Venezuelans are only now beginning to wake up to the geostrategic aspect of the crisis we’re in. Used to thinking in government-vs.-opposition terms, we struggle to wrap our minds around a new situation where big outside powers pick over the carcass of our institutions for influence. It’s a brave new world out there.

We know Nicolás Maduro is mere days from attaining his chosen Weapon of Mass Destruction: la Constituyente may convene as early as Thursday. The US continues to levy targeted sanctions aimed at Maduro and his cronies. We appreciate the gesture, but measures like these won’t return democracy to Venezuela. International sanctions seldom work. Gary Hufbauer, from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, analyzed over 200 cases of international sanctions in the last 100 years and he concluded that it’s better to keep our expectations modest.

Trouble is, Trump doesn’t do “modest”.

And so he’s considering his own “nuclear option”: sectoral sanctions to asphyxiate the Chavista economy a move rumored to be crippling like nothing seen so far.

Would such devastating sanctions be more effective?

There’s reason to doubt it. The target is a tyrant willing to sacrifice his country rather than resign from power. What sanctions will deliver, though, is hunger and still more civilian casualties.

For some, this is the cost of putting a cruel regime on its knees sooner or later, Nicolas Maduro will compromise or resign. Do they really have the measure of the man? I doubt it.

Gary Hufbauer… analyzed over 200 cases of international sanctions in the last 100 years and he concluded that it’s better to keep our expectations modest.

Chavez’ successor finds inspiration in North Korea, Syria, Iran, Russia, and of course, Cuba. Regimes that have survived an extensive range of sanctions, letting their civilian populations absorb their destructive impact without giving up an inch of power.

The Russian Factor

Sanctions are indeed necessary. The international community must show its will to confront the abuses that some governments commit, maintaining credibility without going to war. That’s why North Korea is sanctioned when it plays with ballistic missiles, Syria for using chemical weapons, and Russia for erasing borders and annexing Crimea.

Sanctions do sometimes elicit some concession from rogue governments. They tend to be effective only when the issuing party is willing to enforce them with military actions if necessary, an option which today seems off the table. The Southern Command and our neighbors are not preparing to launch an attack, they’re preparing to take on a tide of refugees.

And so Maduro is tinkering on two scenarios: he’s either Assad in Syria or Castro in Cuba.

But Syrians and Cubans have never tasted democracy, while Venezuelans are used to their freedom. Either way, Maduro counts on Cuba and most importantly on Russia’s support. And unlike Assad, he confronts an unarmed opposition. In both Syria’s Civil War, as well as the immovable Cuban dictatorship, Russia has been the dominant player.

More and more, I think the Russian Factor is the key to understanding our crisis. Lest we forget, the current protest cycle got going when Maduro abused his control of the Supreme Court to remove any obstacle to signing oil joint ventures with Russia.

The Southern Command and our neighbors are not preparing to launch an attack, they’re preparing to take on a tide of refugees.

Citgo, PDVSA’s U.S.-based refiner and retailer is now 49.9% mortgaged to the Russian oil giant company Rosneft, as collateral to a $2 Billion dollar loan. The catch is that the Russians wish to substitute the control over Citgo for the control over some prime Venezuelan oil fields which, without the approval of the National Assembly, would be illegal.

In the event of strong U.S. sanctions against PDVSA, where do we think Venezuela will turn to for supplies? For the diluent needed to move its extra-heavy oil? Where will PDVSA go for capital, for technology, for oil field services? Russia is the obvious answer.

The answer to the “Cui Bono” question on sanctions points straight at Moscow.

Today, the Kremlin is re-assessing its presence in Latin America. Trump has clawed back the U.S.’s opening to Cuba, forcing Raul Castro —short of cash and better options—  to reach out to Putin. In the inevitable chaos of a Venezuela asphyxiated by the loss of its primary client, and with the USA no longer attached to a strategic commercial relationship, Russia could present itself as the guarantor of order. Having aligned their interests, Maduro’s survival would become raison d’Etat for Russia.

Russian generals have openly expressed their plans of returning to their Cuban bases, a gesture that would be interpreted as highly aggressive. All they need is an excuse to justify naval and submarine operations in the Caribbean spanning a triangle made up of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. A client government in need and the ownership of some oil fields could be two good excuses.

The “Nuclear Option” on Venezuela is a boomerang: The United States would be making room for Russia’s strategic objectives, not in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, but in its backyard. Were anyone other than Donald Trump in the White House, the U.S. would register that for what it is: a crisis.

@CodigoRoger

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Roger Santodomingo is Senior Fellow at the CDDA in Washington DC and a columnist for El Pais. He is the Author of several books, including “De Verde a Maduro,” the unauthorized biography of Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro (Random House, 2013)

98 COMMENTS

  1. Your opening sentence –

    “Venezuelans are only now beginning to wake up to the geostrategic aspect of the crisis we’re in.”.

    Really, where have you all been!!!

    If you are only now waking up to this fact, things are worse than I ever imagined. I hope this is just a loose phrase to make the article more exciting, but if it isn’t, god help you all.

    • No, it is not just a loose phrase … it is the best sentence in the article and 100% spot on. The average Venezuelan has never grasped the broader geopolitical scene or that their cause had implications well beyond opposition vs government. If the MUD got it, they never acted accordingly. The average Venezuelan was absorbed in their own world view and regaining comfort and complacency. Never mind that just about none of my fellow countrypeople get it, and wonder why I keep trying to educate gringos about Venezuela. This script was written 18 years ago, and the world let it happen. And yes, although the chamos valientes seemed to get it, older Venezuelans by and large did not.

      By the way, the Republican bashing on this website s irritating; could we remember Obama in Cuba or Carter in Venezuela?

      • By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, Republicans care little for democratic processes. Their preferred method is rule by fiat, excluding all dissenting voices. They are not to be trusted by anyone who cares for democratic principles. You may disparage Mr. Carter and Mr. Obama, but one thing you can take to the bank: Republicans will be first in line to limit or deny Venezuelan refugees entry into the US, all except the most wealthy. Count on it.

        • Your statement that Republicans care little for democratic process is entirely outrageous. You are the one who would pretend to reduce everyone else – not even by fiat, but by your own disassociated surrender and submission to forces of destruction. The U.S. will refuse entry to whomever it pleases.

          • Tell me again why Merrick Garland is not seated on the US Supreme Court. Tell me why voter suppression is one one main tools that keep Republicans in power. For the GOP, rules are for suckers. I stand by by my statement. As for your petulance, sometimes the truth hurts, doesn’t it?

        • By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, you are full of shit. And that is one thing you can take to the bank. Count on it.

        • Lorenzo – Thank you. You are a poet. I have something deep inside against anyone who insults or disparages or offends women. It strikes me as cowardly somehow.

        • If Republicans cared for Democratic process they lift sanctions on Cuba, where the majority of the OAS has repeatedly voted to lift them. But Democracy doesn’t matter to Republicans.

          Trump re-imposing sanctions on Cuba and now Venezuela is part of an effort to squeeze out left wing governments and re-impose US corporate control. This is part of the project for a new American century. The US tasted a chance for a leader who recognized the progress in Venezuela and south America as a whole with Bernie Sanders, now the far right has crushed those dreams and wants to return the Americas to decades of darkness.

  2. Your post seems divided on sanctions; first you hold they don’t work and then go on to say they’re necessary. Which one is it?

      • I never viewed US sanctions against Cuba as any serious effort to overthrow Castro. Difusing the missle crisis involved US agreement to leave Cuba alone if the Soviets withdrew their weapons. The US basically said, fine, but Castro won’t be able to count on anything American to sustain the dictatorship. If in the end those measures resulted in Castro’s toppling, then wonderful.

        • Agree, in that sense the Venezuelan sanctions would be different and could be more effective. The problem is the unintended consequences that could play out in a maze of possibilities. If I was Trump I would just say fuck it. lets get this SOB the old fashion way, Noriega style and be done and over with these clowns once and for all.
          But I bet ya Putin will make his move and then the US scrambling for a response.
          If Venezuela becomes another failed state for decades to come, we would confirm that the USA is definitely a decaying power.

  3. Indeed Limey, and another Trump hit piece as well. Why don’t the whole lot of you defeatest mother fuckers just piss on the ashes and be done with it.

    • Most unfortunate that the only place one can read coherent Venezuela commentary is so pro the ideology that embraces Cuba.

  4. This is why I’ve come to conclude that street protest won’t be enough. That is like barking to the wrong tree.
    Our last resort was our very own Venezuelan Armed Forces but it seems obvious at this point that they are probably composed of 70% Chavismo loyalist and/or guys that don’t care about Freedom, Democracy or a Constitution, so we better stop dreaming that the they will come to the rescue. They won’t.
    Even if the MUD manage to strike a deal with Maduro for a resignation we are still going to deal with a Red Army, the enduring Chavez Legacy.

    There is a US White House petition going on now asking for a US led military intervention. That in my opinion is the best approach to end this nightmare. No sanctions needed, much faster and Justice would be served.

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/us-should-lead-military-intervention-depose-narco-regime-and-recue-venezuela-famine-and-genocide

    • Dear Toro,

      I cant imagine US military intervention without some sort of major trigger that caused the US population to want retaliation, e.g., a “911” type event that Maduro publicly takes credit for. We love to retaliate, and then have years to second guess and regret. Can’t see Maduro et al. being that stupid/suicidal.

      VE is the focus of this blog; it is NOT the focus of the average American, other than as the knee-jerk response to the Bernie Sanders – Liz Warren supporters, e.g., “Vote for Bernie and Make America Venezuela” or “if you like socialism so much, why don’t you move to Venezuela and see how it goes for you” … or “the Venezuela diet: no toilet paper? no problem, since no food.” Maybe cruel to make fun of other people’s misery, but fairly or not, VE is perceived as having brought this misery upon themselves by voting for free stuff promised by Chavez (reap what you sow …), whereas Cuban people are seen, for most part, as victims of Castros.

      Not “we need to send troops.” Not even close. Way (way) down the list. IMO, anyway.

      • Not gonna happen. For years I have heard the whine of “Cuando nos van a mandar las marinas”, and have told my Venezuelan comadres that my gringa comadre is not going to send her Annapolis son to die for a country that is too comfortable to send its own to die. Yes, now Venezuelan sons and daughters are dying for freedom, but my generation still does not get it, and they clamor for a return to a life where they do not have to “pasar trabajo”, as they watch TV and complain that no one is helping them (obviously a generality that does not apply to everyone). Watch today and tomorrow … how ,any of them will just stay home? And continue to think the solution to their problem is for Amercan boys to die while they stay home. We should see the. Ost massive protests to date this week … I bet, and Cuba bets, we will not.

        • ,any = many; the. Ost = the most. Damn iphone autocorrect, siri cannot figure out what language i am speaking. Sorry!

      • Gringo, you don’t need to imagine anything, it already happened with the Panama and Barbados invasion. Decisions that didn’t required a 911event or an American People consensus to trigger action.
        And speaking of consensus, a really strange event in the polarized US politics these days, is that there is consensus in the repudiation of the Maduro regime in both sides of the aisle.
        This would make it much easier to approve a swift and quick removal of yet another Dictator.
        By the way, no average citizen of any country will have as focus international politics, that is the stuff of professionals and politics nerds. The reality is that the average American citizen is more focus on Youtube cat videos. They wouldn’t know that a 2 day US intervention happened in Vzla unless they come across with it in their Facebook “news” stream.

        • Toro Volt, I think we’ve had this discussion on a different thread. Please stop saying this would be like Panama.

          Panama: 4mm people, Venezuela 31mm.

          Panama: 74,000 sq km, Venezuela 916,000

          Panama army: 30,000 men, Venezuela 130,000 men

          Panama: zero armed colectivos, Venezuela 100,000

          Yes, the US has overwhelming superiority. That doesn’t translate to zero casualties in the real world. As Katey Parece points out, many Americans would have a hard time understanding why their sons should die to straighten out a Venezuelan mess 18 years in the making. Arguing that US national security interests are at stake would be a challenge.

          It’s easy to say it would be a walkover, but smashing Venezuela’s conventional military would be the easy part. The hard part would be acting as an occupation force, keeping public order during a transition, going house to house to disarm 100,000 colectivos, etc.

          I understand and share your frustration. Like you, I despise the chavistas and would love to see Maduro handcuffed and forced to stand trial, to see Diosdado extradited and sent to a Supermax, etc. But high level deciders have to coldly calculate whether or not a military intervention is in the best interests of the US. I suppose it might be, but that is not an easy case to make.

          • hombre, you are not wrong. But lets be realistic, what is the alternative if we are stuck with a FANB Chavista?, that is the real problem here. Would the US let another country with resources become a totalitarian state, specially one that is interested in spreading their dysfunctional ideology in their own region?
            Make no mistake, Mexico, Brasil and Colombia are an election away of becoming another “Revolutionary state” Lula is more popular than Temer at 5%, even less than maduro !! and Kitcherism-Peronism is still alive and kicking in Argentina.
            Are you going to wait 10 years until the American citizens wise up in International affairs to act?
            That would be too late bro and would need a major effort to fix, if possible.

          • Toro Volt: You mention other Latin states that could become “revolutionary states.” This is a real risk, especially in Colombia where in September the FARC will shortly become the richest political party in Colombia. However, 1) Argentina may have righted its own ship by electoral means (time will tell), and 2) military intervention on a case by case basis will never be a sustainable policy.

            I will give you this: Venezuela isn’t Panama or Barbados, but it’s not Iraq or Afghanistan either. Venezuela wouldn’t become a magnet for Al Queda fighters, there would be no suicide bombings, it would be easier for our troops to communicate with the locals, etc. We might even get logistical support from regional allies like Colombia and Brazil. Perhaps other Latin states that wouldn’t ordinarily consider supporting such an action might reconsider given the mushrooming refugee crisis. Also, a lot of the troops that we would be going up against might surrender and ask for food. Shoot, I imagine it’s even possible that even a credible threat of an invasion (carrier group parked off the coast, jet flyovers, drone strikes on anti-aircraft batteries, etc) might be enough to cause the gvmt to crumble.

            I used to think the odds of this happening were 0%. It might be 2-3% now. Any way you slice it, it can’t be done w/o popular support in the US, and this would be a very tough sell…

      • “VE is perceived as having brought this misery upon themselves by voting for free stuff promised by Chavez ” Soooooo true, so now don’t expect uncle Sam or any other country to step in and clean up the shit … because the won’t! !

      • Another gringo: you hit the nail on the head.

        This reminds me of a conversation I had with a disaffected ex-chavista the last time I was in Venezuela, in 2013 when Chavez was still alive. Guy went on and on about how he had come to his senses, how courrupt the gvmt was, etc, and then said “so, when are you all coming (¿uds cuando vienen?)”

        I said, “Who is ‘ustedes’?”

        “You, gringos, when are you coming? Gvmt is ALWAYS talking about how you are going to invade. I’m all for it! We need you! So when are you coming?”

        I had to say “buddy, there’s no way. The US is war weary and most of us couldn’t locate Venezuela on a map. We just got out of Iraq, we’re still in Afghanistan…unless Al Queda sets up training camps in Venezuela there would be zero popular support for an invasion. No politician, democrat or republican, has so much as suggested anything like a military intervention in Venezuela.”

        He was dumbfounded, but the truth is exactly what you state: Venezuela is not on the radar of most Americans

        • The “disaffected ex-chavista” is Exhibit A (OK, maybe Exhibit B, since Sean Penn is Exhibit A) as to why the most of the US population would not want to attempt to rescue Venezuela from themselves. Years of “we hate your guts” followed by “OK, I guess you can come save us now.” Not very persuasive. Liberals in the US loved it when Chavez called Bush a devil, because they hated Bush. But then when the chosen one Obama got similar treatment, suddenly it was “hey, not cool, man …”

          • Plus the factor of “Venezuela? Where is that again? I heard something is going on there, people are eating out of garbage cans, right?”

            As I was commenting to Toro Volt above, there may be a case for intervention but it is not a simple case to make to the public. Most people I know in the US would probably say that a South American refugee crisis, however severe and tragic, is not a US national security problem

          • People eat out of garbage cans in US, too. But the garbage is much better than in VE. I trust this will get me a “terrible person” designation from the blog guy.

            Waay more people in us know about the no toilet paper. Socialism means no toilet paper. It’s pretty simple. And I did wipe my ass with Pravda back in the USSR in 1984. Had less wood chips in it than the TP at the hotels, and rubles were too small.

  5. Why on God’s green earth aren’t Venezuelan opposition supporters taking up arms and start a full blown CIVIL WAR FFS? !?!?!? Fucking forget any other way of trying to regain your freedom, GO KILL CHAVISTAS, not just a couple of hundreds, you need to kill ten’s of thousands. …. START TODAY!!! Or do fuck all like you’ve done for the last 18 years and enjoy your dictatorship (Y)

      • I have thought long and hard about this for many years and came up with the following (having lived in the country for many years on several occasions) .. The Venezuelans always got slaps in the face, never too hard, never really soft. They got a red mark on the chin but that went away and they went on with their lives. Never ever had they take a Mike Tyson upper-cut, especially Chavez was very good at this. He knew very well were and when to stop slapping, and thats why they are enjoying their dictatorship right now. They are used “tragando la vaina” and than go on sucking on a cold polar light!

    • Calling for civil war is irresponsible. What’s going on in Venezuela is not some kind of video game; people die in any sort of war and a civil conflict is no doubt the most destructive type for a nation. Already there have been over a hundred deaths as a result of civil protest. Calling for all out civil war is deranged. Get some perspective.

      • Baltasar; Not calling for a civil war IS deranged, people will die by the thousands in the coming years anyway so if I where a Venezuelan I’d rather die fighting instead of dying from hunger or at the hands of the GNB-PNB-Collectivos. That’s the perspective mate!

    • Where do you expect them to get these arms? Are you not aware that while chavismo made it illegal for citizens to have arms, he simultaneously armed the colectivos (paramilitary). Maybe you want Trump to come up with a Reagan-style deal to arm the “contras”, so this website (and others) can go to town again against Reoublicans?

      • Katey you obviously have not been to Venezuela in the last 18 years, guns are available in amazing quantities. Money is all one needs and there are more then enough multi millionaires around that would happily chuck some descent amounts of cash toward this good cause!

        • “Katey you obviously have not been to Venezuela in the last 18 years … “. You know what they say about the word “assume”, no?

          • Well if you have been in Venezuela within the last 18 years your question about where the arms should come from is rather stupid.

          • It is unwise to go to armed conflict if you cannot win (Machiavelli); if we turn to arms, the opposition is now and always will be outgunned.

            Yes, I well and personally know these millionaires who could afford to arm the opposition; while the government has the funds from the marriage of two massive industries — drugs and petroleum — armed conflict is a loser.

            Insults are sure flying ’round in here: reminds me of the criticism that MUD cannot get anything done because they are fighting internally. Me, a Russian shill indeedy LOL!

          • “indeedy”–Russian mole pronunciation/spelling of “indeed”–“Cold War Memoirs”, p.4/2-92.

          • Pana, están viendo demasiadas peliculas de Oscarcito. Indeed indeed indeedy. (Not gonna change my vocabulary for aficionados of Cold War Memoirs.)

          • NET. – Error there. “Yes indeedy” is old American west. Btw, Russians cannot pronounce “river”. It comes out something like “ru-ui-uer”. Puzzle. They have no trouble with Validvostok, or Vladimir … why trouble with river??

          • @Net, to be expected; not my first rodeo. @Gringo, old AmerIcan West … I resemble that remark indeed!

  6. Your essay is mere speculation without substance.
    The low oil prices have also presented a challenge to Putin. Russia has been forced to use foreign reserves to cover their own budget deficits.
    While control of Cuba and Venezuela may appeal to Putin in a egotistical way, the reality is that Russia doesn’t need more welfare states to support.
    The vast sums of money that are required to rebuild the Venezuelan oil infrastructure will not come from Russia. The Russians will develop their own energy projects before they will dump the hundreds of billions of Dollars into projects where long term ownership / exploitation are doubtful.
    Castro and Maduro will most likely see an uptick in aid from Russia, but nothing along the lines that you suggest.
    If I remember correctly, a few months ago Putin promised Maduro all of the Wheat that the Venezuelans would need to end the food crisis. How has that worked out?
    The inevitable default by Venezuela is going to throw a monkey wrench into the works. As creditors attempt to seize assets. Any deals that are struck by the Maduro regime may not be considered sovereign debt. I do not know how this will play out. The National assembly has notified every country with an embassy in Venezuela that no debt can be issued without the NA’s approval. This combined with the fact that the Maduro regime is basically considered illegitimate and that the NA is the considered the only legitimate part remaining of a Venezuelan democracy, makes any Russian investment very risky.
    Putin makes moves that he is certain he can get away with doing. I don’t see him getting any benefit from entangling himself in the domestic affairs of Venezuela.
    Russia’s support for the regime could quite possibly backfire if Putin is found to be complicit in facilitating the oppression and human rights abuses.
    The Venezuelan people need to intensify their struggle for democracy and government replacement.
    The Bolivar is crashing. The stated foreign reserves are questionable. The ANC has created a rift within Chavismo that needs to be exploited. The world’s democracies are supporting the opposition.
    The MUD needs to take the initiative and form a new government that promises elections.
    International intervention should be requested.
    In the meantime it is up to the Venezuelan people to do everything within their power to weaken this illegal regime.

    • I agree. Don’t see Russian interest in Venezuela; too may headaches, not enough benefit.
      Your suggestion that the MUD form a parallel gov’t is not as simple. The US has said that they would not recognize such gov’t and still sees the Maduro train wreck as a legit government even if it calls it a dictatorship. What has been called illegitimate is Sunday’s electoral sham. Pursuing that is what the international community needs to do and work from there to eventually declare what comes out of the fraudulent AN as illegitimate.

      • I’m not so sure the U.S. views Maduro as “a legit government”. Many here may put Venezuela towards the bottom of the list, but I don’t know of anyone here who thinks Maduro is “legit government”. A vast majority would cheer like crazy if Venezuela successfully reestablished democracy.

  7. What will deliver Venezuela into Russia’s sphere of influence won’t be US sanctions. It’ll be regime idiology and an opposition majority that let’s it happen.

  8. Here’s a scenario:

    With Trump juggling N Korea, Syria and Iran, the U.S invades to show U.S might to the world. It should take about a day and a half.

    With 80% of VZ’ers opposed to Maduro (although not necessarily pro U.S. military intervention), rebuilding the democracy shouldn’t take long. Of course, trials for treason must take place for the bigwigs.

    The author here is encouraging U.S. policy to be based on fear, that somehow, an oil embargo will empower the Russians in this hemisphere. It’s a ridiculous scenario:

    Russia has already had the opportunity in VZ for 18 years, and how many Russian ships have we seen in VZ ports? How many in Cuba over the past 60 years?

    Russia doesn’t have the power…in men, money or armament…to inject themselves significantly in this part of the world. And with the continent’s mostly pro-democracy leanings now, Russia ain’t gonna win over any new friends here when basically everyone in the region is condemning Maduro.

    I can’t stand analyses of U.S. policy based on fear of what the Russians will do. Who gives a fuck?

    What does that have to do with what is morally and strategically right from a U.S. and humanitarian viewpoint?

    • Well, it doesn’t take too much though. Russia can simply establish a military base in Vzla to have a foothold in the hemisphere for strategic and bargaining power reasons. In exchange Maduro regime gets his protection.
      Say all you want about Putin but one thing all can agree with is, he moves faster than the US can, while the US is locked in bureaucratic debates, Putin has already played his move.

      • Do you not remember that Hugo promised Russian naval bases in VZ 15 years ago?

        You’re missing my main fucking point:

        You think Russia is strong, but they’re not. And they’re not rich. Their economy is piss change compared to Western democracies.

        They don’t have the ships or money to support those in the Western Hemisphere. Their global reach is pitiful, always has been and will continue to be.

        They’re not in the same league as the U.S.

  9. “In the meantime it is up to the Venezuelan people to do everything within their power to weaken this illegal regime.”
    Jeez thanks John. News Update ! We have finally achieved that, how much weaker can the illegitimate regime get? at this point if anyone can’t see the farce this regime is, they never will.
    We have arrived at this point only to discover the Red Army still remains perfectly fine and loyal to the regime for no other reason that they are the regime, business as usual.

    An oil sanction will create a refugee crisis before it affects the armed forces. By then, they’ll have Venezuela all to themselves, in other words Cubazuela.

    • Perhaps I should have said that it is up o the Venezuelan people to continue to increase the pressure on the regime in order to weaken them further.
      As long as these criminals are in power, they are still too strong. In that light, they still must be weakened by any means possible.

  10. A short answer to the title of this post–no way. As John says, Russia doesn’t need/want more problems/expenses than it has on its own borders. More importantly, there is a tacit agreement among super-powers as to who can do what in each’s sphere of influence, and the Western Hemisphere IS the U. S.’s sphere of influence. Economic sanctions should weaken Venezuela to the breaking point of its military forces, since the cost of living for 80% of Venezuelans is already unreachable; if that doesn’t work, then the U.S. WILL be forced to enter with force. Once again, it’s not even about the gross human rights abuses, massive narco-trafficking, or massive Venezuelan emigration to neighbors–it’s about stopping the subversive spread of Castro Communism/even potentially terrorism to SA neighbors/Region–and, Trump IS the man to make that tough decision, one an Obama or Hillary would probably not make.

    • Trump is a wild card because some of his base is actually isolationist. Check BeribartNews forums to see what they say about Venezuela. They think is our own problem to fix and we deserve it. Fortunately, Trump despise Castro and the Commies so that is a good start. Hillary is actually a hawk, confirmed by her track record as Secretary of State, she hates tyrants, she supported the Irak invasion (Trump opposed it). Kind of agree with Obama though, he relied too much on diplomacy and lacked the street smarts of dealing with bad hombres that Trump supposedly has. However Trump’s WH is drowning itself in drama and disarray so is difficult to imagine if they can get anything done, let alone a military intervention. Hillary & Bill would have hit the floor running without all the drama, no learning curve either and this Venezuelan issue has consensus in both sides of the aisle.

      • A lesson to be learned from the US intervention in Somalia at the end of George H W Bush’s Presidency is that sometimes the administration will be reacting to the media outcry rather than taking the initiative.
        The Hutu / Tutsi slaughter in Rwanda, although widely reported did not create the same outcry from the media that Somalia did and as a result did not result in US intervention.
        The NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina came about due to the genocide being reported against Muslims ad the humanitarian crimes being committed.
        Exactly just what it takes to make one humanitarian crisis worthy of intervention and another, sometimes larger catastrophe not worthy of the same reactions is as much a political decision as anything else. Altruism isn’t necessarily the main motivation.
        I have hope that Venezuela’s situation being moved to the front pages and being the lead story on the BBC World News is a foretelling of the media’s sense of urgency regarding something needing to be done.
        Trump is an unknown when it comes to expectations of US support and reactions.
        There are so many factors at play. The US desire to see the Castro regime come to an end and with it the destabilizing effects that Cuba has had on South and Central America. The Drug smuggling allegations, backed up by the first lady’s own nephews in a US prison. The Monroe doctrine and the desire to prevent Russia and China from becoming more influential in the region. The imminent refugee crisis immediately effecting Venezuela’s neighbors and spreading throughout the region and into the US.
        The perception of US strength and leadership in the region. The viability of the OAS to be a forum for cooperation and the defense of democracy.
        The ongoing and deteriorating humanitarian crisis that could result in the deaths of millions of Venezuelans.
        The support of the American people for any intervention.
        There is also the perception of the Republican President’s hostility towards Latino communities. The legacy that the President desires. The opinions of his advisers.
        I have faith that Rex Tillerson will have Trump’s confidence in this matter. I think Tillerson understands this regime better than many people in the administration. Especially after being screwed by Chavez when Tillerson was CEO of Exxon Mobil.
        One concern is that there have been reports that Tillerson and Trump are at odds over staffing at the State Dept.. State has always been a place for patronage to be paid to the big time supporters / donors. Tillerson has been demanding his own team.
        I do hope that the administration continues to turn the screws on the regime.
        there is so much more going on than just a good vs. evil debate. If that were all it was, the US would have removed the regime by now.

        • John, State is totally useless. Did you catch how Rubio today destroyed Palmieri and Fitzpatrick in hearings? Did you catch Fitzpatricks disgraceful comments the other day? Mano peluda de Tom Shannon? Fuck the State Dept.

          It’s not the staffing. It’s the three names above that need to be FIRED

          • Absolutely. State is part of the reason Ven. is up to its nose in this shit. Rubio, by the way, was excellent in Sub-Committee, and Melendez is no slouch, either.

          • Are you referencing the refusal to label the Maduro regime illegitimate?
            I was surprised by the way this was handled.
            State does play an important role. Building consensus is done many times with a checkbook and approval of military sales contracts among other tools at their disposal.
            The State dept. has control over export licensing. This is a huge factor in our foreign relations. The inducements and concessions that State has at their disposal to approve or deny technology and weapons contracts is the grease that keeps the machinery of our foreign relations operating (mostly) smoothly.
            Direct foreign aid is just the tip of the iceberg.
            The US refusal to label Maduro illegitimately in power is most likely an attempt to head off a civil war.
            I am of the opinion that the unconstitutional cancelling of the recall referendum, denied the process of constitutional democracy and at that point the regime was illegitimate. Others do not agree with my opinion. The argument can be made that because the recall was never held, Maduro is still the legitimately elected President.
            If someone drives drunk and avoids being arrested, they still are a drunk driver.
            I believe that the MUD has missed the boat. The opportunity to create a transitional government that could have been recognized internationally has passed. The US has in effect put the MUD on notice that for all his faults, Maduro will continue to be recognized as the leader of Venezuela.
            Had the MUD included a question in the plebiscite asking if the National Assembly should create a transitional government AND immediately acted to create the new transitional government, the position of the US and other countries may be different. The 7 million votes for a transitional government would not have been ignored.
            The neighboring countries have legitimate concerns regarding their ability to handle a chaotic refugee situation that would only be made worse by a civil war. That is most likely driving this decision.
            As an aside to this, I think that debilitating economic sanctions may actually help the Venezuelan people.
            I have been loathe to support anything that would cause any more suffering to the people. Using the twisted reasoning of this regime and their refusal to accept humanitarian aid, I have changed my mind.
            If the US sanctions the Venezuelan economy, Maduro has an out.
            Accepting aid has been seen as an admission of the failures of the Chavez / Maduro policies. Being able to blame US sanctions for shortages, may be a way to save face and allow food and medicine into the country.
            The problem is with distribution and getting aid to the people rather than the soldiers seizing it at the ports.
            I’d like to know other’s thoughts on this.

      • TV

        For the record, Trump was not against the War in Iraq. Another of his oft repeated bald faces lies. Questioning the war in summer 2004 (over a year after the invasion and when it was clearly turning into a bloody quagmire) is very different than opposing it when we invaded.

        But you are right, he is a wild card. He has no real worldview vision or set foreign policy beliefs (other than wanting to look tough) so it’s hard to say what action he will take.

        I agree with others, that short of terrorist involvement or genocidal type mass murder, the us public will not support any “boots on the ground” in Venezuela. They may not even support less direct action. I have friends and cousins in the military (Rangers and marines, tip of the spear), and even I, with a Venezuelan wife and with close family still living there , don’t think they should be sent in harms way in Venezuela. If I’m not supportive, you can imagine the average American with no connection to the country.

        Let Colombia and the other Latin countries step up. I know they won’t, but they should.

  11. Great subject, keep in mind that Latam is still America’s backyard and the Ruskies do not have the power projection to establish a Western Hemisphere presence. America spends 10x on it’s defense budget than Russia. Not to count our allies.

    The armament that FANB has is junk.

    Nothing is going to happen unless America says so. That’s the one thing the Cubans and the Bolivarian puppets always had right.

    America can do a Venezuela military op with coalition allies while maintaining force readings with Russia, Iran, China and DPRK. It’s all a matter of priorities, timing and will and we are inching closer but are not there yet.

  12. A Venezuela miltary op would be a coalition with Latam militaries expected to shoulder their share.

    Brasil key. Colombia under Santos is not in the cards. Brasil can easily contribute 75,000 troops. Argentina 20,000, Peru 10,000 and so forth. American mechanized infantry would have to come in through Brazil to protect those troops. Americans can come in from the North and others fom the West. We are not there yet

    • Agreed, multinational would be better, but unilateral s still possible. Don’t count Santos out–his million(s) potential Venezuelan emigration is undigestible. And, of course, we’re not there yet–it will depend on Ven. military cohesion/not, civilian body count, and amount of blood in the streets.

    • Given how broke Latam countries are now i doubt they would contribute other than minor support role and diplomatic approval. Besides, the small scale of an intervention wouldn’t need the complications of coordinating the logistics of a multinational troop. Think Panama invasion multiplied by 3. I imagine Colombia and Brasil facilitating the space and some logistics The money burden would be carry by Venezuela with low or no interest payments. A reasonable deal.
      Money wise a military intervention would prove less destructive than economic sanctions.
      Provided the intervention is fast and successful.

      • Although the US could easily liberate Venezuela alone, an international coalition would weaken the “US, the evil imperialist superpower, against the poor South American oppressed nation” narrative that the lefty journalists and the Venezuelan government are desperate to use it. I would even put Paraguay and Honduras leading the force, even if just symbolically, because, well, it’s not possible to say that Paraguay and Honduras are evil imperialist powers with a straight face.

        And regarding how broke Latam countries are, the soldiers are still getting paid, the navy/air force fleets are still being fueled and maintained. I doubt that extending their operating radius a bit further in the border would bankrupt those countries. To invade Venezuela is not as costly as invading Iraq, or Afghanistan, Latam countries and the US will remain in their region (Americas).

        I’m certain that Americans will understand that to not do anything now is the real economic bomb ahead, because the problem won’t be solved by itself, and it’s escalating, very unfortunately, as this site reports daily.

  13. “The Russian birthrate plummeted around the end of the cold war. The health system has collapsed. Heroin addiction is rampant. Russia suffers the world’s worst infection rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis, and near the worst for HIV. All this would be bad enough by itself, but the Russian system crashed in 1989 – children born in that year turned 18 in 2007. By 2022 everyone in the Russian military will have been born during the disease-ridden and drug-addled baby bust. The result? An army that is likely no more than half its 2010 size in functional terms, and considerably less than that in terms of operational capability.”

    Source: Zeihan, Peter, 2016, “The absent Superpower”

    The above assessment is as of 2016. The author further makes the point that Russia has a 12,000 mile boarder to protect, with hostile neighbors on the other sides, and with half the population of the USA. Castro came to power during the Soviet Union. Maduro during the Russia of above.

    Now consider this: One US Navy carrier battle group projects more fire-power than all the rest of the navies in the world. The USA has ten of them.

    Russian Generals may dream of reoccupying their Cuban bases, but it ain’t gonna happen.

    • If Roger Santadomingo only knew that the US is has the most powerful naval force the world has ever seen and Venezuela is technically America’s back yard, well….

      Russia building military bases in Cuba or Venezuela will NEVER HAPPEN!!!

      Roger you are a fool!!!

      Russia has their own problems and are bogged down in other conflicts. They do not need another on their plate.

      If Russia borrows Venezuela 2 billion, Trump please, full blown oil embargo to answer Russia.

      Rubio knows that we cannot allow another Cuba in the Western Hemisphere and if we crush Maduro and his malandros, Cuba is up next for regime change.

      Lets keep the eye on the prize. Roger, you come off more as a G2 Cuban spy trying to spread disinformation to demoralize the opposition.

      John, I really appreciate your comments. I often skip right to the comment section because the people in the comment section have more of a clue what is really going on (and many are actually in Venezuela) than the authors of the articles.

  14. The post’s conclusion is backwards. The Russian rustbuckets they call “fleet” or “air force” simply can’t reach Venezuela with reasonable cost (just look at their coal-driven, smoking, “aircraft carrier”), and even if they could, what would be the point? More oil – too heavy for Russia to process, but not enough to corner the market? Making the US angry by getting too close and inviting a humiliation? Overstretching oneself with a costly commitment? Looking bad by supporting a regime unpopular with everyone now, even with Leftists? There’s no point for Russian involvement.

    In fact, one of the main features of this crisis is the relative _lack_ of strategic significance felt by the international community. If there was the slightest strategic interest in Venezuela the regime would have either been removed or gotten real support. The first is no longer difficult for a foreign power (the regime has little support, no money, and an incompetent military). The second would require giving more than loans. Neither is happening because not many countries feel they have a real interest at stake.

  15. “Chavez’ successor finds inspiration in North Korea, Syria, Iran, Russia, and of course, Cuba. Regimes that have survived an extensive range of sanctions, letting their civilian populations absorb their destructive impact without giving up an inch of power.”

    Had to stop reading here, this is a fallacy repeated ad nauseam, god dammit.

    North Korea has nukes.

    Syria’s territory technically is owned by russian oligarchs.

    Iran had enough internationa reserves to buy whatever they wanted from whoever they wanted, the sanctions imposed to them are quite recent, just dating from the lunatic Ahmadinejad.

    Russia is self sufficent in most of its own supplying.

    And freaking Cuba’s regime stodd for as long as it did because USA struck a deal with the URSS to NEVER EVER TOUCH the castros when the sovietic nukes were withdrawn fron the island.

    Venezuela is not any of those countries.

    Russia’s oligarchs don’t like having their money stolen by the narcochavecos, as well as the chinese.

    The people’s receiving NOTHING from the oil rent, the enchufados steal it ALL.

    This is on par of those miserable requests from the MUD to the State department to “never ever sanction or say anything about any chavista whatsoever because that might make maduro angry”

      • Well, I’m not going as far as downright insulting him, I stopped reading the article because he’s basing his reasoning on the fallacy that “sanctions harm the people because they make the dictator angry”

  16. The regime is already in bed with Russia, this article looks, with all due respect, like written by the propaganda department of the Venezuelan regime, or the Cuban G2.

    • Agreed, Roger Santodomingo, we are sniffing you out. You do not pass the smell test. This article is pure rubbish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. “The target is a tyrant willing to sacrifice his country rather than resign from power. What sanctions will deliver, though, is hunger and still more civilian casualties.”

    “He would see this country burn if he could be King of the ashes.” Game of Thrones

    • “I will rule this sector or see it burnt to ashes around me.”
      Arcturus Mengsk, Starcraft, 1998.

      “The end justifies the means. What do I care if I rule over the dead rather than over the living? The dead ask fewer questions.”
      Kaervek the Merciless, Magic the Gathering, around 1996

      “We might be naked, we might be starving and sick, but what matters here is to preserve the revolution.”
      Chávez, 2007

  18. Interesting thoughts. I think the chances of actual US economic sanctions on a broad scale are remote. I think Trumps action in Syria was instructive: threats, symbolic action and then acquiescence. But if it were to happen I think you are right: it would backfire, in the sense that it would alienate most Venezuelans and push Venezuela further in the direction that Chavez wanted to go anyway (he always talked about decreasing reliance on US markets, though mostly it was his cheap talk).

    But then again, geopolitics is in a strange space these days, as the Russian sphere of influence extends deep into Washington, and Russia has become a natural ally in the minds of large numbers of Americans. Maduro and Putin know what they want. Washington…not so clear these days.

  19. Has anyone here actually gamed a Venezuela scenario? bet the Cubans and Bananazuelans understand this better than most. They understand Grenada and Panama very well IMO.

    Tactically, this would require a coalition sans UN approval. It cannot be done without Brazil. Anyone keeping tabs on US-Brazil MIL relations? The Americans are breaking bread with their Brasilian counterparts and no doubt planning this for that is their job. You think Brasil MIL is not itching for a fight? What are they doing besides fighting crime? It’s their moment to do what they where trained for. To make history.

    Same goes for Argentina and Peru. WTF do they have militaries for? They all want to make history.

    We are not there yet but if and when we do, it will be historical. I think Santos has to be out of there and a US friendly president installed. The western flank is obviously the most important. The northern flank or amphibious assault is Americans for the most part but we can land coalition troops too. Airborne is risky because of the SAMs and manpads

  20. Roger, I suggest you contact Dr Evan Ellis if you want to explore this subject in depth. I think there’s lots of misinformation regarding Russian military capabilities and to suggest that Oscar’s, Akula’s or Yasen’s could be based in the Caribbean is a BIG assumption.

  21. Katey, la vaina es que tu eres nuevo y estas hablando mucha paja. Te lo digo de buena manera, estamos todos del mismo bando con el mismo proposito. La peleo interna es fratricidio. En la guerra y el combate, esto es fatal.

  22. Terrible, demoralizing post. It’s a blog about Venezuelans grabbing ankles and giving up, with some anti-Americanism thrown in! Sanctions? NO! Sanctions? Maybe, but the painless kind that will mirror outsider “negotiations.”

    Man oh man.

  23. Roger, we sniffed you out.

    Realize that most people on the discussion board here know way more about Venezuela than you do and are actually here, are very well informed on the situation at home and abroad and understand economics.

    If you write another article here, we will be on you right away if you come at us again with more bullshit from Santo Domingo.

    John, Umalog, FGB, Y, NET and others did a great job of debunking ALL of Santo Domingos claims.

    No Russian, Cuban, Chavista trolls allowed here! Brutal smackdowns with the truth on Venezuela is all we have to offer.

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