The United States and Russia are locked in a battle for Venezuela’s future that could tip the scales of the world’s oil supply.
The South American country ranks among the top oil producers, and many believe its untapped reserves are second to none. Despite having such advantages, Venezuela took a socialist turn under former leader Hugo Chavez that has resulted in a complete economic collapse.
With the country struggling to feed the hungry, supply clean drinking water and other basic needs, the government has fractured. On one side, socialist strongman Nicolás Maduro refuses to relinquish power. His military-backed claim to the country’s presidency has the international support of communist China and Russia. On the other side, Venezuela’s Congress has exercised its constitutional authority and elevated Juan Guaidó to the presidency. America stands behind the constitutionally installed Guaidó and a pathway back to democratic government.
What’s incredible is that none of the poverty, political strife, or potential for a superpower-related war being fought on Venezuelan soil would be necessary were it not for Chavez. After seizing power through his Bolivian Revolution in 1999, the pseudo-dictator tied the country’s oil wealth to the state. After effectively ousting American oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Venezuela failed even to maintain the foreign created oil flow. The socialist government became rife with corruption, incompetence and failed to reinvest in growth or infrastructure. Like the socialist countries that came before it, Venezuela went broke.
Russia and China at least temporarily buoyed its economic collapse. Having become an enemy state to the U.S. after stealing American oil development, Chavez and Maduro turned to Russia and China for welfare. Venezuela is currently indebted to Russia and China for tens of billions. Some estimates show Venezuela has foreign-held debt that exceeds $100 billion.
Although the loans staved off short-term economic collapse, Maduro did not invest in infrastructure, ways to reverse inflation or the collapsing economy. Not only does Moscow want to expand its influence in South America, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin also needs to protect its monetary investment. In recent years, Russia has allowed Venezuela to pay off its debt in oil. It now has a credible fear that should Juan Guaidó take full control of the government, those debts could be invalidated.
“Washington’s attempts to stage a coup in Venezuela and threats against its legitimate government were a violation of the UN Charter, and blatant interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state,” Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already sent military personnel to South America to protect its claim. The Trump Administration is weighing upping the ante.
“(The U.S.) will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people. The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”
The Venezuela conflict proves again that the U.S. and Russia continue to compete for influence on the global landscape. In the Middle East, Putin aligned himself with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has strong ties with Turkey. The U.S. has been at odds with both of those nations while developing rich bonds with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and others in the region. U.S.-backed forces reportedly exchanged fire with Russian mercenaries and regulars as ISIS was crushed.
In Europe, NATO allies continue to ask for American military defense against neighboring Russia. President Donald Trump has insisted members pay their agreed-upon share. But Russia has managed to strike financial deals on the side with the likes of Germany and France. The Nord Stream pipeline runs from Russia directly into Germany, representing another way that the two superpowers are competing politically and economically.
Although America continues to stay far ahead as an international leader, the future of Venezuela will most certainly tip the scales of oil supremacy. Russia may have a claim for money owed, but it was American companies that developed the Venezuelan oil that was stolen.
~ Conservative Zone