Interview with Fred Weir
Russia Today: What do you think is the most important part of President Chavez’s visit?
Fred Weir: Well, I think inevitably political symbolism will outweigh everything else. Russia is a huge country and it trades with scores of nations. There is nothing about these [weapons] deals that makes them intrinsically worthy of the world's attention. But it is a fact that these two huge oil exporting countries, who dissent somewhat from the western consensus on the world order, are getting together. And they are talking, and spouting some rhetoric that may be perceived as anti-American. And it’s also the fact that Russia is deepening its co-operation with the country that is in the western hemisphere, in the traditionally American region, if you like. It’s rather as if the U.S. were selling fighter planes and submarines to Ukraine and Georgia.
RT: How much do Russian arms sales to Venezuela benefit it politically?
F.W.: I think that Chavez enjoys the role he plays of tweaking George Bush’s nose. And certainly this particular thing – weapons – more than any other item that he would trade, is something that will irritate the United States. And since Chavez is playing to a Latin American audience, where people are really disaffected with American leadership in the last few decades, as in Russia by the way, this enhances his prestige. It makes him look more like the guy standing up to Washington. So I think it’s a good deal for him.
RT: What about the timing of Chavez' visit to Russia, just before President Putin heads off to Maine to meet George Bush?
F.W.: Well, he’s [Putin's] walking a fine line there, and I think he did take affords to downplay the Chavez visit to not let those irritating things become big news. Although Chavez did make some inflammatory remarks, such as calling U.S. “companies’ vampires”. Still I think that President Putin has got relationships all around the world to maintain and I don’t think this would irritate the Kennebunkport meeting.