March 14, 2009 / 9:57 AM / in 9 years

Venezuela offers bases for bombers: Russian general

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian general said on Saturday Venezuela has offered the use of its La Orchila island airfield for Russian strategic bombers on long-range flights.

Russia has been keen to build relations with a rival to the United States in the Western hemisphere in an effort to counter U.S. influence in formerly Communist countries in eastern Europe and central Asia.

“If certain political decisions are taken, it is possible (for Russian bombers to use the base),” Interfax news agency quoted the head of Russian strategic aviation general-major Anatoly Zhikharev as saying.

Zhikharev also said Russian bombers would be prepared to use four or five airfields on Cuba if the political leadership of the two countries allowed the use of Cuban bases.

Two Russian long-range bombers flew to Venezuela last year in a visit designed to show off Moscow’s military strength and build ties with a foe of the United States.

Russia and Venezuela, both major oil producers, are also co-operating more closely on energy.

Russia and the United States have vowed to use the change of power in Washington to “press the reset button” on their relationship but Russia remains in fierce opposition to U.S. plans for an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe.

Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Louise Ireland

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