Russia is working on establishing a military base on a Venezuelan island in the Caribbean, according to Russian news reports.
Russia deployed Tu-160 supersonic nuclear-capable bombers to La Orchila, a Venezuelan island with a military base and airfield, according to Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Russia has been eyeing the island for its military presence for a decade.
Venezuelan law reportedly prohibits foreign countries from establishing a military base on Venezuelan soil. However, Russia’s deployment of bombers to an already-established base is permitted on a “temporary” basis.
Moscow is eyeing strategic air base off Venezuela’s coast – reports https://t.co/BDXAvSLt9J
— RT (@RT_com) December 20, 2018
“It is the right idea to include Venezuela in long-range aviation missions,” Russian military expert Col. Shamil Gareyev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
“Our strategic bombers will not only not have to return to Russia every time, but also won’t perform aerial refueling while on a patrol mission in the Americas. Our Tu-160 aircraft arrive to their base in Venezuela, conduct flights, execute their missions and are then replaced on a rotating basis. This is how it should be done,” he added.
The Tu-160 bombers are capable of flying 7,500 miles without needing to refuel, and can fire short-range nuclear missiles.
Russian military Colonel Eduard Rodyukov said the move to deploy bombers to the island is a direct message to the United States.
“The arrival of Russia’s Tu-160 strategic bombers to Central America is kind of a signal to Trump to make him realize that abandoning nuclear disarmament treaties will have a boomerang effect,” he said, according to Russian news agency TASS.
The island is located approximately 1,300 miles from the closest U.S. territory – the southernmost tip of Florida.
Russia deployed two Tu-160 bombers near Caracas, Venezuela earlier this month after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow to request Russian support.
At the time, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said via Twitter that the “Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
#Russia‘s government has sent bombers halfway around the world to #Venezuela. The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer. pic.twitter.com/bCBGbGtaHT
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 11, 2018
Maduro has welcomed Russia’s proposals to deploy warplanes to his country. Venezuela also remains indebted to Russia, so the move to allow a Russian military presence appears to be tied to their economy.
“We are clearly helping the Venezuelan government stay afloat,” said Emil Dabagyan, Research Fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “Since Russia benefits from oil exploration, it wants the Venezuelan regime to stay in place.”
Venezuela also appears to be cooperating with Russia as a means to secure military deterrent that will protect them from potential U.S. aggression.