Hugo Chávez arrived in Moscow today, where the Venezuelan president is reportedly ready for an arms "shopping spree." Chávez is ready to buy at least 100 tanks for $500 million, reports the Times of London, and a Kremlin aide said Venezuela may get loans for helicopters, submarines, and other military hardware. Chávez began his charm offensive today by recognizing as sovereign states South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two pro-Russian republics at the heart of last year's war with Georgia.
Since 2005 Venezuela has signed $4.4 billion in arms contracts with Russia. Last year Moscow gave a $1 billion loan to buy military equipment to the Latin American nation, which the Russians call a "counterweight to US influence." Chávez is holding talks today with Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin in the latest phase of his European tour; earlier he made a surprise visit to the Venice Film Festival.