Friday, 12 September 2008

More Georgian Blowback

RUSSIA flew two strategic bombers to Venezuela yesterday in the first such long-range flight since the Cold War.

Officials said the bombers carried no live weapons -- nuclear or otherwise -- and would return to Russia early next week.

The bombers arrived in South America ahead of planned joint military manoeuvres between Russia and Venezuela, which some analysts believe is a tit-for-tat response to the Americans sending warships with aid to Georgia following last month's five-day war.

It was the first time strategic bombers have landed in the Western Hemisphere since the end of the Cold War. The foray, and the coming military exercises with an avowed US enemy, are likely to strain the already tense relationship between Moscow and Washington.

Russian air force major general Pavel Androsov said the Tu-160 bombers were carrying only test missiles.

He said the jets would conduct several test flights over neutral waters and return to Russia on Monday. That suggest the jets will not participate in military exercises Venezuela and Russia plan to hold in the Caribbean Sea later this year.

The deployment -- which will include a naval squadron and long-range patrol planes -- is expected to be the largest Russian naval manoeuvres in the Caribbean in nearly two decades.