Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says relations with Latin America will be a foreign policy priority for the Russian government.

Putin, who is meeting with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, says Russia is willing to discuss further military contacts with Venezuela and help it develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Chavez said during Thursday's meeting that close ties between Venezuela and Russia would strengthen a multi-polar world.

Chavez' visit takes place as a Russian naval squadron sails to Venezuela, across the Caribbean Sea from the United States, in a pointed response to what the Kremlin portrays as threatening U.S. encroachment near its own borders.