Russian first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov held talks in Venezuela on December 11-12, his final stop on a three-nation tour of the region that also included visits to Chile and Mexico. Nemtsov said upon his arrival in Caracas that his discussions with Venezuelan leaders would focus on possible oil dealings and on Russian arms sales. In a letter that Nemtsov handed to Venezuelan president Rafael Caldera from Russian president Boris Yeltsin, the Russian side reportedly also proposed concluding an agreement on a joint campaign against drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime.
Among the oil projects on Nemtsov’s agenda was one that would revive a three-way Soviet-era agreement between Moscow, Cuba, and Venezuela, under which Russian oil refineries in Cuba would process oil from Venezuela for use in Cuba. In return, Russia would receive Cuban sugar and would supply commensurate amounts of oil to Europe on Venezuela’s behalf. On the subject of possible Russian arms deliveries, Nemtsov met on December 12 with Venezuelan military leaders. His remarks suggested that Moscow intends to compete aggressively for contracts on the Latin American arms market.
In statements made prior to his arrival in Venezuela Nemtsov had made clear that Moscow sees improved relations with countries in the region as part of a plan to balance Washington’s influence in Latin America and to counter a growing U.S. presence in the countries of the former Soviet Union. (See Monitor, December 10) U.S. government authorities have viewed Russian efforts to increase arms sales to Latin America with some anxiety, arguing that the Russian initiative could trigger an arms race in the region.
Russian-Ukrainian Group to Manage Rapprochement.