Caracas: President Hugo Chavez has said his government will buy dozens of Russian tanks because Venezuela feels threatened by a pending deal for the US military to increase its presence in neighbouring Colombia.
Chavez announced the plan while condemning Colombia`s negotiations on an agreement to let US forces use at least seven of its military bases.
"We`re going to buy several battalions of Russian tanks," Chavez said at a news conference, saying the deal is among accords he hopes to conclude during a visit to Russia in September.
Chavez`s government has already bought more than USD 4 billion worth of Russian arms since 2005, including helicopters, fighter jets and Kalashnikov assault rifles.
The socialist leader called Colombia`s plan to host more US soldiers a "hostile act" and a "true threat" to Venezuela and its leftist allies. He warned that a possible US buildup could lead to the "start of a war in South America”, but gave no indication that Venezuela`s military is mobilising in preparation for any conflict.
Chavez is seeking to pressure Colombia to turn back on its base plan. He threatened to cut back on imports from Colombia, an important source of goods from milk to chicken, and replace them with purchases from Argentina and Brazil.
Trade between Venezuela and Colombia reached USD 7.2 billion last year.