The Russian-Venezuelan military technical cooperation is bound to wither away gradually following Chavez’s death under any political scenario. Venezuela has contracted more weapons than it needs and its market is close to saturation. It will most likely honor its contracts with Russia as long as the supporters of Chavez remain in power, but new contracts are unlikely.
For the past 15 years, Russian-Venezuelan relations have focused on military cooperation, while efforts to bolster civilian ties have failed to bring about the desired result. Bilateral trade can be described as negligible, with Venezuelan exports to Russia accounting for barely $800,000 in 2012. Russian oil projects in Venezuela have not entered a practical stage and their outlook is vague.
In the area of bilateral military technical cooperation, two groups of contracts were signed, in 2004-2007 and in 2009-2010. A total of more than $11 billion was fully covered by the contracts, and only the second group of contracts is based on loan agreements.
In 2004-2007, Venezuela bought 24 Su-30MK2V (Flanker-C) twin-engine, two-seat fighter planes, over 50 Mi-17 Hip and Mi-35M Hind attack helicopters and Mi-26 Halo transport helicopters, large batches of the Igla-S man-portable air defense systems, infantry and assault weapons and other military goods, and also began to build a plant to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles.
In 2009-2010, Venezuela signed almost $5 billion worth of contracts for military vehicles, including T-72B1V tanks, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, BTR-80A armored personnel carriers, artillery guns, S-300V, Pechora-2M, Buk-M1-2 and other air defense systems, as well as coastal anti-ship missile systems.
The first group of contracts was signed mostly to improve Venezuela’s defenses, in particular to renew the combat aircraft of its Air Force and Army, whereas the second group was evidence of President Hugo Chavez’s “red militarism” and was largely excessive, given Venezuela’s traditional requirements. In fact, the latter purchases spurred on the regional arms race and were a heavy burden on Venezuela for economic and maintenance reasons.
Therefore, Russian-Venezuelan military technical cooperation is bound to wither away gradually following Chavez’s death under any political scenario. Venezuela has contracted more weapons than it needs and its market is close to saturation. It will most likely honor its contracts with Russia as long as the supporters of Chavez remain in power, but new contracts are unlikely. But if the opposition comes to power, even existing contracts may be terminated.
On the other hand, Venezuela will likely have to use the weapons it has purchased, so Russia may at least stand to gain from providing maintenance services. But in general, the situation is similar to what happened in Indonesia after Sukarno lost power in 1965, even though he remained president of Indonesia until 1967.
Indonesia received a large amount of weapons from the Soviet Union before 1965, but stopped buying new weapons after Sukarno lost power and even got rid of some weapons for economic reasons. However, Indonesia is still using some of the Soviet-made military equipment that it received during the Khrushchev era.