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Venezuela Juggles Russian Bombers

Will he or won’t he? Grigory Pasko sent us this Kommersant article (which we have duly exclusively translated below) about the latest twist in a flurry of flip-flopping these past few days as to whether or not Venezuela really has offered to let Russia build a military base on its territory, in violation of the constitution. As the article states, such a base would allow the Russian long-range air forces to regularly patrol the Caribbean basin in order to protect all those vital strategic Russian interests in the region we never knew they had.  [As I am here in Washington this week meeting with people about both Russia and Venezuela, I am told that the timing of this saber-rattling news successfully torpedoed much of the entreaty attempted by the Brazilian President on behalf of Chavez.  Doh!]

Venezuela will not accommodate Russian air base // Context

The newspaper «Kommersant» № 46(4101) of 17.03.2009

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez appeared with clarifications in connection with the declaration sounded the previous day by chief of staff of long-range aviation of the military-air forces of the RF Anatoly Zhikharev about how Caracas had offered Moscow to make use of the Venezuelan island of Orchila for the basing of Russian bombers (see yesterday’s “Kommersant”). “Everything is not exactly so,– specified mister Chavez.– I said only to Dmitry Medvedev that Russian airplanes will be able to make a landing in Venezuela at any moment”. The reason why Hugo Chavez had been forced to justify himself became the treatment by a series of world mass information media of the words of major-general Zhikharev, having reported that Venezuela had offered Russia to make use of the island of Orchila for an air base. In the meantime, what was being spoken of was exclusively “temporary basing”, inasmuch as the constitution of Venezuela prohibits the presence of foreign military bases. However, by his denial, president Chavez confirmed information about how he had made Moscow an offer to use Venezuelan territory for the landing of long-range aviation, which in this event will be able to regularly patrol the aquatorium of the Caribbean Sea.
Vyacheslav Leonov