Two Russian nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela for joint exercises

December 11, 2018

A pair of Tu-160 bombers, known as Blackjack”, landed in Caracas on Monday following a 6,200-mile flight, which is said to be aimed at showcasing Moscow’s growing military prowess and shoring up the position of Venezuela’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro.

The planes touched down at the Simón Bolívar international airport as part of a larger fleet also including an An-124 military transport plane and an Il-62 passenger jet

The Russian defense ministry said the bombers were shadowed by Norwegian F-18 fighter jets during part of their flight.

Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, said the arrival of the aircraft for joint maneuvers was not intended as a provocation. “We are makers of peace, not war,” he was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster Venezolana de Televisión (VTV).

Russia’s ambassador in Caracas, Vladimir Zaemskiy, told VTV the deployment reflected the “very fruitful” military partnership that had developed since the relationship was forged by Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chávez in 2005.

However, specialists say the move is designed to signal to Washington that Caracas is not without international support.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at last week's meeting with Lopez that Russia would continue to send its military aircraft and warships to visit Venezuela as part of bilateral military cooperation.

Russia sent its Tu-160 strategic bombers and a missile cruiser to visit Venezuela in 2008 amid tensions with the US after Russia's brief war with Georgia. A pair of Tu-160s also visited Venezuela in 2013.

Russia-US relations are currently at post-Cold War lows over Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. Russia has bristled at the US and other NATO allies deploying their troops and weapons near its borders.

Asked about the Russian bombers, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said he had no specific information about the deployment.

the bombers' deployment follows Venezuelan President Maduro's visit to Moscow last week in a bid to shore up political and economic assistance even as his country has been struggling to pay billions of dollars owed to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday voiced support for Venezuelan leader, telling him, "We support your efforts to achieve mutual understanding in society and all your actions aimed at normalizing relations with the opposition."

Russia is a major political ally of Venezuela, which has become increasingly isolated in the world under growing sanctions led by the US and the European Union, which accuse Maduro of undermining democratic institutions to hold onto power, while overseeing an economic and political crisis that is worse than the Great Depression.

Hit by low oil prices and the impact of US sanctions, Maduro is seeking support from allies after winning a second presidential term this year.

Maduro, who took over following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, has come under strong pressure from US President Donald Trump's administration.

After talks last year between Maduro and Putin, Russia, Venezuela's major creditor, agreed to restructure $3.15 billion of debt from a loan taken out by Caracas in 2011 to finance the purchase of Russian arms.

Russia and Venezuela enjoy a long history of ties and Maduro's predecessor Chavez, known for his passionate tirades against the United States, was a welcome guest at the Kremlin.

(Source: press TV) 

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