Venezuela plans to buy more Russian and Chinese arms

Nicolas Maduro VenezuelaREUTERS/Carlos Garcia RawlinsVenezuelan President Maduro

Venezuela has announced plans to increase its total amount of arms imports from Russia and China in the coming years, Russian network Sputnik reports.

Venezuela is already the largest weapons importer in South America.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Venezuela imported $US349 million worth of arms from China and $US1.96 billion worth of arms from Russia between 2010 and 2014.

In 2013 alone, Caracas imported $US1 billion worth of military equipment from Moscow. Between 2012 and 2015, Venezuela is expected to become the world’s second largest importer of Russian weapons, Sputnik reports citing the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade.

Since 2010, according to SIPRI trade logs, Venezuela has ordered a range of self-propelled artillery pieces and transport aircraft from China, as well as tanks. From Russia, Venezuela received surface-to-air missile systems, anti-tank missiles, self-propelled artillery, and helicopters.

Russia’s focus on supplying arms to Venezuela is part of an overall Kremlin strategy to build influence within Central and South America as a counterweight to US power. Russia is in the process of working out an arms plan with Nicaragua. The potential deal could likely inclue the transport of MiG-29 fighter aircraft to the Central American country.

Russia nicaraguaKremlin mediaIn February, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a two-day visit to the country and touted a new topographic center set up by Russian specialists.

Russia is also in talks with Nicaragua in efforts to build military installations for the refuelling of long-range bombers and navy vessels.

In a congressional hearing on March 12, 2015, General John Kelly, the head of US Southern Command, said that “Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere … Russia has courted Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to gain access to air bases and ports for resupply of Russian naval assets and strategic bombers operating in the Western Hemisphere.”

Nicaragua, alongside Cuba and Venezuela, was one of only eleven countries that voted in Russia’s favour against a UN resolution which declared Crimea’s independence referendum in March 2014 invalid.

In the beginning of March 2015, the US slapped sanctions on the South American nation and declared it a “national emergency” and “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

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