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Chavez Tightens Union With Russia By Allowing Use Of Base For Russian Planes‎

By Dialogo
March 16, 2009

Venezuela has confirmed its offer to let Russia ‎station planes in their base on the island of La Orchila in the Venezuelan Caribbean, an ‎agreement that tightens cooperation between both countries in the area of defense.‎ ‎"I only told the President (of Russia, Dimitri) Medvedev that when Russian aviators need ‎to land in Venezuela as part of their strategic plans, Venezuela is ready, as we were ‎recently," said President Hugo Chávez during "Hello, President," his Sunday speech.‎ However, he denied that the measure involves the installation of a permanent Russian ‎base on the island.‎ ‎"They are saying that I offered Orchila to the Russians; you know that this is not the ‎case," he told his audience.‎ Venezuela’s offer further strengthens the bilateral relationship that increased with the ‎maneuvers of Russian ships and planes in Venezuelan territory last November.‎ On Saturday, General Anatoly Zhijarev, Chief of Staff of the Russian strategic air force, ‎said that Chavez had offered Russia the military airfield on the island of La Orchila ‎‎(north) for its strategic bombers, but first it must be renovated.‎ ‎"Yes, the President of Venezuela has made a proposal. If there is an appropriate political ‎decision, it is possible," the general added.‎ According to Zhijarev, Cuba would also have been willing to provide facilities for the ‎Russian aircraft.‎ ‎"It is possible with Cuba (...) If it is the will of the two states, the political will, we are ‎ready to fly there," added the general.‎ This is the latest evidence that Moscow wants to extend its military capabilities to new ‎parts of the globe, far from Russian territory, despite a limited military budget and ‎equipment that, according to some experts, is largely obsolete.‎ Last year Russia sent two Tu-160 bombers capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles with ‎nuclear warheads to the Libertador military airfield in Venezuela for some exercises, a ‎maneuver unprecedented since the end of the Cold War.‎ In late 2008, a Russian fleet led by the nuclear-powered cruiser "Peter the Great" ‎participated in joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan navy in the Caribbean, coinciding ‎with a visit to the region of the Russian President Dimitri Medvedev.‎ According to the Russian agency Interfax, there are three types of Russian bombers ‎capable of long-range patrols: the Tu-95MS, the Tu-160, and the Tu-223M3.‎ The Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has dismissed the possibility that his ‎country would seek the installation of permanent bases in Cuba and Venezuela, "although ‎we have agreements with the authorities in Venezuela, and I think that Cuba would not ‎object."‎