Thursday, 5 June 2014

From Russia without love

Venezuela is one of Russia's most important clients for its weapons export. The South American country has spent over 9 billion dollars in Russian arms since 2006. Venezuela's government has even used a lot of money from the FONDEN, the "Fund for Endogenous Development", in order to pay for those arms. Chávez saw to it that the National Parliament cannot do anything to control the use of that money.

Some might think lots of Russians feel like buddies with Venezuelans. That is not the case. If you read the recent polls published by the Levada Centre, you will see Venezuela is far away in most Russian minds. When asked what countries they could name as close friends of Russia, people named Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Armenia, India, Cuba (yes, still Cuba), Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Tajikistan, Moldavia, Uzbekistan, Kirghistan, Serbia and only then Venezuela. Venezuela is now just slightly "closer" to Russia than Germany and Turkey. The best popularity Venezuela got was in 2009 and it has been dropping off the radar for Russia since then. It only surpassed Germany this year because of the Ukraine crisis. Let's be honest: Venezuela is indeed very far away from Russia and other than oil and arms dealers a a bunch of Latin American fans with lots of adventure will, few Russians have anything to do with Venezuela and most Venezuelans who ever had anything to do with Russia were communists, a tiny group of Russian expats - but then Venezuela had expats from all over the world - and a couple of others with exotic or weird cultural interests like me.

Venezuela is one of the few countries that has followed Putin's will to recognise Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia as independent nations. The ambassador of Venezuela to Russia also deals with the non-existent relations to Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia.

Two weeks earlier several Venezuelan honchos went to Russia to ask for more money and cooperation. Here you can read about how mogul Rafael Ramírez signed on 24 May 2014 a deal with ex-KGB man Igor Sechin to get 2 billion dollars in advance in return for over 1.6 million tonnes of oil and 7.5 million tonnes of oil products within five years. Venezuela's government was one of the few governments that supported at United Nations Russia's move on Ukraine on 27 May 2014. The other only countries were North Korea, Belarus, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Syria, Bolivia, Sudan, Nicaragua and Armenia.

Venezuela is having to pay dearly for Russia's loans and weapons - as well as some SIGINT-. It's not precisely love or will for honest cooperation that binds both countries together.

Venezuela's rulers are doing this even if oil prices are still at a record high. For those of you who do not follow the development of oil prices, here a perspective:

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