A month ago all appearances indicated Moscow was rapidly drawing down military support to the Venezuelan armed forces, especially given the surprisingly rapid exit of one of the largest Russian state defense contractors, Rostec; however, this week top foreign ministry officials have reaffirmed “Russia will facilitate development of Venezuela’s armed forces,” according to state sources.
“We will continue our multifaceted efforts on developing partner relations with brotherly Venezuela,” declared Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Friday. “We will continue to implement projects in various areas, to hold events within the existing agreements that would strengthen the military potential of this country’s armed forces.”
However, Ryabkov sought to debunk what he called the “myth” of recent media headlines suggesting Russian military advisers were seeking to prop up Nicolas Maduro amid external pressures from Washington and its regional allies. Moscow has for the past half year sought to cool tensions that could turn to a new US-Russia “proxy” cold war type scenario in Latin America.
“Reports concerning Russia’s military presence in Venezuela have been debunked many times. I would like to stress once again that this concerns maintenance of equipment delivered there,” the deputy foreign minister declared.
Russian state defense contractor Rostec, which has trained Venezuelan troops and advised on securing arms contracts, has cut its staff in Venezuela to just a few dozen, from about 1,000 at the height of cooperation between Moscow and Caracas several years ago, said a person close to the Russian defense ministry.
The report described a “gradual pullout” which has been noticeably ramping up of late, citing sources to say further it’s due to “a lack of new contracts” and crucially “the acceptance that Mr. Maduro’s regime no longer has the cash to continue to pay for other Rostec services associated with past contracts.”
The oil-rich but cash poor socialist country has long been deep in default on payments to international creditors, totaling in the billions owed to Russia and China alone with oil-for-debt swaps no longer able to keep up, given plummeting oil production over the past two decades since Huge Chavez’s rule.
But despite this, it appears Russia will remain active in Venezuela at least in terms of military hardware assistance, which notably involves S-300 anti-air missile deployment and operations outside Caracas.
There’s no alarm expected out of the White House over any of this information though, considering President Trump is rumored to have “given up” on pursuing regime change as he’s reportedly “bored” with meddling in this complex Latin America political climate. This despite a few months ago the president saying that “Russia has to get out” of the region amid US efforts to install opposition leader Juan Guaido as “interim president”.
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