posted on Sep, 15 2008 @ 08:11 AM
Chavez thumbing nose at US and Russian Navy in Carribean
/15/2008 4:09:07 AM -- English IPS News
VENEZUELA: CHAVEZ CROWS OVER ACQUISITION OF RUSSIAN BOMBERS
English IPS News via NewsEdge :
CARACAS, Venezuela, Sep. 12, 2008 (IPS/GIN) -- Two Russian Tupolev TU-160 strategic bombers have landed at Venezuela's main Libertador military
airbase "to carry out training flights" in the region, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
"Yes, eat your heart out, 'pitiyanquis,'" said Venezuelan President Hugo Ch vez, using a slang word that means "little Yankee imitators."
Speaking in two lengthy nationwide radio and television broadcasts Wednesday, he joked, "What's more, I'm going to pilot one of those insects
[planes]," confirming that the bombers are at the airbase for training flights.
Russia announced a few days ago that a naval task force would be sent to the Caribbean, and military spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said the vessels
"would carry out a series of exercises, including joint search and rescue maneuvers, as well as telecommunications trials" with their Venezuelan
Moscow's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andr‚i Nesterenko, said the navy would send four ships in November, including the nuclear-powered cruiser
Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great) and the anti-submarine frigate Admiral Shabanenko. Russian anti-submarine fighter planes are also to take part in the
exercises and will be "temporarily stationed" at one of Venezuela's air bases, he said.
"We want to calibrate our defensive capability with that of our strategic allies, one of which is Russia," said Ch vez, calling for applause in
response to the arrival of the TU-160s.
Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said the United States would "watch" the Russian bombers' maneuvers "very closely."
Although he said he still had no official confirmation of whether Russia intended to send ships to the Caribbean, he expressed mock surprise that the
Russians "found a few ships that can make it that far," making light of the announcement, according to the Venezuelan government's Bolivarian News
Martha Luc¡a Ram¡rez, who was Colombia's Defense Minister in 2002-2003, the first year of the right-wing President lvaro Uribe's administration,
asked her country "to consult, as necessary, with international bodies such as the Union of South American Nations and the Organization of American
Now a senator, Ram¡rez said this should be done "to discuss the convenience of bringing to Latin America the global tensions between powers, which
are being transferred into the Andean and Caribbean scenarios and constitute a threat to the security and stability of the region."
The possibility of war between Colombia and Venezuela has been studied for decades by the military academies of both countries as a hypothetical
conflict with a foreign nation.
Ram¡rez said Ch vez "reacted angrily when there were rumors that a U.S. anti-drug base might be installed in Colombian territory" on the peninsula
of La Guajira, along the Venezuelan border, and threatened imminent war with Colombia if the base were actually built.
"Why should we now accept a foreign power's military exercises, and presence of its warplanes in Venezuela? We must sound the alarm about the
imbalance this will cause. The tensions between two military powers [Russia and the U.S.] could have tragic consequences for the region, like those
experienced in Georgia," Ram¡rez said.
In August, war broke out between Russia and Georgia, a former Soviet republic on the Black Sea in the Caucasus region in August, over the secession of
the Georgian region of South Ossetia, causing a heavy death toll and damages among the civilian population.
In response, Poland and the Czech Republic, which are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a Western military alliance,
accelerated their plans to install NATO missile and radar systems.
According to Thomas Gomart, an analyst with the French Institute of International Relations, sending Russian military units to Venezuela "is a double
move by Moscow: increasingly open questioning of U.S. hegemony, and support for energy nationalization, in which President Ch vez is a
Dmitry Orlov of the Russian Agency for Political and Economic Communications, said the plans for military cooperation with Venezuela indicate that
Russia may opt to increase its military presence in different parts of the world. While Moscow does not necessarily have an aggressive anti-U.S.
policy, it is taking steps to defend its geopolitical interests, he said.
Ch vez mocked his critics, repeatedly calling them "pitiyanquis" and accusing them of "seeing the ghost of Soviet Union-style communism appear,
which no longer exists; instead, a sovereign and independent Russia is rising."
He defended the procurement of weapons from Russia and China for over $4.5 billion in the past three years, including Sukhoi fighter jets, Mi
helicopters, Kalashnikov assault rifles, radar and missile systems, patrol boats and reconnaissance planes. Submarines and other equipment may be
added to the list.
"The 'pitiyanquis' criticize the maneuvers with Russia, but they say nothing about the United States redeploying its Fourth Fleet after an interval
of 60 years, and having a base right there in Cura‡ao," one of the Netherlands Antilles islands that is 50 kilometers off the Venezuelan coast, Ch
Teodoro Petkoff, an opposition leader who is fiercely critical of Ch vez in the columns of his newspaper Tal Cual, complained that the president
"wants to get mixed up in the mini-Cold War between the United States and Russia," and quoted a popular saying that means, "when predators fight,
their prey should stay out of the way."
Ch vez "accuses Georgia, with reason, of being a pawn of [U.S. President George W.] Bush, but he is thoughtlessly offering himself for free, in the
context of a quarrel that has nothing to do with us, as a pawn for [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin," Petkoff criticized.