s fifth-largest exporter of oil and provides America with about 15 per cent of its crude imports. 


Chavez’s critics, however, say the large arms deals he is making with Russia are not for defensive purposes but rather to expand his own political position in South America. Stephen Blank, an international affairs analyst, wrote such weapons purchases are meant to back up Chavez’s plans to create an anti-American bloc among Latin American countries. Blank stated an arms purchase Chavez previously made suggests the Venezuelan leader is “prey to a megalomania borne of enormous oil revenue and a desire to emulate his mentor Castro.” Blank cited the fact that Venezuela probably cannot begin to maintain or even operate this arsenal as proof.


And the first country Washington fears Chavez may try to subvert in his quest to build his radical, anti-American bloc is Colombia, Venezuela’s neighbor. Weapons from the Russian purchases, such as the Kalashnikovs, it is believed, may make their way to such leftist Colombian terrorist groups as FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) or ELN (National Liberation Army). Chavez would use these groups, which his government refuses to call terrorists in order to remain “neutral”, to destabilize the pro-American Colombian government. Already in 2000, for example, Colombian drug dealers were inexplicably found in possession of a Russian Kilo-class submarine.


Blank also reports that Venezuela has allowed FARC guerillas to travel around the world using Venezuelan passports, indicating its involvement with that terrorist group and justifying the Colombian government’s charge of Venezuelan support for FARC. Moreover, a Washington Times story stated that the Chavez government also interfered with mayoral elections in Nicaragua in 2004 by funneling money to Marxist Sandinista candidates.


Chavez’s close association with Castro is already well known. There are currently about 15,000 Cuban advisors in Venezuela. Blank writes: “Venezuela has virtually subcontracted its intelligence and domestic security forces to Cuba.” As well, Cubans train Chavez’s private militia, the Bolivarian Circles, with some training carried out in Cuba itself.


For its part, Russia is supplying weapons to Venezuela to expand both its influence and market for arms in South America. By doing so, Russia is expressing its anger with America over its establishment of bases and influence in Central Asia and other territories near Russia, which that country regards as its own areas of influence. As well, observers have noted that there is still a Cold War attitude among some top Russians, who still view America as their main enemy and strategize accordingly. As a result, Russia is supporting Venezuela for a seat on the United Nations Security Council where, as one analyst notes, the South American country can adopt anti-American positions and use anti-American language these Russians support but wouldn’t use themselves.


Chavez’s visit to Moscow was only one of four countries he visited on his recent trip abroad. The other three, also unfriendly to America, were Cuba, Belarus and Iran. In Iran, the Venezuelan president received that country’s highest award for supporting Tehran’s nuclear development program, saying at the award ceremony: “Let’s save the human race. Let’s finish off the U.S. empire…”


But like most megalomaniacs, Chavez doesn’t realize that through his erratic actions, he will eventually just wind up finishing off himself first and, most tragically, probably many innocent people as well.


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Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.

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