Russia sends two long-range bombers to Venezuela

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Russia sends two long-range bombers to Venezuela
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Eylül 11, 2008 12:01

Russia has flown two long-range bombers to Venezuela, flexing military muscle in Washington's traditional backyard as the former Cold War enemies spar on both sides of the Atlantic.

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The visit by the Tu-160 bombers is a show of strength by newly confident Russia at a time of tension with the United States after the war in Georgia and U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday the planes, which can carry nuclear missiles, were in the South American oil-exporting nation to strengthen military ties and counter U.S. regional influences.

The bombers, known as Blackjacks, "were escorted by NATO fighter jets" during their flight to Venezuela, a Russian Air Force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Chavez is an outspoken critic of the United States, his main oil client. He frequently accuses Washington of planning to topple him and has modernized his army and built a diplomatic alliance with Russia.

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A close ally of Cuba who calls its former leader Fidel Castro a mentor, Chavez joked he would greet his friend from one of the bombers.

"I'm going to fly one of those beasts," he said, wearing a military style olive-green coat during a hospital visit, adding he had practiced in a flight simulator. "Fidel, I'll pass over low for you," he said.

The planes arrived days after Russia and Venezuela announced they will conduct joint naval exercises in the Caribbean later this year involving a nuclear-powered Russian battleship.

The RIA news agency in Moscow said the two bombers would remain in Venezuela for several days for training flights over neutral waters returning to their base in Russia.

Russia has expressed anger at the United States for sending naval ships to Georgia to deliver aid and show support for President Mikheil Saakashvili after the war in the former Soviet Republic.

Russia's exercises in Venezuelan waters will be the first major maneuvers on the U.S. doorstep since the Cold War.

"After suffering NATO in its own backyard for years, Russia is now on the verge of playing hardball with the United States in its front yard," said George Friedman of security analysts Stratfor.

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Chavez said Washington had F-16 fighter jets stationed on the nearby Caribbean island of Curacao and was considering bombing his palace or his live TV show's set.

Photo: AFP

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