Russian tanks and rocket systems to boost Latin America’s military potential

Russia will lend $2.2 billion to Venezuela, says President Hugo Chavez after his visit to Moscow. The money will help Venezuela’s military potential, which Chavez deems crucial as US influence grows in the region.

President Hugo Chavez says his country is buying nearly 100 T-72 tanks and an S-300 air-defense system, using a more than $2 billion loan it got from Russia.

The announcement was made just days after President Chavez's two-day visit to Moscow, during which he recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“We have good relations with Venezuela both military, economic and cultural. There is no embargo on the selling of arms to this country so if it wants to buy our military hardware, we are ready to supply it,” explains Vladimir Travkin, editor-in-chief of the, Latin America magazine.

It comes as Colombia is planning to allow the United States access to seven military bases in the country, officially to help it in the war against drugs and left-wing guerillas.

But Venezuela says it’s a threat to its national security as it holds some of the largest oil reserves in the world.

President Chavez stresses the new measures are strictly for protection from the Empire – a term the President often uses when referring to the United States.

“It's doubtful the US will engage in a war with Venezuela. American soldiers are already fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. But any leader with some self-respect has to think about how to protect his country from potential threats,” says Viktor Litovkin, an analyst from Independent Military Review newspaper.

The S-300 is planned to be the foundation of Venezuela's air-defense shield.

Developed in the USSR and produced in Russia, it's designed to knockout planes and ballistic missiles. Its radars can simultaneously track up to one hundred targets while engaging up to twelve.

Chavez says he also plans to buy other air-defense systems from Russia with Venezuela's military already being the most powerful in Latin America.