"This is what we call solidarity; this is what we call independence."
 
Russian newspaper Kommersant reported this month that Chavez was expected to sign an initial contract that would include five Project 636 Kilo-class diesel submarines, and possibly four other submarines later, although the Venezuelan defence minister denied it.
 
Caracas already has purchased about $3 bn worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons.
 
Mutual benefits
 
The strengthening relationship between Russia and Venezuela has clear mutual benefits.
 

Putin welcomed Chavez warmly but did not
echo his comments about the US [EPA]

Besides lucrative trade ties and co-operation in the energy sector, they are also sending out a signal that "the American imperialists should understand that they cannot control the whole world", according to Chavez.
 
Russia is not the only stop on his itinerary. He goes on to Belarus hoping to buy an air defence system, and then to Iran for talks on energy and nuclear issues, calling on, and doing business with, governments that Washington has serious concerns about.
 
Russia's hand in helping build up one of Washington's most vocal critic in Latin America will not help smoothen an already delicate meeting set to take place between Putin and his American counterpart George Bush at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Sunday and Monday.
 
Russian restraint
 
But the Kremlin appeared to be taking a tough stance with the US while trying not to overdo it, keeping Chavez's visit a relatively low-key affair.
 
A Kremlin official said before Chavez's meeting with Putin that Russia and Venezuela "stand for the formation of democratic, multipolar world-building", but Putin kept his comments to the point and did not echo Chavez's rhetoric.
 
And the Duma, the lower house of parliament, unexpectedly denied Chavez permission to address a plenary session - limiting him to a chat with parliament leaders in a smaller room.
 
"It appears the Kremlin doesn't want to irritate the White House on the eve of the Kennebunkport meeting," Kommersant observed on Thursday.