Colombia wants to buy weaponry from Russia: paper

May 27th, 2008 - 10:29 pm ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Moscow, May 27 (RIA Novosti) Colombia is seeking to expand military-technical ties with Russia in an apparent attempt to counter the growing military might of neighbouring Venezuela, a Russian business daily said Tuesday. Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos is due to make an official visit to Russia June 1-10, and according to the Kommersant newspaper, the 46-year-old politician personally contacted the Russian leadership requesting scheduling of the visit.

“It’s about time our countries intensified relations,” Kommersant quoted Santos as saying. “There is a lot we can do together.”

During his visit, Santos will most likely attempt to convince Moscow to revise its policy in Latin America, mainly in regard to arms trade.

Colombia is worried about the Hugo Chavez regime’s military buildup, boosted by Russia’s arms exports.

In the last three years, Venezuela has bought 24 Su-30MK2V fighters, Tor-M1 air defence systems, 31 Mi-type helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia.

Caracas is also planning to conclude several contracts with Russia next month on the purchase of military equipment worth at least $2 billion, including transport planes, submarines and attack helicopters.

Relations between traditional rivals Colombia and Venezuela seriously deteriorated after the fiercely anti-American Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela in 1999.

Chavez has branded Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the United States’ main ally in South America, as “Washington’s poodle” and warned that war could break out if Colombia struck on Venezuelan soil.

Bogota has repeatedly accused Caracas of supporting rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - the largest rebel guerrilla group in the region.

The region was brought to the verge of armed conflict at the beginning of March when US-ally Colombia bombed a FARC rebel camp in Ecuador, killing 24 rebels, including a top rebel leader. Venezuela and Ecuador then sent thousands of troops to the Colombian border, but a peace deal was soon reached.

Currently, Columbia is determined to maintain the balance of forces in the region even if it means buying Russian weaponry. In exchange, Bogota hopes to convince Moscow to reduce arms exports to Venezuela, Kommersant said.

According to the paper, Colombia is willing to order attack and transport helicopters, Sukhoi fighters and armoured vehicles.

Francisco Santos is one of Colombia’s most influential politicians and the likely successor to President Alvaro Uribe.
RIA Novosti

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