RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Russia’s Defense Minister reiterated the support of Vladimir Putin’s government to what he defined as “historical” allies, which could potentially face “open use of military force.”
Russia reiterated its support to its Latin American allies, notably Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, against what it described as “external threats.”
Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu on Wednesday said that relations with these countries are “historic” and the different forms of pressure they are currently experiencing mean that they need Moscow’s help “more than ever before.”
Although the Minister did not specify if those countries formally requested assistance, in a speech delivered during a conference on international security held in Moscow, he referred to the “threats” they are experiencing, which include the potential for “open use of military force” against such nations.
“It is the threat of terrorism, closely linked to the production of illegal drugs and permanent attempts to start various revolutions in those countries,” Shoigu said.
The statements come at a particularly sensitive time in Nicaragua, isolated internationally as a result of the actions of the Daniel Ortega government, which has launched a persecution against opposition candidates that included a wave of arrests as well as intimidations, threats and raids.
However, the alliance with Moscow is not new. In 2014, President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to the Central American country, and before that Ortega had expressed his support for Russia in several regional conflicts, including the Crimea/Ukraine, opposing western sanctions.
According to the newspaper El País, Putin has financed military training centers in Nicaragua, in addition to the “strengthening and modernization” of the Army and the shipment of military arsenal.
In relation to the link between Russia and Venezuela, Moscow pledged this week to strengthen military cooperation with the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.
Moscow’s commitment, one of the Chavista’s main allies, was expressed during a meeting between Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov and Jorge Arreaza in Moscow on Tuesday.
The United States has been monitoring the Russian presence in Venezuela for some time. In August last year, Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the Armed Forces Southern Command – whose sphere of influence includes the Caribbean country – said that “Russian influence is the main force keeping Nicolás Maduro in power.”
“I view with alarm what Russia is doing with Venezuela in terms of personnel deployed and in the spread of disinformation,” he added during a conference on Latin America by think tank Atlantic Council.
Russia first became one of the main political and commercial allies of the Hugo Chávez regime, and then of Maduro. Moscow is also Venezuela’s second largest creditor, after China, owed some US$7.5 billion, according to an estimate by local consulting firm Ecoanalítica.
Last March, the Kremlin strengthened its support to the Venezuelan strongman with the signing of a dozen cooperation agreements on food, financial, energy, military, scientific, technological and mining matters.