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28 Jun, 2007 15:49

Chavez in Moscow: tying closer links to Russia

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is on an official three-day visit to Russia. His main purpose being to discuss military, trade and energy co-operation, on his first day in Moscow he did not forget about culture, taking part in the inauguration of a Latin

Actually, it was the first thing Hugo Chavez did on his arrival to Moscow. Although the centre is dedicated to the 19th-century freedom fighter Simon Bolivar, it was the U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama who got most the attention.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was particularly eloquent in his speech at the opening ceremony:

“Just recently Mr Fukuyama visited Moscow and said that history has ended. He said that all countries should follow the United States as the model for political, social and cultural life. This will never happen”

The mayor of Moscow was so taken by the concept of a multi-polar world that his gestures started to resemble those of Chavez himself. The Venezuelan president didn’t disappoint in terms of flamboyance, either.

“This is not the end of history. This is the beginning. With the revival of Russia, with the revival of Latin America, with changes in Africa and Asia, the world is starting to change. The world is waking up from years of U.S. imperialism,” said Hugo Chavez in his traditionally emotional manner.

Over the past two years, Venezuela has spent more that $US 3BLN on arms in Russia, buying new Kalashnikov rifles, fighter jets and military helicopters. Russian media report this time Chavez may be shopping for diesel submarines to protect Venezuela’s oil rigs against possible U.S. aggression.

When addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez called him “a brother.” He persistently alluded to the ideological closeness between the two countries.

“Since 2001 when we first met a lot of changes have taken place in the world. And these changes are good for our geopolitical ideas, for our common interests,” he remarked.

Vladimir Putin, though, tried to steer clear of geopolitics, at least on public:

“We are to discuss our economic and military co-operation. I’m glad to see you here, welcome,” Vladimir Putin replied reservedly.

The meeting comes just days before Putin’s visit to the United States, which considers Chavez the main threat to stability in Latin America. So Western analysts reasonably suggested the visit could cast a shadow over Putin’s upcoming talks with U.S. President George Bush.

In Russia, however, some are not so pessimistic about the prospects of Russia-U.S. dialogue.

“Our policy is neutral. Putin is meeting with both Hugo Chavez and George W. Bush. He maintains dialog with Kim Jong-il and with the European Union. We are open for any talks,” believes Russia’s politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky,

In their political dance, Russia and Venezuela have so far avoided stepping on each other’s toes. But no matter how good their routine is, some onlookers are still against the choice of partner.