The training center is symbolic in its role to educate a new breed of Venezuelan airmen but has a powerful political message aimed at the U.S.

Russian helicopter Mi-35
The new airmen education center established in Venezuela will train pilots to fly on Russian Mi-35M helicopters. Photo: Bilal Khan

(— April 3, 2019) — Russia has opened a pilot training center in Venezuela in order to educate airmen to operate Russian helicopters, Reuters reports, citing the Russian state industrial conglomerate Rostek.

According to Rostek, the center was promoted last Thursday, the same day when the White House warned Moscow and other countries that support Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro did not send him troops and military equipment because it would be considered a “direct threat” to regional security.

Washington issued a warning after two Russian military aircraft landed next to Caracas with hundreds of military personnel described by the Kremlin as military specialists. Two Russian supersonic long range bombers dubbed the “white swans” by Russian military are designed to carry nuclear weapons. Escorted by Russian fighter jets, they landed near Caracas carrying soldiers and equipment.

The move comes after speculations in media that the US is preparing to invade Venezuela in order to help the opposition leader backed by Washington Huang Guaido to overthrow president Maduro. With a Russian military presence in Venecuela, installing a new government by force is unlikely to happen.

Rostek announced that the new airmen education center established in Venezuela will train pilots to fly on Russian Mi-35M helicopters, as well as Russian transport helicopters, which implies that Russia will deliver helicopters to Venezuela.

Dismissing the U.S. criticism of its military cooperation with Caracas, Russia has a history in supplying Venezuela with fighter jets, tanks, and air defense systems, claiming it poses no threat to regional stability.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned Russia “to get out” of Venezuela and that “all options” are still open for a military intervention.

Russia has not only political but extreme financial interests to defend in Venezuela. Russia’s state-owned firm, Rosneft, now has stakes in multiple projects in Venezuela and has issued significant loans to the country’s oil giant, PDVSA. Venezuela has the World’s largest oil reserve but is also one of the poorest countries of Latin America due the isolation and sanctions the U.S. use to choke the country and its economy.

After the western media spin that people in Venezuela are “dying from hunger” and that all that would change if Maduro surrenders the presidency to Guaido, the presence of Russian military in Venezuela ensures that the regime change will not be the result of a military campaign forced by Washington.