Tu-160s in Venezuela — The Message

IndraStra Global

Tu-160s in Venezuela — The Message

By IndraStra Global News Team


On December 10, 2018, two Russian long-range bombers Tupolev Tu-160s (also known as White Swan/NATO reporting name Blackjack) flew 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) to Venezuela and later performed a routine 10-hour training flight with Venezuelan Air Force in the airspace over the Caribbean Sea.


According to Russian Ministry of Defence, the crew of Tu-160 received "the practical experience of fulfilling the necessary task near the equator in the conditions of high humidity and temperature". The bombers were accompanied by an Il-62 passenger plane and An-124 heavy-cargo plane. This is the third time in post-Soviet times, strategic bombers land in Venezuela. Similar trans-Atlantic flights took place in 2003 and 2008.

Image Attribute: An-124 and Il-62 accompanying Tu-160s in Venezuela / Source: Twitter

Image Attribute: An-124 and Il-62 accompanying Tu-160s in Venezuela / Source: Twitter

The arrival of Tu-160s stirred a notable backlash from the United States (US) and neighboring Colombia. Colombian President Ivan Duque called the move unfriendly. The Organisation of American States (OAS) also expressed concern over the presence of Russian military aircraft in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez responded to these statements by assuring the public that the presence of Russian Aerospace Forces in Venezuela poses no threat and added that they had arrived to conduct joint flights with the country's airplanes.

Image Attribute: One of the Tu-160s on the tarmac of Maiquetia airport outside Caracas / Source: Twitter

Image Attribute: One of the Tu-160s on the tarmac of Maiquetia airport outside Caracas / Source: Twitter

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scolded Russia for sending its bombers "halfway around the world to Venezuela" and called on "the Russian and Venezuelan people" to see the move as "two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer". In response, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called Pompeo's comments "disrespectful," and, like Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, described them as "cynical" in light of the US's own military activity abroad.

Also, Peskov called Pompeo's statements as "absolutely inappropriate" and "unprofessional". He recalled that the US military budget alone could feed the whole of Africa. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called Pompeo's reaction to the Tu-160 flight "outrageous" and hypocritical.

Later, the White House confirmed the departure of these strategic bombers after speaking with the Russian officials.“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on Friday and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in an email sent to Reuters.

Earlier in January 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country is investing US$ 2.8 billion to modernize the Tu-160 fleet with new engines and advanced avionics. Just two months after the announcement, in March (2018), Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov revealed the Tu-160 fleet is undergoing a major upgrade to carry nuclear-capable KH-55 cruise missiles, as well as conventional KH-555 and KH-101 cruise missiles.

Image Attribute: Tu-160s at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas / Source: Federico Parra (AFP)

Image Attribute: Tu-160s at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas / Source: Federico Parra (AFP)

The Message


The relations between the U.S and Venezuela have been icy since the 2002 coup attempt against President Chávez, which latter blamed at the erstwhile Bush administration. And, during the Obama administration, though, U.S. imposed first sanctions against Venezuela and President Obama himself declared the country to be an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States". Since the arrival of President Trump, the Government of Venezuela believes the threat from the US has grown exponentially as he revealed last year - "Washington doesn't exclude a military option as a means to resolve its confrontation with Caracas". With the arrival of Tu-160s, a German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine has dubbed it as one of the first physical steps taken by Venezuela to become  "a new Cuba in the US backyard" for Russia and such sort of collaboration with Russia is being considered to deter any aggression that the U.S. might direct against Venezuela in the near future.