Russia strengthens military ties in Venezuela, visits Cuba and Nicaragua

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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has declared a deepening of his country’s military ties with Russia after a visit by the Deputy Prime Minister from Moscow who is then due to travel to Nicaragua and Cuba on a tour of western hemisphere-ruled states. by the left amid tensions with the United States Ukraine.

After lengthy talks on Wednesday between the Maduro administration and a Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, the two sides signed a series of strategic cooperation agreements covering a number of key areas.

“We reviewed the map of global geopolitics, the state of Russia-Venezuela bilateral cooperation and discussed in detail each aspect of trade, energy, financial cooperation in the fields of health, culture, education, military,” Maduro said. during a nightly televised press conference.

And in the area of ​​defence, Maduro said the two sides had “endorsed an area of ​​strong military cooperation between Russia and Venezuela to defend peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a statement that sparked concerns. applause from those present.

Maduro said he had given Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino “clear instructions” to pursue the issue of entering a new level of cooperation “with a global military power such as Russia”.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (right) shakes hands with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov after a meeting at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on February 16. The two parties have signed a series of strategic agreements, in particular to strengthen their military cooperation.
FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

Moscow has already played a key role in backing Maduro against Washington’s attempts to topple the socialist leader and bring to power opposition-led National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, who has been endorsed by the administration. former US President Donald Trump three years ago. The leadership dispute has divided the international community with dozens of countries backing both sides.

But Maduro has retained his leadership, even amid a severe economic crisis exacerbated by tough US sanctions still in place under President Joe Biden.

A day before the announcement of the latest agreements between Moscow and Caracas, the United States held a “high-level coordination meeting on Venezuela” on Tuesday with 19 other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.

A State Department statement said attendees called for a range of reforms, including free and fair elections, the creation of independent institutions such as the judiciary, and an end to alleged human rights abuses. . They also reportedly expressed “their support for an inclusive, diverse and unified democratic opposition in Venezuela”.

Military-technical relations between Russia and Venezuela have continued to progress despite American protests. The dynamic between the two countries has received particular attention since tensions rose between Moscow and Washington in response to a deteriorating security situation in Eastern Europe, where a massive Russian military build-up along the borders of Ukraine prompted the United States to warn that the Kremlin could order an invasion at any time.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top officials have repeatedly denied plans to attack Ukraine, a denial recently reiterated to Newsweek by Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov. At the same time, Antonov and other Russian officials called on Washington to seriously address Moscow’s longstanding security concerns about NATO’s eastward expansion and military activities near Russia’s borders.

Maduro said Wednesday that “Russia is fully supported by Venezuela in the face of threats from NATO and the Western world.”

Borisov’s stopover in Venezuela marked a good start to his three-country trip, which will then take place in Nicaragua and then end in Cuba. Both countries also face US economic restrictions tightened under the Trump administration and kept in place under Biden, with Cuba currently under one of the longest embargoes in history.

Moscow’s opening to Managua and Havana has roots in history as both were supported by the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. In one of the most tense episodes of the decades-long geopolitical fight between the United States and the USSR, the former’s warship prevented ships of the latter from delivering nuclear-capable missiles to Cuba during a 1962 standoff known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Fears of a new flashpoint between the world’s top two nuclear powers have resurfaced due to the situation near Ukraine. These concerns are compounded by the 2019 collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty which banned medium-range missiles at the center of the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as comparisons to that difficult time and the present made. by Russian officials. like Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who warned that a lack of resolve could lead to comparable escalations.

In a widely quoted response to a question posed by Russia’s RTVI about the possibility of sending military assets to Latin America if US-Russian relations erode further due to differing views on Ukraine and the order European Security Council, Ryabkov said he could “neither confirm nor rule out” such a scenario. Russian officials have since played down the comment, but days later Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed Moscow was “exploring options” in that regard.

A day after that remark, Putin phoned Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and continued to hold calls with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Maduro in the following days to bolster Russian support for the Latin American trio.

This is news in development. More information will be added as it becomes available.

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