Today’s nuclear news unsurprisingly involves Russia, both times.
First of all, Russia and Venezuela may sign a cooperation agreement leading Russia to construct nuclear power plants and supply the necessary fuel for them.
Putin greeted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on his second trip to Russia in just over two months, with offers to discuss further arms sales to Venezuela and possibly helping it to develop nuclear energy.[...] Putin did not mention any specifics of potential Russian-Venezuelan military cooperation in his opening remarks, but Russian news reports said that Venezuela could buy Russian air defense missiles and more Sukhoi fighter jets.
[...] Putin did not specify what kind of cooperation Russia could offer Venezuela in the nuclear field, but Russia is aggressively promoting itself as a builder of nuclear power plants and supplier of fuel to nations seeking nuclear energy.
Second today, is the news that Turkey received only one bid for its planned nuclear power plant near Mersin, and the sole bidder was…Russia, on whom they already rely for the majority of their gas imports. Embarassing for Turkey’s civilian nuclear aspirations and risky from a national security perspective. And keep in mind, the Russian company, Atomstroyexport, is the same one building Iran’s reactor at Bushehr. However, it is presently unclear whether the deal will actually go through.
“The reason Russia was interested in the project was because it is the largest supplier of natural gas to Turkey, which gives it extraordinary bargaining power,” noted columnist Metin Munir in the daily Milliyet. “One of the main reasons the other companies kept their distance was concern about payment for the electricity that they would produce. Russia has no such worries. It is confident that all it would have to do would be to give the government a kick in the backside by cutting off the gas for a couple of days in the middle of winter” (Milliyet, September 25).
Given Russia’s struggle to assert itself on the world stage and attempts to undermine American power and influence where ever possible, it should come as no surprise that Russia is resorting to its nuclear technology to spread influence into the third and developing world again. With little to offer the world except energy and weapons, Russia will push forward not only to gain influence in the target country, but also vis-a-vis the United States. While the U.S. for example agreed to assist Egypt in building nuclear power plants there, Russia is obviously willing to go where the West is not. This is currently playing out in Iran. The question is, where will it go next.
Readers, do you think Venezuela may intend to develop a clandestine nuclear weapons program? Given the ability of both Brazil and Argentina to develop weapons with a few months to a year, would this factor into Chavez’s thinking? Or is creating one more problem for the U.S. more important?