Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Venezuela's Growing War Machine

This week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will be in Minsk for talks with Belarussian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. He will then meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Part of his agenda in Russia is to buy $1 billion worth of Russian arms, including up to 20 Tor-M1 missile-defense systems and three Varshavyanka diesel submarines.
Venezuela is also eyeing up a deal for another six non-nuclear submarines, several dozen military boats and Ilyushin reconnaissance aircraft.

Chavez said he wanted to buy Russian tanks, describing them as "very modern and fast," in an interview with Itar-Tass in Caracas. National media have reported that Russia could offer Venezuela up to $800 million to fund any potential deals.

In May, Kommersant reported that the arms deals could reach $2 billion and include Mi-28 combat helicopters and Ilyushin airplanes. An order has been received for the helicopters and delivery would start in the second half of 2009, Interfax reported.

Since 2003, Venezuela has bought about $4.4 billion of military hardware from Russia, making it the third-biggest foreign buyer of Russian arms worldwide.

Russia has delivered 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles to Venezuela and last year agreed to build two plants producing the assault rifles under license in the country. A total of 24 Sukhoi fighter jets and about 50 attack helicopters are also on their way to Venezuela.
Venezuela has quickly become one of the largest militaries in South America. Procuring large quantities of military equipment is a by-product of its huge oil revenues. It is also posturing against America.

Chavez is walking a thin line with his military build up. There is no reason to assume that he will not initiate research into nuclear assets including weaponry.

If we consider Iran's nuclear ambitions significant, if Venezuela heads in that direction, the level of war threat in this hemisphere would escalate to the Cuban missile crisis level.

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