April 1 (Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will pay his first visit to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tomorrow as Russia seeks to regain lost influence in Latin America through energy and arms deals.
The highlight of the one-day trip to Caracas may be the formation of a joint venture to pump oil from Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt. Putin also plans to meet Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who like Chavez opposes U.S. policy in the region.
Chavez, who visited Russia eight times during his decade in power, has wooed Putin by signing more than $4 billion in arms deals and inviting state energy companies OAO Gazprom and OAO Rosneft to explore for oil. Venezuela was a lone supporter of Russia during the five-day Georgian war in 2008 and hosted joint naval war games later that year.
“Chavez has already signed up for more weapons than he can buy, and Russian energy companies aren’t really interested in exploration and production in Venezuela,” said Pavel Baev, a professor at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo. “It’s much more a political project.”
The two countries fed off each other’s anti-Americanism as oil prices hit all-time highs in the final year of the Bush administration. Now, under the conditions of the global financial crisis, Putin’s successor President Dmitry Medvedev is seeking a more “sober” foreign policy, Baev said.
A message for Chavez and Putin; most Americans are NOT LIKE Obama. Just sayin’….