Saturday, July 22, 2006

Money not so well spent? 

Yesterday it was announced that Venezuela had contracted for 30 Sukhoi figher planes and helicopters:

MOSCOW - Russia has struck a deal worth more than $1 billion to supply fighter jets and helicopters to Venezuela, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Friday.

“The contract was concluded ... for the delivery of 30 Su-30 fighter aircraft and the delivery of the same number of helicopters,” state-owned Rossiya television showed Ivanov saying.

“The contract is for a sum in excess of one billion (dollars),” Ivanov added. The two sides announced weeks ago that they were working on the contract.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is buying the high-performance Sukhoi fighter jets to replace his government’s F-16 jets. Washington, D.C. has banned U.S. arms manufacturers from selling to Chavez, saying he is a dangerous autocrat.

A billion dollars is certainly a lot of money. The recently completed subway line cost about $800 million. These planes aren't going to be used to fight the U.S. - they have no chance of doing that. Nor are they likely to be used to fight Brazil or Guyana as those countries have never threatened Venezuela (although Venezuela claims a lot of Guyana's territory). The only other potential threat is Colombia but it is is largely focused on its own internal security problems.

So Venezuela would appear to not need these planes to deal with its neighboors and they are clearly of little use against the one real potential threat. In a country with a lot of good alternative uses for this money this would appear not to be a smart move.


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