The burgeoning alliance between Russia and Venezuela has just gone nuclear. On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he had accepted an offer from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to help Venezuela develop nuclear energy – “for peaceful ends of course.” The Russian nuclear power construction company Atomstroyexport, which is currently building Iran’s new plant, will coordinate the project.
Nuclear cooperation is only the most recent – and, arguably, the most alarming – testament to the ties between Venezuela and its Russian patron. For example, later this year Russia and Venezuela are planning to hold joint military exercises, a deployment that represents the largest Russian naval maneuver in the Caribbean since the Cold War. On top of that, Chavez has purchased Russian anti-aircraft systems worth over $4.5 billion, and has been promised a $1 billion dollar “loan” from Russia as part of a “military cooperation program.”