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Posted: 7/22/2008 6:38:54 AM EDT

The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, today arrived in Moscow on his latest arms-buying spree, saying that his country needed to buy more weapons to defend itself from the United States.

Chávez met Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev this morning. He is expected to sign a billion-dollar arms deal with Russia for new missile defence systems and diesel-powered submarines.

"I have great hopes we will be able to continue building our strategic alliance," Chávez said after landing in Moscow for a two-day trip.

He added: "The deals will guarantee the sovereignty of Venezuela which is being threatened by the United States."

Chávez's latest visit to Moscow – his sixth – is likely to irritate Washington. It comes at a time when relations between Russia and the US are already under strain over a host of issues.

Moscow is vehemently opposed to the Bush administration's plans to site a missile defence shield in central Europe. It is also hostile to Georgia and Ukraine's US-backed attempts to join Nato.

Today Chávez told Medvedev he was passing on greetings from Cuba's president Fidel Castro, who had written him a letter. Taking a thinly veiled swipe at the US, he said America lacked common sense.

"Fidel spoke on the crisis of common sense in the world, especially in some powerful countries. Russia has fortunately retained this common sense," he said.

According to today's Kommersant newspaper, Venezuela has a long shopping list. It wants to buy 20 TOR-M1 air defence systems, three or four diesel-powered submarines, and Ilyushin war-planes. The potential deal was worth $2bn, the paper said.

Venezuela is already the largest purchaser of military hardware from Russia in Latin America, and the second biggest in the world after Algeria. Chávez has already spent $4bn on Russian arms. Past purchases have included Sukhoi fighter jets, helicopters and rifles.

Today's talks were also expected to include discussions on oil and gas projects. "This is my first visit to President Medvedev," Chávez said. "We will get acquainted because a very wise, personal diplomacy is being carried out."

Chávez accuses Washington of planning a 2002 coup against him. The US in turn accuses him of deliberately seeking out its enemies — such as Iran and Cuba — as allies.

Its suspicions are likely to be confirmed on Wednesday when Chávez flies to Minsk for meetings with Belarus' dictatorial president, Alexander Lukashenko. US relations with Belarus are at rock bottom, following several recent rows.

Medevedev's decision to meet Chávez today at his Meindorf castle residence near Moscow suggests that there has been no change in Russia's foreign policy since he succeeded Vladimir Putin in May.
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 6:41:06 AM EDT
Think his neighbors are worried?
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 6:42:25 AM EDT
Good for him. The Russians could use the cash.

And we could use the ultra realistic target practice that close to home.
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 6:43:51 AM EDT
I'd think the Russian weaponry wouldn't be so lucrative after Israel proved them to be rather ineffective during their strike on Syria.

Birds of a feather, I suppose.
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 6:51:06 AM EDT
We've got to build more Nukes, solar - whatever.

He is paying for this stuff with our oil money.
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 6:53:21 AM EDT
Is Mexico scared yet?
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 7:28:05 AM EDT

Link Posted: 7/22/2008 7:30:58 AM EDT
Keep gassing up at Citgo.

Is American Idol back yet? Jeez I miss it.
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 7:39:21 AM EDT
Chavez, what a serious joke. While other coutnries are building huge militaries obama wants to get rid of ours. Not long my friends until america is invaded and we will not be able to stop it.
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 8:10:28 AM EDT
Hugo is a joke he thinks that he can intimadate us and he will just be wasting his countrys money.
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