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28 Jun, 2007 06:20

Interview with Konstantin Sonin

Konstantin Sonin is a Professor at the New Economic School in Moscow.  Earlier he told Russia Today what could be expected from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' visit to Russia.

Russia Today: This is Hugo Chavez's fifth visit since 2001. Why, in your opinion, is he so interested in close ties with Russia?

Konstantin Sonin: Well, there are several reasons for this. First, he feels incredibly isolated in the world because he changed the Venezuelan constitution to go for a third term, so he feels he needs stronger friends. And we know he's already been under political attack from the U.S. who supported a coup against him some five years ago. Also we know that he is a kind of a grand leader in the Fidel Castro style, so he thinks he needs to have people talking to him around the world. He talks to people in Iran.  Basically he's trying to be the new leader for Latin America.   He also needs strong friends so he goes to China, he goes to Russia – those are probably the basic reasons.

RT: In the past two or three years, trade between Russia and Venezuela has risen significantly. Why is that? Do Russian companies have special access to the Venezuelan market?

K.S.: Some Russian companies definitely have special access. For example we trade arms with President Chavez. Also this is the kind of country where the president's leadership matters very much for big business. That is also true about our country, but more [true] about Venezuela. So once he decided to have a good relationship with Russia, certainly our trade increased.

RT: What does Russia get from Venezuela?

K.S.: One thing is that they have money for our arms.another thing is that in many respects Russia politically follows the Venezuelan path so at least we try to learn something. For example President’s Chavez macroeconomic policy was much less prudent, much less conservative than President Putin’s. Both countries have a lot of oil wealth but we have been maintaining an extremely conservative macroeconomic policy so we have inflation getting lower every year. President Chavez does not have this. They have high inflation, they have to introduce state control of their prices and they have to introduce small-scale nationalization to fight deficit, because of these caps on prices. So we learn a lot from Venezuela. Not only do they get the support of a big friend, but we learn something from their experience.