Russian, Chinese Forces Appear in Venezuela-Based War Games

In what some commentators are calling an in-your-face gesture at the United States, Russian-sponsored war games are being held in Venezuela.

Although Russia has held international war games annually since its 2015 annexation of Crimea, this is the first time they have been held in Latin America, according to the Miami Herald.

China, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Burma, Belarus, Abkhazia, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan and Indonesia are among the nations taking part in the event, which is scheduled to last until Aug. 27 and involves snipers competing against each other.

Past events have involved tanks and other military hardware.

Retired Venezuelan National Guard Col. Isidro Pérez Villalobos said there is a message in the location.

“By holding these games in Venezuela, Russia is telling the United States: ‘I can also come to your backyard. You want to get into the Baltic countries, in Ukraine, and in the geo-historical spaces of Russia? Well, I also get into your spaces,’” Villalobos said.

The presence of the games in Venezuela should be a warning, he said.

“In the United States they downplay Russia’s presence in Venezuela, but they are everywhere in the country,” Pérez Villalobos said. “They are arms suppliers, they are oil and economic partners, they are political allies, and now they sponsor military competitions.”

The games are a means to an end, said Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society.

“In a sense, this seeks to normalize (and pave the way for) a larger military presence in Latin America,” he said, suggesting that “larger military operations and games in the future” could involve Russia, China and Iran.

Evan Ellis, professor of Latin American studies for the U.S. Army War College, told the Herald there is a theme of the event, and it targets the United States.

“Venezuela wanted to host these games, wanted to be one of the organizers and host this party and the host of other anti-American activities,” Ellis said.

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said, however, that participating countries “daily condemn imperialist aggression against the peoples.”

Pérez Villalobos said the games expand Russian influence in another way.

The event “serves as a conclave for merchants of sophisticated weapons to transnational terrorist organizations that operate in Latin America with the support of the Venezuelan regime,” he said.

Humire said the event is part of a larger plan, according to the Washington Free Beason.

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“Russia and its allies Iran and China are about to make a major show of force with the army games competition in August in Venezuela,” he said in July. “But it’s important to understand that this force is molded by cyber-enabled, digital disinformation that is at the heart of how this kind of joint military exercise is used to legitimize authoritarian states and delegitimize democracies in the Western Hemisphere.

“By normalizing military movements of U.S. adversaries in the Caribbean, we run the risk of weakening the moral legitimacy of democracies in Latin America.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.