PDVSA, Gazprom to create consortium as Chávez promotes ties with Russia

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Venezuela and Russia plan to sign an agreement that would create one of the largest oil consortiums in the world, according to Venezuelan's President Hugo Chávez, who was in Moscow on a state visit.

The consortium would be formed by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart Gazprom, state news agency ABN reported.

The joint venture would make "high level" investments in the energy sector, Chávez said.

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Gazprom announced last week its involvement in one of three LNG trains being developed in the country. The company is also part of a JV that was awarded two new natural gas blocks to provide gas to the train.

Chávez arrived in Moscow after a brief visit to China, where he also signed a number of energy-related agreements. The two countries also promised to expand other industrial ties.

Russia and Venezuela, meanwhile, are scheduled to conduct joint military tests and Russia has offered to help Venezuela study nuclear energy, according to press reports.

POLITICAL GAME?

The agreements with China and Russia, however, are vastly different in significance. China's interest in Venezuela is self-explanatory as the country is on an active search for new reserves around the world.

Russia, however, already has some of the largest hydrocarbons reserves in the world and Chávez could be playing a dangerous political game, one industry analyst told BNamericas.

"Russia is now playing some of the old cold war cards to make life for the US as difficult as possible," the analyst said, suggesting it may be Russia using Venezuela and not vice-versa. "It's returning to espionage, covert activities and military and industrial involvement in South and Central America to give the US headaches."

Chavez's new alliances with Russia come as relations between Russia and the Western world are particularly tense because of violence and political disturbances in Georgia and other former Soviet republics.

"I think that the outcome will be a mutual deal [between the US and Russia] to allow each other to consolidate their respective spheres of influence. The Russian problem-making in Latin America would then end," the analyst continued.

"Chávez is playing a dangerous game. Until now he has not been any significant threat to US interests," the analyst added. "But by playing with the big guys and siding with the Russians, it could end up being very dangerous for all Venezuelans."