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WASHINGTON – As Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez remains gravely ill and may die soon, Russia and China are weighing their future in the country where they have billions of dollars in oil investments, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

In an effort to secure a position for the future, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent close former KGB associate Igor Sechin to Venezuela to discuss with Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro future bilateral relations. Sechin has been handling Latin American issues for years. He also happens to be the executive chairman of the Russian oil conglomerate Rosneft.

Sechin and Maduro finalized a number of agreements that help assure Russia’s future position in Venezuela and keeps pace with China, which has loaned billions of dollars to the Chavez government to help ensure security of its own oil investments in the country.

Both countries are in the process of helping develop Venezuela’s oil reserves, said to be the largest in the world at an estimated 296 billion barrels.

Regional sources say that Sechin negotiated almost $47 billion in investments in the Venezuelan oil sector, including agreements to set up a joint Russia-Venezuela drilling and manufacturing company and to permit increased Russian access to offshore oil reserves.

However, both countries also have an ulterior strategic reason for maintaining their position in Venezuela, and that is having a base from which to watch and undertake a containment approach toward the United States

Russia is using its investments as a way to obtain more bases for its navy. In 2008, Russia sent in long-range bombers and a naval squadron to Venezuela. While it hasn’t done a repeat of these deployments, Russia wants permanent basing rights in Venezuela.

Russia also has expanded its arms sales to Venezuela, including more than 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, Mi-35 helicopters, Su-30 jet fighters, air defense systems, tanks and armored vehicles.

If Chavez dies, there is a question as to what extent a new leader will be as friendly to both Russia and China. Any new leadership probably will continue working with them but could be friendlier to the United States, unlike the Chavez regime, according to informed sources. In turn, this could create a climate for further American investment which the Russians would then find competitive with their own interests.

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