President Evo Morales says he regrets not deepening Bolivia's ties to Russia years ago.

A week after kicking out the U.S. ambassador, Morales says his administration "lost two and a half years in not strengthening relations with Russia" and will now "use its time wisely" to build better ties.

Bolivia plans to seek seek Russian aid in energy, agriculture, and defense, Morales says.

He spoke Thursday as he signed a natural gas deal with Russian state energy giant Gazprom and Paris-based Total SA. Bolivia says the deal could bring $4.5 billion into Bolivia.

Also Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked Russia's efforts to make allies in Latin America in a scathing speech that labelled the former Cold War foe as isolated and irrelevant.