Russia said Monday it will send a naval squadron and anti-submarine patrol planes to Venezuela this year for a joint military exercise in the Caribbean, a deployment that comes amid increasingly tense relations with the United States.
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said the exercise was planned before Russia's war last month with Georgia "and it's unrelated to the current political situation and the developments in the Caucasus."
"If this exercise takes place, it won't be directed against interests of any third party," Nesterenko said at a briefing.
The announcement was made just a week after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would mount an unspecified response to recent U.S. aid shipments to Georgia.
Nesterenko said the Peter the Great missile cruiser and three other Russian navy ships would visit Venezuela before the year's end, and would be joined by a unit of long-range anti-submarine patrol aircraft.
In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks during his weekly radio and television show "Hello President" in Mantecal, Venezuela, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008. Chavez said Sunday that Venezuelan and Russian ships could soon hold joint naval exercises in the Caribbean. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)
He did not say how many planes would be sent, but said they would be "temporarily based at one of Venezuela's air bases."