Concern Over Venezuela’s Russian Arms Purchases Could Be Misplaced

Concern Over Venezuela’s Russian Arms Purchases Could Be Misplaced

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- Venezuela's strengthening military and diplomatic ties with Russia have led to alarmist headlines announcing the return of a Cold War standoff, and raising questions about the impact of Hugo Chávez's arms shopping spree on the regional balance of power.

But even with the latest arms purchases, Venezuela does not top the list of the region's biggest military powers.

Since 2005, Venezuela has spent over $4 billion on Russian hardware, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets and dozens of combat helicopters. The purchase of over 100 T72 tanks to replace older French models is in the pipeline, say Venezuelan military officials. Recent unconfirmed reports in the Russian press suggest that Chávez also has plans to buy Project 636 diesel submarines, Mi-28 combat helicopters and airplanes, and around 20 Tor-M1 air-defense systems.

Furthermore, the presence of two Russian Tu-160 long-range bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons during recent military exercises in Venezuela, as well as Moscow's $1 billion loan to Chávez for weapons purchases has raised eyebrows.

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