Russia Negotiating Arms Sales to Buenos Aires; Talks Follow $3 Billion Weapons Pact with Venezuela's Chavez

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Russia Negotiating Arms Sales to Buenos Aires; Talks Follow $3 Billion Weapons Pact with Venezuela's Chavez


Byline: Kelly Hearn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BUENOS AIRES - Russia is negotiating arms sales to Argentina less than two weeks after angering Washington with a $3 billion deal to sell jets and helicopters to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Russian Ambassador Yuri Korchagin met with Argentine Minister of Defense Nilda Garre on Aug. 2 to express Moscow's willingness to "open a road to military and technical cooperation," according to a statement from Argentina's Ministry of Defense.

The statement said the Russian official presented a formal letter of intent, but an Argentine Defense Ministry spokesman declined to provide further details.

Miss Garre met previously on Jan. 18 and again on April 17 with the Russian ambassador, who was accompanied by Alexander Fomin, a ranking official within Russia's technical and military cooperation program.

A leading Argentine newspaper, La Nacion, reported on Monday that in those earlier meetings, the Russian officials raised the idea of trading Argentine beef, of which Russia is the largest importer, for military helicopters and armor-plated patrol boats.

Argentina has for years looked to acquire artillery-capable helicopters, but its 2001-2002 economic collapse scuttled those plans, and a Venezuelan buyout of Argentina's debt to the World Bank last year has done little to ease the burden.

But Mr. Chavez and Argentina's leftist president, Nestor Kirchner, have deepened their relations recently with new energy deals and a joint effort to create a South American development bank that would compete with the international lenders.

Officials have yet to offer a public response to the Russian proposal.

"Argentina has maintained in recent years a low level of military purchases because of the economic situation, among other reasons," Miss Garre told the ambassador, according to the official account of the meeting.

That account also said Mr. Korchagin talked of Russia's military ties with Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

The United States has already registered its concerns about Russian arms sales to Venezuela, whose president has been using his country's oil wealth to counter American influence in the region. …

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