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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 June 2007, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Chavez seeks support from Russia trip
By Martin Murphy
BBC Americas analyst

Hugo Chavez
Chavez is heading to Moscow for talks with Russian leaders
Venezuela's close relations with Russia are an example of President Hugo Chavez's quest to minimise Washington's influence in the world, especially in Latin America.

While at home Mr Chavez has concentrated on building a socialist republic, when it comes to international relations his main objective has been to push for a multi-polar world.

Washington sees Mr Chavez as the main source of instability in Latin America, a role previously assigned to Fidel Castro's Cuba.

But Mr Chavez knows that if he is to stand up to the United States in the international arena he needs friends.

"Chavez has chosen what he calls Venezuela's strategic partners. The most important ones, so far, are China, Iran and Russia. There are others, like Belarus, but of lesser importance", Alberto Garrido, a Venezuelan analyst, told the BBC.


The allies Mr Chavez has chosen have, at best, a cold and distant relationship with the US. But each partner has something unique to offer to Venezuela.

Russia and Venezuela use each other - but I would say Venezuela has a lot more to gain from this partnership than Russia
Alexander Goltz
Russian analyst

Iran has its nuclear expertise, while China represents a very attractive market for Venezuelan oil.

In Russia Mr Chavez has found an ally that has no qualms about disregarding Washington's complaints and selling weapons to Venezuela.

Mr Chavez has bought fighter planes and assault rifles from Russia, and now there is talk that he might be purchasing between five and nine diesel submarines.

Venezuela had previously tried to buy fighter planes from Spain and Brazil, but Washington blocked the sale because the aircraft used American technology.

The US is not worried that Venezuela might use its planes and submarines against it, but has argued that such purchases might spark an arms race in the region.

Oil and gas

There is also a business component to Venezuela's ties with Russia which seems likely to grow in the future.

A worker jumps down from a gaspipe at the construction site of the Baltic gas pipeline near Boksitogorsk
Experts say Mr Chavez is seeking a tie-up with the Russian gas giant

"Agreements are being worked out between both countries, particularly between Lukoil (Russia's biggest oil company) and PDVSA (Venezuela's state-owned oil company). It is worth remembering that Venezuela is home to the Orinoco belt, which holds the world's largest reserves of heavy oil", says Garrido.

But according to Garrido, what Mr Chavez is really after is cooperation with Gazprom, the largest gas producer in the world.

"Chavez has in mind the construction of a South American pipeline with Bolivia. And together with Bolivia and Argentina they are also talking about setting up Opega-Sur [Organisation of Gas Exporting Countries in South America]. All this under Gazprom's technical guidance", adds Garrido.

What's in it for Russia?

Apart from the economic interest Russia may have in Venezuela's gas and oil projects, some analysts believe Moscow also has a political agenda.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early nineties, the United States became the world's sole superpower and expanded its sphere of influence over Eastern Europe.

Russia, like Venezuela, believes in a multi-polar world and is seeking ways to curtail the influence of the US.

"The Kremlin has an inferiority complex. The Soviet Union had a lot of clients. Russia has few and it is seeking more," Russian analyst Alexander Goltz told the BBC.

According to Goltz, it is unfair to say Russia sees Venezuela as a main ally. It is rather one more card that Moscow holds in its arm-wrestling with the US.

"Russia and Venezuela use each other. But I would say Venezuela has a lot more to gain from this partnership than Russia", concludes Goltz.

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