Besides debt, Rosneft owns large stakes in half a dozen oil production projects in Venezuela, such as PetroMonagas and PetroMiranda, as well as 49 percent of the U.S. refiner, Citgo, notes Russ Dallen, managing director of Caracas Capital, a Venezuela-based boutique investment bank. It has also become the largest client for Russian weapons in Latin America, with the purchase of kalishnikov rifles, Sukhoi fighter jets, T72 tanks, helicopters and an S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system.

Russia and Venezuela have a joint venture bank, Evrofinance Mosnarbank. “Combining an arms dealer with a dubious Venezuelan bank used for kickbacks … what could possibly go wrong?” quips Dallen.