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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 June 2007, 00:42 GMT 01:42 UK
Chavez in Russia for arms talks
By Martin Murphy
BBC Americas analyst

Hugo Chavez arrives in Moscow
The symbolism of Chavez's itinerary will not be lost on Washington
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has arrived in Russia, where he will meet his counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for talks on military co-operation.

Mr Chavez is expected to visit a helicopter factory and discuss the possible purchase of diesel submarines.

This is Mr Chavez's second visit in under a year to Russia, which he has designated as a "strategic partner".

At an international level, he wants to minimise Washington's influence in the world, especially in Latin America.

President Chavez has a very clear idea of what he wants to achieve.

At home, he is working to set up a socialist republic, but his former goal is proving more difficult than his dream of a socialist revolution.

The US sees Venezuela as a destabilising force in the region, and Mr Chavez knows that if he wants to stand up against the US he needs allies outside of Latin America.

Important symbolism

Mr Chavez has chosen his allies carefully. Iran has nuclear expertise to offer, while China represents a very attractive market for Venezuelan oil.

A worker jumps down from a gas pipe 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
In Russia, Mr Chavez has found a partner that has no problem disregarding Washington's worries and selling him weapons.

Venezuela has bought fighter planes, helicopters and assault rifles from Russia, and could now buy between five and nine diesel submarines.

This would make Venezuela the country with the biggest submarine fleet in Latin America.

But Mr Chavez is also interested in Russia's oil and gas knowledge.

Venezuela is home to the Orinoco belt, which holds the world's largest reserves of heavy oil, and talks are already under way between Lukoil - Russia's biggest oil company - and the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela.

Mr Chavez also wants to build a gas pipeline from Venezuela to Argentina, and plans to set up an Organisation of Gas Exporting Countries in South America.

All this would be under the technical guidance of Russia's Gazprom - the world's largest gas producer.

But perhaps the symbolism of what follows Mr Chavez's visit is what matters most. After leaving Russia, he will travel to Belarus and Iran.

At the same time, President Putin will be meeting George W Bush in the US. Mr Chavez's visit to Russia and then Iran is unlikely to go unnoticed.

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