Trump Administration

The Folly of Conflict With Russia Over Venezuela

There is at least one point on which Washington and Moscow find themselves at odds: Venezuela.

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|||Evgeniy Parilov/Dreamstime.com
Evgeniy Parilov/Dreamstime.com

For all of President Donald Trump's reputation of affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin, there is at least one point on which Washington and Moscow find themselves at odds: Venezuela, and specifically Russian deployment of about 100 military advisers, intelligence officers, and other officials in support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

"We strongly caution actors external to the western hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations," National Security Advisor John Bolton said Friday, dubbing the Russian troops "a direct threat to international peace and security in the region."

Is that a red line? It has the look of one, which would be a dangerous escalation after months of intermittent saber-rattling in Maduro's direction. A formal challenge to Russia's support of the Maduro regime would be a substantial step beyond what has so far been pro forma insistences that "all options are on the table." And risking instigation of great power conflict over Moscow's limited deployment to Caracas is a reckless overreaction, not to mention unlikely to actually improve the situation on the ground, where a grave humanitarian crisis is underway. A military confrontation with Russia will not "fix" Venezuela, but it could easily make the country a warzone. Putin's intervention in Venezuela—like the continuance of the brutal Maduro regime—is certainly not desirable. Still, it is folly to imagine that a red line, and the U.S. military intervention it could produce, is a realistic or prudent solution to either.

Part of this is about history: The United States has a record of meddling in Latin America, often with disastrous results. Venezuelans are aware of that background and are resultingly wary of much U.S. involvement in their nation's internal politics. Maduro is aware of this dynamic, too, and has already leveraged it to his advantage, casting himself as Venezuelans' protector against "imperialist" intervention. "Don't trust the gringos," he said in late January, citing past U.S.-orchestrated regime change in Latin America. "They don't have friends or loyalties. They only have interests, guts, and the ambition to take Venezuela's oil, gas, and gold." Russia has likewise accused Washington of attempting "to organize a coup d'état."

None of this need be true for it to be effective propaganda, though the Trump administration is pursuing regime change, even if (at the moment) by non-military means—and some in Washington are openly pushing for forcible regime change right now. And as unpopular as Maduro is among his starving people, U.S. intervention could function as his lifeline, damaging the reputation of the Venezuelan opposition and stirring up nationalist sentiment against foreign interference.

"Nothing will contribute more to the questioning of the legitimacy and credibility of [opposition leader] Juan Guaidó than the support he is receiving from the United States," explained Héctor Vasconcelos, president of the Mexican Senate's foreign relations committee, in January. Indeed, as a November survey showed, Venezuelans reject both the Maduro regime and the prospect of a foreign military intervention to remove him. They prefer a negotiated transfer of power, a political solution that does not require or deserve United States involvement.

Beyond history, disparate current interests in Venezuela should also discourage U.S. military intervention, especially an intervention including conflict with Russia. It is obviously preferable for the United States for Venezuela to be peaceful and free, just as is true of any of our nearer neighbors. But intervening in Venezuela will not solve its problems. All it will do is make its problems America's problems. Venezuela's fate is not core to U.S. security; there is no existential threat here.

There is not an existential threat for Russia, either, and Moscow's actions have more to do with its economic investments in the country: Russia's national oil company, Rosneft, has put billions into Venezuela's nationalized oil and gas industry, and "Russia is also focused on recovering billions in debt that Mr. Maduro owes Moscow and Beijing, some of which is measured in oil," notes The New York Times. "Full repayment may never happen," especially if Maduro is successfully ousted. That monetary stake in Maduro's political fate gives Moscow a durable interest in Venezuela's affairs which harsh language from Washington will not alone outweigh. The risk of escalation is real.

Less real is the prospect of anything resembling success. "Studies have shown that foreign-imposed regime changes do not improve political or economic relations between the intervening and target states. They rarely lead to democracy, and, regardless of whether they are conducted covertly or overtly, they increase the likelihood that the target state will experience a civil war," notes Boston College political scientist Lindsey A. O'Rourke at Foreign Policy.

There is no reason to believe this pattern—so vividly demonstrated in recent years by U.S.-orchestrated regime changes in Iraq and Libya—will break in Venezuela. Add the chance of great power conflict to the mix and it is evident how U.S. intervention could compound Venezuelans' misery instead of relieving it. Even in the best-case scenario, when the fighting finally ceases, a regime change project will become a nation-building project, with Washington given the ill-suited task of rebuilding Venezuela into some semblance of normalcy. Again, look to Iraq and Libya to see how that will go.

A clear-eyed view of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela demands recognition that the Maduro regime is condemnable—and that there is no wisdom in advocating U.S. intervention, especially when Russia is involved. To give the Venezuelan people their best shot at a more free, peaceful, and prosperous future, Washington's main job is to leave well enough alone.

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  1. “Washington’s main job is to leave well enough alone.”

    How’s that been working out for Venezuela?

    1. It’s working out a lot better than what would happen if Washington didn’t leave well alone.

      I think that was the point of the article.

      1. No, it’s not.

        Why the fuck don’t any of the articles on Venezuela mention the “collectivos”? Do any of you journalists actually research anything anymore? Effing a

        Maduro has been arming and feeding, or at least shipping promises of food, to his supporters and basically any person desperate enough to turn on their own people with the goal of having them intimidate, thug up, or kill his detractors.

        Tens of thousands have been murdered by maduros version of the brownshirts in the past 3 years. Yet all these shitty reporters seemingly don’t even know about it.

        PS. I have family there, i know how fucked it is.

        1. Forgot to explain…hes doing it this way to avoid the optics of his actual uniformed military men gunning people down.

          1. Venezuela is ALREADY a war zone. No electricity, no water, no food, no medicine, 1,000,000% inflation and a murder rate 110 per 100,000 every single year.

            How much more of a war zone do you want?

            1. It’s a one sided warzone grapefruit.

              If guidao can’t bring about change soon, then someone else has to. How long do we wait? It’s been 3+ years of horrifyingly bad, on top of decades of pretty friggin bad. At the very least international pressure, whether diplomatic or economic, should be INCREASING on maduro. Not left “well enough alone” like this dumb fucking article says

              1. Huh. Well, maybe, and follow me here, people shouldn’t vote socialists into power in the first place. Chavez was popularly elected, and, well, popular. The fact that Maduro was installed by Chavez and all of his election victories are fake doesn’t absolve the Venezuelan people of the guilt for electing a socialist. How did they think it was going to end?

                1. I doubt like this. But when you have entire nations that are under educated and lack understanding of various forms of government i doubt a majority even considered anything further than the goodies promised to them. You can’t be libertarian/free market if you don’t even know what it is.

                  Regardless… Your comment addresses nothing that will help the situation today so its kinda dumb, but very libertarian. Stand on ideological principle but ignore the reality of the situation and any solution that goes with it. But hey, you stick by your guns.

                  1. “Stand on ideological principle but ignore the reality of the situation and any solution that goes with it. But hey, you stick by your guns.”

                    The reality here is with Russia and China involved it will get a lot bloodier. Like it or not. And Washington interference will not stop it, at best. At worse, start a nuclear war that will destroy most of the planet. Venezuela is likely to have a decade or more of bloodshed because of that and their nothing Washington or you can do to stop it. Just look back at the Vietnam war and Russia Afghanistan war If you want a heads up on what will likely happen now.

                2. “How did they think it was going to end?”

                  Hey, Chavez was a good guy. It was going to be different this time because we had a good guy. Then he died.

                  >>>sarc

                  1. Venezuela may be fucked, and many of them may die… But it isn’t my job to save them. They can depose their commie masters themselves. I’m open to selling them arms if/when there is a legit civil war and an alternative government that can pay us cash up front in gold or oil. But we don’t need to be funding shit or being directly involved. Moral support is the most they deserve at this point.

                    They made their bed, let them lie in it.

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  2. “For all of President Donald Trump’s reputation of affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin, there is at least one point on which Washington and Moscow find themselves at odds”

    Yup. That one point, other than putting missiles back in eastern Europe; arming and advising the Ukrainian military; continuing our presence in Syria to “contain Russia and Iran”, and increasing sanctions. Smart take.

    Trump has been needlessly hostile with Russia and Venezuela is just the latest incident.

    1. Indeed. Reason claims they want us to treat other countries as business partners and not as friends…but then shriek like fainting princesses if we, in fact, do that.

      Don’t condemn Arabia enough for killing a journalist? WAR!
      Idiots think Russia didn’t let Hillary become President? WAR!
      Phillipine President not fond of druggies? WAR!

      Either you want us to pursue a moral foreign policy or you do not. Stop fucking straddling the fucking fence, Reason.

      1. This writer is not with Reason. She’s written for The American Conservative which tends to be a very non-interventionist publication so I don’t know if she was a conspiracist during Russia Fever Dreams.

        As far as Reason’s front page article calling for sanctions against Russia for lolz (what was so hilarious about that issue is that there was also an article bemoaning tariffs against China) and the whole “This Thai Prostitute Holds the Keys to Collusion” (or whatever nonsense that stuff was titled) cosmos have always generally sucked on foreign policy. If you’re looking for a consistent non-interventionist foreign policy take, Reason is definitely not a solid bet. They follow narrative, not principle with regards to foreign policy.

        1. antiwar.com or Libertarian Institute are safer bets for a consistent non-interventionist take on foreign policy. Neither fell for Russia Fever Dreams and they never gave space to Brink Lindsey or Cathy Young to defend the latest war before quickly backtracking when the war is no longer popular.

      2. Reason claims they want us to treat other countries as business partners and not as friends…but then shriek like fainting princesses if we, in fact, do that.

        Large swaths of Reason make much more sense once you realize that their idea of doing business with partners means dropping your pants and grabbing your ankles for money.

        Mexicans wanna cross your southern border? Just lay back and enjoy it!

        It’s a cultural thing and they’re pretty open about it. You think the rest of libertarianism and the political spectrum would pick up on it more quickly.

          1. It means that if you condemn anti-racism or if you support the exercise of freedom of association in a manner that does not harmonize with the diversity is our strength multi-racial mongrelization rainbow coalition zeitgeist, you are not with the program.

            1. Really the reject entirely any concept of culture or society being a thing one can value. There is nothing worthy of consideration beyond a quick buck or maximum hedonism.

              It’s a really sad and shallow worldview actually. Which is why almost nobody holds it. Even the lefties pushing the stuff are doing it for other reasons, like raw power.

  3. This is a joke, right?
    Same sight bemoaning how bad Russia was to “steal” an election now claiming Trump is being too antagonistic towards them?

    What the actual fuck?

    1. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    2. Actually this is quite common and sadly no joke. Mary Shelley wrote a book about it.

      1. You mean The Last Man? Mrs. Shelley, BTW, had a really shitty life full of bad luck, probably caused by the karma she got for fucking a married man whose wife then committed suicide.

    3. Same sight bemoaning how bad Russia was to “steal” an election

      When was this?

      1. No kidding. But then, it’s not surprising that someone who misspells “site” has a problem with reading comprehension.

  4. What would Teddy Roosevelt do? JFK waffled on supporting the Bay of Pigs and that bought Cuba another 60 years of dismal backwater totalitarianism.

    1. Yup. We could have saved Cuba from themselves if we just could have killed some of them. If only….

      1. Don’t worry, we’ll murder them some day.

      2. You don’t think they’d have had 60 more years of dismal backwater totalitarianism anyway?

        1. No.

          1. Why? Cuba was already executing dissidents, homosexuals, and anyone else that Che or Fidel happened be annoyed with that day. They appropriated businesses and industries.

            But the failed invasion of the exiles, that’s what turnt them

      3. I’ve actually eased up on my criticism of cold war era mistakes… People really thought it was an existential problem, and we DID save several countries from going commie, like half of Korea.

        The truth is we don’t know how much further communism would have got without those actions either. Just wearing them down in Nam may have saved a half dozen countries for all we know.

        Either way, we have no such existential problems now, so staying out of things is clearly the right call.

    2. Yeah, we could have had 60 years of Afghanistan-style counter-insurgency slaughter. What fun.

    3. Or, you know, he could have never planned the Bay of Pigs invasion to begin with.

      1. Actually, he inherited the plan from Eisenhower. He could have just called the whole thing off but after spending his whole campaign saying that Ike and Tricky Dick were soft on communism he thought it would look bad.

      2. Or he could have actually provided air cover like he fucking promised.

  5. Christiane Amanpour is a complete moron

    CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour asked former FBI director James Comey Tuesday why he didn’t “shut down” the “lock her up” chant popular among Trump supporters during the 2016 election. Amanpour claimed the chant about jailing Hillary Clinton was potentially “dangerous” and “hate speech.”

    “Of course, ‘lock her up’ was a feature of the 2016 Trump campaign,” Amanpour said, asking “do you in retrospect wish that people like yourself, the FBI, I mean, the people in charge of law and order, had shut down that language ? that it was dangerous potentially, that it could’ve created violence, that it’s kind of hate speech. Should that have been allowed?”

    1. Trump opening up libel laws is stifling speech (mind you, it is)
      Reporters asking THE HEAD OF THE FBI AT THE TIME why he didn’t stifle speech? Apparently, that just freedom

      1. And the House Dems wish to investigate FNC editorial decisions.

        We will see the “media” gives a shit about this insane overstep of authority.

    2. How dare the proles criticize their betters!

    3. Comrade Christiane Amanpour wants to repeal the First Amendment. And while she’s at it, the Second Amendment. She’ll look at the others in awhile.

      that is all !

      1. How anyone considers her a reporter is beyond me. Just an ignorant bitch with an accent.

    1. Mind. Blown.

  6. leave well enough alone.

    What a fucked up definition of “well enough”.

  7. Warning the Russians to back down and not extend the reign of the tin pot tyrant is not a bad thing. The continued rule of Maduro over Venezuela does not benefit Venezuelans or US interests.

    Non intervention does not mean tolerating other powers intervening in favor of bad actors. Peace at any price eventually means selling out yours and everyone’s else rights on the cheap.

    1. Intervening in Venezuela because Russia is as incompetent as not intervening in Venezuela because Russia.

      1. Why not let Colombia and Brazil have a go first? Maybe Jair Bolsonaro can show Maduro what an actual right wing thug does when challenged.

        1. Because maduro is far left you nitwitted grapefruit

          1. That’s not how it works. Everybody good is left wing, everybody bad is right wing. When a good guy becomes a bad guy, part of it is a ceremony where they disown Marx and embrace Hayek. Then there is usually a burnt offering to Dick Cheney.

            1. My burnt offering is an effigy. Do I shoot it in the face, or the ass?

              1. Well, the man’s name is Dick. So whatever

            2. If libertarians used as much witt trying to solve real problems as they do trying to be slick in comment sections, maybe wed have accomplished more in the past 10 years.

              But most libertarians are more worried about being cool than good at politics. Gayjay was literally forcing himself to be hip, just like you forced your comment.

              1. Ahh yes. As a true libertarian, I should be preaching from soap box, completely ignored.

              2. Everyone knows Maduro is left wing. It’s probably one of the reasons that Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia took a turn to the right.

                But for some reason, twits in the US as well as Maduro’s regime want to insist that the opposition and/or Juan Guaido are far right wing. Even Trump isn’t far right wing. If he was, he would have intervened along time ago.

                Bolosonaro is as close as it comes to being far right wing.

      2. If telling Russia to mind their own business in propping up a damaging leader is “intervening” in an unacceptable fashion, then it is an overly broad definition.

        1. The problem is that telling them to mind their own business when you’re not willing to back it up by intervening is hot air that makes you look weak. And intervening would be retarded.

          1. “And intervening would be retarded.”

            You are too kind. It would be Obama-stupid to do so.

  8. For all of President Donald Trump’s reputation of affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin, there is at least one point on which Washington and Moscow find themselves at odds:

    “at least” is an understatement.

  9. >>>To give the Venezuelan people their best shot at a more free, peaceful, and prosperous future, Washington’s main job is to leave well enough alone. (harumph)

    dude wtf they have no water and are eating dogs … well enough?

    1. No gas or electricity either.

      1. even less well enough.

  10. Shit hole country – keep our troops and our money way the fuck away from that place.

    1. No, it’s actually a great country. It just became a shithole because of decades of socialist rule that bread decades of corruption. As socialism always does.

      1. You’re right, I have two friends from Venezuela who I met in Nebraska of all places, and they saw warning signs towards the end of Chavez, and moved to Florida. Still – keep our cash and troops as far the fuck away from there as possible. Let that chicken hawk Bolton go there himself.

        1. Station a hospital ship offshore and treat the wounded and damaged.

          Make America Great Again the right way.

          1. It will take a fleet of hospital ships.

            1. It would.

              And if Maduro’s regime attacks the hospital ships?

              1. They knew the job was dangerous when they took it.

      2. Dizzle|4.2.19 @ 7:22PM|#
        “No, it’s actually a great country….”

        Great countries do not have populations who vote for free shit.

        1. That leaves out the USA

  11. They USA will never again send troops south of our border. The other side of the world? Sure. Central or Southern America? Never again.

    1. Haiti in 1994 to install socialist Aristide may have taught us a lesson.

  12. I actually think some type of intervention in Venezuela is on the way, maybe in conjunction with closing our Mexican border until the election of 2020 is done and no new last minute voters can stroll over.

    Would Trump dare do such an audacious thing? I picture it kinda like in baseball having runners on first and second, two outs, and the pitcher is up at bat. The only thing he can do at the plate reliably is bunt, but he is also bats left handed and is fast of foot, so the manager calls the lefty bunt and a double steal.

    Now the defense has a headache. Smart play is go to first, end the inning, but the runner is fast. Go to third, end the inning, but 3rd baseman has to cover the gap, maybe charge a hard bunt, the runner from 2nd is coming fast with a head start, one muff and he’s headed home. Lefty bunt may go up right field line. Every option is a nightmare.

    There’s probably somebody stranded in Venezuela who desperately needs to be rescued. A mission could start out like the raid to get Osama bin Laden and if Marines incidentally run into Russian troops and they interfere. away we go. My oh my, the lefty legacy media and the TDS resistance are going to be running around in the streets with their hair on fire.

    I half-way predict it is going to happen.

  13. DenverJ|4.2.19 @ 8:17PM|#
    “Huh. Well, maybe, and follow me here, people shouldn’t vote socialists into power in the first place. Chavez was popularly elected, and, well, popular. The fact that Maduro was installed by Chavez and all of his election victories are fake doesn’t absolve the Venezuelan people of the guilt for electing a socialist. How did they think it was going to end?”

    Certainly, there are people there who do not deserve this one bit, but the Chavez came to power as a result of the populaces’ claim they weren’t getting enough free shit.
    Well, they got more free shit. And then, not surprisingly, the free shit got more expensive, since there wasn’t enough free shit to go around (there never is). And then it got “free” again, since there wasn’t any of it available at ANY price.
    I don’t want one penny of my money going to ‘help’ these people find one more ‘leader’ promising a little bit less free shit in the hopes it doesn’t disappear again. Let the people of Venezuela finally find out the cost of free shit, and repair the damage THEY caused.

  14. The Venezuelans might have to solve this themselves.

    Several million ARs and a bunch of .223 ammo might help them. but those evil black rifles are only used for mass murders, so I’ve heard.

  15. I’m enjoying that the New York Times has written that the militarily-intervening Russia wants Venezuelan oil.

    Where’s Zinn when he’s needed??

  16. I’ve written your tweet for you, Mr. President:

    “People of Venezuela: you voted for socialism. You got it. You are suffering the easily predictable results. The United States is not going to save you from your own stupidity. You shit in your own bed, now you have to lie in it. We will not expend one soldier’s life nor one dollar to fix this for you. Fuck you.”

    1. “People of Venezuela: you voted for socialism. You got it. You are suffering the easily predictable results. The United States is not going to save you from your own stupidity. You shit in your own bed, now you have to lie in it. We will not expend one soldier’s life nor one dollar to fix this for you. Fuck you.”

      +
      There is a lot of whining in CA that the fed taxpayers aren’t going to pay for the Oroville dam repair, since the damage was found to be the result of poor maintenance; moonbeam figured it was better to fund the union retirement benefits rather than look at that boring concrete stuff. The son of a bitch should be personally sued for his actions.
      Venezuela deserves and should get the same response regarding US taxpayer money; hey, you wanted it, you got it, so fuck you asking for some one to save your ass. Learn to grow toilet paper next time.

    2. “We will not expend one soldier’s life nor one dollar to fix this for you. ”

      What was it you were saying about easily predictable results? More than one soldier’s life, more than one dollar will be spend on ‘fixing this.’ Bonus easy prediction: more than one Venezuelan refugee will land in America.

      1. I was making a suggestion, not a prediction.

    3. They voted for a populist who promised to end corruption. Twenty years ago.

      They also voted in 2015 overwhelmingly for a National Assembly that gave the opposition a two thirds majority.

      Maduro promptly annulled this, and installed his own hand picked National Assembly.

      He also installed his own hand picked Supreme Court and his own vote certification agency.

      The idea that Venezuelans voted for all this is preposterous.

      1. I’m still missing the part where this is our problem.

        1. This.

          I hope the Venezuelans rise up and kill Maduro and his associates, because that is the only way to deal with his kind. But I don’t want to fund it. If Brazil or whoever wants to because it is a more direct problem for them that’s cool, but not our problem.

  17. But Reason is perfectly okay with every Latin American person moving here and voting for the same socialist parties that ruined most of Latin America.

    1. I believe that is one of the four pillars of the libertarian movement:

      Open borders;
      Same sex marriage;
      Legal marijuana;
      Abortion on demand.

  18. How can we let Russia get mired in a western hemisphere third world shit-hole when it is our right to mire ourselves in that western hemisphere third world shit-hole? Russia needs to learn to stick to the eastern hemisphere where it is harder for us to meddle. When will either of these two countries learn?

    1. Yeah, we need a new Treaty of Saragossa regarding shthole-miring.

  19. We need to put teeth back into the Monroe Doctrine, starting with the “liberation” of Cuba.

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  21. There are a thousand things “on which Washington and Moscow find themselves at odds”. Trump’s words about Putin are nonsense and embarrassing, but his administration has been more confrontational and aggressive against Russia than Obama’s was. That being said, it was a low bar because Obama let Russia and everybody else in the world do whatever the hell they wanted so he could get his Iran Deal.

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  23. “To give the Venezuelan people their best shot at a more free, peaceful, and prosperous future, Washington’s main job is to leave well enough alone.”

    If Washington wants to help the Venezuelan people they can open the borders and let them in.

    1. Five million have fled, but mostly to other Latin American countries. One million to Colombia in the past 18 months. Believe me, very damn few in the Venezuelan diaspora will be voting for socialism.

      1. That’s the best way we can be helpful?send humanitarian aid to the neighboring countries who are feeding and sheltering Venezuelans.

        1. Agreed. It doesn’t appear anyone is thinking along these lines. Of course eventually Maduro will do everything possible to keep people from leaving the country. Venezuela is on its way to being the Latin American version of North Korea, just propped up by Russia rather than China.

      2. “Believe me, very damn few in the Venezuelan diaspora will be voting for socialism.”

        Venezuelans put Chavez in office every time he ran for president.

        1. But mostly not the middle and upper middle class ones who want out now. I’m cool with skimming their doctors and engineers if they want to move here. They can keep their dish washers.

          I keep telling all the open borders morons here I’m not afraid of THE RIGHT KIND of Hispanic immigrants!

          1. 85% of Venezuelans are in favor of the opposition and want Maduro gone. Another 11% are undecided/ prefer not to say. Only 4% back Maduro. But they’re a 4% with guns and tanks.

            The presidential elections in Venezuela became increasingly more rigged. The last one was so bad most Latin American and European countries refused to recognize the result as valid, and along with it, Maduro’s legitimacy as president. When Maduro swore himself in as president, most of the EU. countries refused to recognize him as a validly elected president. That’s why Juan Guaido, following the Venezuelan Constitution (that Chavez wrote by the way) assumed the presidency until free and fair internationally monitored elections can be held.
            It’s only “our” problem in that on a diplomatic level, how do we deal with a legitimate head of state vs. a usurper. Do we deal with Charles De Gaulle or the Vichy government?

            1. a legitimate head of state vs. a usurper.

              Or a legitimate usurper.

            2. Maybe there’s a free market solution to this: the Venezuelans could do a Go Fund Me to pay the Mexican drug lords to kill Maduro.

  24. Yeah, the United States is not going to save you from your own stupidity. You shit in your own bed, now you have to lie in it!!!

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