Information published by the official TASS News Agency, assembling reports from a range of other Russian media outlets, indicates that the Russian Air Force now intends to establish a more long-lasting basing posture in Venezuela in order to facilitate the conduct of long-range missions performed by the Air Force's strategic aviation assets. According to the media reports, the Russian Air Force will utilize already existing Venezuelan air and naval facilities on the island of La Orchila, located some 200 kilometers off the coast of Caracas.
This is airfield of La Orchila island of #Venezuela where #Russia is going to establish an air base something equivalent to #USAF's Anderson AFB at #Guam. This air base will be used for temporary deployment of Tu-160 nuclear bombers + Il-78M, A-50U & a Su-30SM Fighter Squadron! pic.twitter.com/Jrkfybut5M— Air War (@TheAirWar) December 19, 2018
Over the past decade the Russian Air Force has flown its strategic air assets to Venezuela for long-range exercises and joint drills with the Venezuelan Military on a number of occasions, and Russian defense experts interviewed by domestic press indicated that the primary purpose of the new basing structure was to ease the considerable logistical challenges associated with carrying out these long-distance deployments.
However, others postulated that the new basing announcement also carries a significant component of strategic signaling, indicating to the United States and other Western leaders that Russia possesses both the means and political relationships to project power and protect its interests in the Western hemisphere and that despite internal disorder that Venezuela still maintains a degree of international support.
Nevertheless, the new basing structure cannot be said to fundamentally alter the balance of power in vis-à-vis the United States and Russia in Latin America, and the while the newly announced Russian basing structure is notable for its symbolism and potential deterrent value it does not indicate a significant expansion of Russia's relatively limited operational capabilities in the region.