Russia, Venezuela to hold naval war games

Vladimir Radyuhin

Response to NATO build-up in Black Sea

U.S., Russia ties at their lowest

First war games for Russia in S. America

MOSCOW: Russia and Venezuela will hold joint naval war games in what could be a Russian response to a NATO naval build-up in the Black Sea.

Four warships and 1,000 marines from Russia’s Pacific Fleet would take part in joint manoeuvres with the Venezuelan Navy on November 10-14, Russian news agencies reported quoting the Venezuelan naval command. It would be for the first time the Russian Navy would participate in war games in South America.

Russian warships would be visiting Venezuela “to take part in naval training and to strengthen friendly ties between the two countries,” said the Venezuelan Navy on Sunday.

The announcement came as relations between Russia and the U.S. plunged to the lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War over Russia’s routing of Georgia, the main ally of the U.S. in the former Soviet Union, in a brief but fierce armed conflict last month.

Seven U.S. and other NATO warships, including the USS Mount Whitney, command warship from the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet, have since entered the Black Sea with the declared purpose of delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia. Russia said the ships brought military cargoes to rebuild Georgia’s shattered armed forces.

Russia said NATO’s naval presence in the Black Sea heightened tension in the region.

“I wonder how they would feel if we dispatched humanitarian aid to the tornado-hit Caribbean using our navy,” President Dmitry Medvedev asked.

Russia recently sold 24 advanced multi-role Su-30MK2 fighter planes to Venezuela, similar to those acquired by India, as well as dozens of helicopters, and other weapons. Washington bitterly protested the deals.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has backed Russia in its conflict with Georgia.

Russian strategic bombers land in Venezuela
21:58 | 10/ 09/ 2008

MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) - Two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers have landed at a military airfield in Venezuela, Russia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday. (VIDEO)

The Tu-160 Blackjack is a supersonic, variable-geometry heavy bomber, designed to strike strategic targets with nuclear and conventional weapons deep in continental theatres of operation. (Russian strategic bombers - Image gallery)

The bombers will conduct a number of training flights over neutral waters in the next few days and later return to their home base in Russia, the ministry said in a statement.

The planes landed at Venezuela's Libertador airfield and during the flight to the South American country were accompanied by NATO fighters.

"The flight itinerary extended over neutral waters in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The Russian bombers were accompanied by NATO fighters," the statement said.

Russia earlier announced it would send a naval task force from the Northern Fleet on a tour of duty in the Atlantic Ocean and participate in joint naval drills with the Venezuelan navy in November.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on September 1 that Venezuela welcomed the Russian Navy and Air Force on its territory.

"If the Russian Navy arrives in the Caribbean or the Atlantic it may certainly visit Venezuela, we have no problems with that and would warmly welcome it," Chavez said.

"And if Russian long-range bombers should need to land in Venezuela we would not object to that either. We will also welcome them," he said.