Reassuring news comes out of Caracas today as Forbes is reporting that Russia is building factories that assemble automatic weapons and plans on finalizing a deal to send 53 military helicopters to Venezuela. Arms deals between Russia and Venezuela have been going on since 2001, and in the intervening years Hugo Chavez has bought over $4 billion in military hardware including 24 Sukhoi jet fighters. The most recent deal in September had Chavez returning from Moscow trumpeting a $2 billion Russian loan to buy 92 tanks and an S-300 missile system that can down fighter jets and cruise missiles.
I know, I know. We in America shouldn’t dare to question the desire of two sovereign nations to enter into arms agreements like this. While that’s true in a sense, it’s only natural to have a growing wariness over a Russian-Venezuelan axis that seems to be strengthening by the month and tangentially includes Iran as an additional beneficiary of Russian arms. Chavez claims to be simply modernizing his military for defensive purposes, but by which country does he feel threatened enough to buy all this hardware? Brazil? Colombia?
It’s only natural to be concerned and suspicious about a growing Russian arsenal in the hands of a blustery ideologue who only recently threatened offensive military action over the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. But as the agreement is within international law, there’s nothing we can really do except keep our eyes open to the increasing military cooperation between Venezuela and Russia.