Russia strikes nuclear energy deal with Chavez

In case anyone hasn't noticed, Vladmir Putin is not our friend:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to help start a nuclear energy program in Venezuela and said Moscow is willing to participate in a socialist trade bloc in Latin America led by President Hugo Chavez.

Medvedev used his visit to Venezuela—the first by a Russian president—to extend Moscow's reach into Latin America and deepen trade and military ties. Chavez denied trying to provoke the United States, but he welcomed Russia's growing presence in Latin America as a reflection of declining U.S. influence.

Chavez and Medvedev planned to visit a Russian destroyer docked in a Venezuelan port on Thursday. The arrival of Russian warships this week for training exercises with Venezuela's navy was the first deployment of its kind in the Caribbean since the Cold War.

Accords signed Wednesday included one pledging cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful uses. Russia also agreed to work with Venezuela in oil projects and building ships.

We can't stop Russia from cozying up to Venezuela. But we can put pressure on Chavez and his new friends in Moscow by immediately ratifying the Colombian trade agreement. Such a boost to the Colombian economy will make it less susceptible to the siren call of socialism being pushed by Chavez and the other left wing governments in South America.

Besides getting the senate to ratify the Colombian accords, we must continue efforts to build a coalition of free market states in Central and South America, easing trade barriers, facilitating cooperation, and generally throwing a monkey wrench into Chavez's plans to dominate the region.

There has been some recent signs of cooperation among the badly disorganized opposition in Venezuela that resulted in some key local victories at the polls. Once again, it appears that the army forced Chavez to accept the results of these elections as Hugo thought of sending troops to take back some of the state governments that were defeated. He was apparently turned down flat - as he was last December when his bid for legal dictatorship was soundly defeated at the polls and the army forced him to accept the results - and he dropped the idea immediately. 

How much help will Putin give Chavez in his bid for "peaceful" nuclear energy? If the Russians assist the Venezualeans as much as they are assisting the Iranians (the Russians are building a nuclear power plant in Iran) it won't be long before Chavez can claim that Venezuela is a "nuclear" power.