Venezuela offers use of air base to Russia: Chavez
March 15, 2009
CARACAS (AFP) Venezuela has offered Russia unlimited use of an air
base off its Caribbean coast, President Hugo Chavez said Sunday -- the latest
step to boost military ties between the two countries.
"I told (Russian) President (Dmitry) Medvedev that any time Russia's strategic
aircraft need to land in Venezuela to meet their strategic aims, Venezuela
will be at their service," Chavez said.
Chavez's comments -- made during his weekly television program "Hello Mr.
President" -- follow Russian media reports that Moscow had been offered the
use of the Caribbean island base La Orchila.
On Saturday, Russian air force general Anatoly Zhikharev told the Interfax-AVN
military news agency that Russia could seek the short-term use of bases in
Cuba and Venezuela, indicating permanent bases in the region were not under
Chavez also ruled out permanent facilities: "they keep on saying that I offered
La Orchila to the Russians, you know that is not true," he told viewers.
The bases could be used for logistics stops on long-distance bomber patrols,
which Russia resumed in August 2007 after a 15-year hiatus.
Last year, Russia temporarily based a pair of Tu-160 bombers at an airbase
in Venezuela in a carefully-choreographed display of force regarded by as
a warning message to the United States.
Each aircraft is capable of carrying 12 cruise missiles that can be fitted
with nuclear warheads.
Zhikharev said Cuba had a several air bases equipped with the long runways
needed by the heavy bombers and said the facilities there were "entirely
acceptable" for use by the Russian aircraft during long-distance patrols.