Last Friday in Moscow, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev signed a formal agreement obliging his country to help Venezuela launch a nuclear energy program. Vladimir Putin first floated the idea of Russian-Venezuelan nuclear cooperation back in 2008, following the Georgian war, and he signed a preliminary nuclear accord with Hugo Chávez this past April. On Friday, Medvedev and Chávez finalized the deal.
“I don’t know who will shudder at this,” the Russian leader said wryly, insisting that Moscow’s motives in helping Chávez go nuclear were “absolutely pure and open.” (Neither Medvedev nor Chávez offered an exact timeline for the project.) His comments will do little to reassure the United States and its democratic partners in Latin America, who are well aware of Venezuela’s history as a state sponsor of terrorism, a regional bully, and a close ally of the Iranian theocracy. (Indeed, according to the Associated Press, a 2009 Israeli foreign ministry report accused Venezuela of providing Tehran with uranium.)