Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 95

Russia is hosting a four-day visit this week by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that included a ninety-minute meeting on Monday between the controversial Latin American leader and President Vladimir Putin. Aside from boosting bilateral relations between Russia and Venezuela, the Chavez visit appears also to be furthering several of the Kremlin’s broader foreign policy goals. They include the promotion of closer ties between Russia and Latin America more generally; a strengthening of Russia’s role in global oil politics; and, perhaps most important, a bolstering of Moscow’s efforts to befriend so-called rogue states and to rally international opposition more generally to what Russia and some other governments describe as U.S. global domination. It is with this last in mind that the Kremlin has moved over the past year to revive or improve relations between Russia and such countries as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Cuba. Venezuela does not, of course, fall into this category of rogue states, but Chavez’s foreign policy agenda runs on tracks not dissimilar from Moscow’s. The Venezuelan leader is considerably more outspoken than the Kremlin in his anti-Americanism, and he too has moved pointedly to cultivate ties with some of those governments around the world most out of favor with Washington.

This in some ways common strategic agenda was one reason for the enthusiastic reception Chavez received in Moscow and for the apparently convivial atmosphere of his talks with the Russian leader. Another was the fact that they are both relatively young men who see themselves as carving out important niches for their respective countries on the world stage. Against this background, Putin spoke of Chavez as part of a “new generation of Latin American politicians who clearly understand the national interests of their countries.” He also said that Russia views Venezuela as “an influential and authoritative state in Latin America, as a serious participant in the club of world powers.” Chavez responded just as effusively, saying that Caracas has a “huge interest” in political, economic and technological cooperation with Russia. He praised Putin for leading what he described as the “revival” of Russia.

In more practical terms, the most important result of the Chavez-Putin meeting was the issuance of a joint declaration that made use of the sort of “multipolar world” rhetoric which had earlier been a staple of Russian foreign policy pronouncements but which has been heard less frequently of late in the Russian capital. In this vein, the two leaders affirmed their nations’ joint efforts “to build a new multipolar and peaceful world, built on the principle of noninterference in internal affairs and sovereignty” in the declaration. The key formulations here, of course are “multipolar”–which is intended to mean a world in which U.S. global dominance is counterbalanced by the joint action of regional power centers–and “noninterference in internal affairs and sovereignty”–which is an indirect condemnation of alleged U.S. interference in the domestic affairs of other countries and, more specifically, of NATO’s military intervention in Yugoslavia. The Putin-Chavez joint declaration also sounded several other themes consistent with standard Russian diplomatic formulations, including a call for further disarmament and observance of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and, under the rubric of preventing the militarization of space, an indirect condemnation of evolving U.S. missile defense plans. The two countries also announced their intention to strengthen relations with Cuba.