Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has arrived in Venezuela for talks with leftist President Hugo Chavez.
The two leaders are discussing a 15 billion euro venture which would enable Russian energy companies to tap Venezuela’s Orinoco oilfield.
Putin is also scheduled to hold a series of meetings about the two countries’ agricultural and defence needs.
The trip is likely to cause some consternation in the White House.
Putin is also due to meet the left-wing President of Bolivia Evo Morales, another South American leader who, like Chavez, has made his opposition to US foreign policy loud and clear.
They are both fierce critics of what they call US “imperialism” in Latin America.
Facing a national electricity crisis, which has led to power cuts, Chavez is turning to Russia and Iran for help developing nuclear energy, for “entirely peaceful” purposes, he says.