This is yet another piece of disturbing news that we didn’t need to hear. US Defense Department officials are confirming a rumor that Russia is going to be expanding their recent uptick in long-range bomber training missions, this time sending their nuclear-capable planes to Venezuela. If you think this is going to come as some sort of threat to the Venezuelan government, think again. It’s entirely the opposite case. Putin is demonstrating more support for his buddy, dictator Nicolas Maduro, and propping up the imploding socialist nation as best he can. (Free Beacon)

Russia is deploying nuclear-capable Tu-160 Blackjack bombers to Venezuela this week as part of an increasingly provocative pattern of bomber training flights, according to American defense officials.

At least two Blackjacks will fly from a strategic forces air base in Russia to Venezuela as part of a series of training exercises that will include long-range refueling, said officials familiar with Russian plans for the flight.

The bomber foray to South America will be Russia’s seventh training flight for Blackjack bombers in the past three months.

Here’s the more alarming part. This doesn’t represent some sudden change of policy in Moscow. Maduro has been courting Putin’s approval and support for some time now, taking meetings with him at every international confab where the two come in contact. And from the looks of this report, Putin is increasingly enthusiastic about the relationship.

Maduro visited Moscow last week and was promised an estimated $6 billion in investment pledges in the oil and mining sectors aimed at propping up the regime in Caracas and its collapsing economy.

Maduro said Moscow also promised to help modernize Venezuela’s military.

Defense ministers from the two countries met in Moscow last week and agreed that Russian air force and naval forces would continue to use Venezuelan ports and airports.

Those meetings referenced in the article are only part of a larger picture we’ve been monitoring here over the past few years. Putin isn’t only meeting with Maduro. He’s also frequently seen chatting up Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Tyrant of Turkey, as well as leaders from Iran and even diplomats from North Korea. (I’ll leave you to figure out where his meetings with Donald Trump fit into the picture for yourselves.)

Putin has his own little autocrats club going and these are all bad actors on the world stage. Our hopes to help the people of Venezuela return to some sense of normality rely on their first being able to oust their dictator and replace him with either a temporary military junta or some semblance of a democratic government following new elections. But Venezuela has naval ports and airfields that the Russians are keen to use, so Putin flooding the country with foreign aid and military support sets those hopes back considerably.

The real losers in this story are once again the citizens of Venezuela. But the rest of the western world needs to keep an eye on this situation as well. None of this is good news.