Russian PM Vladimir Putin flew all the way to Venezuela for a quick 12-hour visit to boost oil and military ties with President Hugo Chavez, the loudest basher of U.S. “imperialism” in Washington’s backyard. 

VENEZUELA-RUSSIA/TIESBesides guns, tanks, jet fighters and missiles, Chavez wants a Russian hand in developing nuclear energy to cope with chronic electricity shortages in his oil-producing country, and technology to start a space industry.

“We are not going to build the atomic bomb, but we will develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” said the former paratrooper who has been in power for 11 years.

Chavez suggested Moscow might want to set up a satellite launch site in Venezuela, along with its “factory.”

The U.S. State Department scoffed at Chavez’s space plans. Spokesman P.J.Crowley pointed out that Venezuela was so short of electricity that the government had extended the Easter holiday for a full week as part of widespread efforts to save power, and could hardly contemplate “space travel.”