Political science professor Greg Weeks thinks that the Russia-Venezuela lovefest is just a short-term opportunity to poke Washington in the eye, and that Chavez could soon get dropped like a Castro-ish hot potato:
There is one point, however, that I never see mentioned but which is important and has historical precedent: Russia is primarily interested in the United States, and so all of these alliances are contingent upon relations with the U.S. If U.S.-Russia relations improved, Putin would feel no compunction about backing off and/or ignoring promises he’s made to Latin American leaders. The Soviets screwed Fidel Castro and humiliated him more than once. Putin doesn’t care about Latin America. He is not trying to “compete” in any significant way in the hemisphere, and likely won’t in the future either. If I were a Latin American president, therefore, I would hop on the bandwagon as quickly as possible and get some goodies before they’re gone. My hunch is that Hugo Chávez is well aware, and so is successfully milking the situation while it lasts.
UPDATE: Joshua Keating on why Russia’s deepening relations in Latin America won’t really work as tit-for-tat with Washington:
Chávez and Evo Morales certainly aren’t well-liked in Washington, but most foreign-policy mavens here see them more as angry buffoons or strategic obstacles, not serious threats to America’s sovereignty. Venezuela and Bolivia are resource-rich countries with a major aversion to yanqui imperialism, so it makes sense that Russia would want to cultivate ties with them. But the Kremlin shouldn’t think that Americans will fret about developments in Bolivia in the same way that Russians worry about Georgia or Ukraine. Honestly, the country has bigger things to worry about right now.