China and Russia are President Hugo Chavez’s heavyweight friends.
Chavez feels bigger, more dangerous, more global, with China and Russia in his corner.
But the different geopolitical/strategic interests of China and Russia in Venezuela depend on Chavez staying in power.
Beijing and Moscow aren’t witless. Each has important strategic designs on Venezuela, but achieving those designs is contingent entirely on the longevity of the Chavez regime.
For example, Chavez has signed dozens of energy agreements with China since 2005 that are worth over $100 billion on paper, and would give China access to about 1.6 million b/d of crude oil and products over the coming 10-15 years. China has a huge thirst for Venezuela’s oil reserves.
Russia also has important energy and arms agreements with the Chavez regime. These agreements include a $30 billion (on paper) joint project to develop over 400,000 b/d of extra-heavy crude production and related upgrading capacity in the Orinoco oil belt.
Russia also has sold, and has firm orders, for over $6 billion of weapons that Chavez says are needed to fend off a planned US military invasion which (says the Bolivarian Mad Hatter) is already being readied in Colombia.
But Russia also has other clandestine interests in Venezuela. Vladimir Putin reportedly is re-establishing long dormant Soviet intelligence networks in the region, including Venezuela. And wherever Russian intelligence services establish a presence, Russian organized crime also arrives in force.
Chinese crime triads, some of which are known to cooperate with Beijing, also have a growing presence in Venezuela.
If Chavez loses the presidency someday, Chinese and Russian plans in Venezuela also will be diminished very dramatically. But they won’t disappear entirely from Venezuela now that both have established firm beachheads in-country.
Meanwhile, growing concerns in Beijing and Moscow with respect to Chavez’s longevity in Miraflores may be the reason why the Chinese and Russians sign agreements at every turn with Caracas, but move very slowly (if at all) to implement the deals.
Caracas Gringo is acquainted with Russian oil officials in Venezuela who confirm that it’s very difficult to do any serious business with Pdvsa or anyone else in the Bolivarian regime. Too much ideology wed to incompetence. And they’re so corrupt, adds one of these Russian oilmen. Odd that a Russian should complain about corruption in Venezuela, considering post-Soviet Russia’s history of systemic corruption.
The Chinese are inscrutable. Hard to say what they think about Pdvsa or Venezuela. But Caracas Gringo’s friends in the oil workers federation (FUTPV) say that Chinese managers with CNPC in eastern Venezuela are verbally, and sometimes physically, abusive towards their Venezuelan workers. “Uds. los gringos siempre nos trataron bien,” laments an FUTPV regional official. But Chavez wants no truck with the imperialist gringos. The Bolivarian leader would rather associate with narco-terrorists and anti-semitic lunatics, and pledge Venezuela’s oil reserves to China “for the next 200 years,” as he did in Beijing on 24 December 2004.