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Russian geopolitical ambitions against the backdrop of the sharp crisis in Venezuela

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Today, on the expanses of our planet, it is difficult to find an indifferent to the situation in Venezuela. Why does Russia persistently continue to support the government of Nicolás Maduro? Someone claims that big Russian businessmen are dreaming of the huge benefits that control over Venezuelan oil fields can give. Political experts in the field of geopolitics predict opportunities that will open up for Russia if it is able to keep the satellite country near the US. What interests does the Russian government actually pursue in this Caribbean state? And why is Vladimir Putin extremely interested in influencing the situation in Venezuela?

It is worth remembering the words of Barack Obama in 2014, when the ex-president of the United States noted with disdain that Russia is a power only on the scale of its region, posing a threat only to some of its closest neighbors, which, he said, is not a manifestation of strength, but weaknesses. However, the Russian leader for a long time worked in the Committee for State Security (KGB) at the time when the USSR was, along with the United States, one of two world superpowers that could instantly use its military strength and technology in any part of the planet. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, which put an end to the bipolar world system and, as a result, Russia’s influence in the world decreased significantly. In 2005, Vladimir Putin stressed in one of his appeals that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the largest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. To assess such a statement in a historical perspective, it is enough to recall that during the Second World War, the USSR lost 27 million human lives.

Following this logic, the priority for Putin is the return of Russia’s superpower role. A vivid example is the Syrian conflict. At the beginning of the civil war in Syria (since March 2011), the US-EU coalition had a predominant influence there. Nevertheless, the Russian government managed not only to intervene in the conflict and save the regime of Bashar al-Assad, but also to become the most important military-political player. Today, without the presence and approval of the Kremlin, it would not have been possible to go through the peace process in Syria.

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Thus, it would be surprising if Moscow were not highly interested in influencing the development of the situation in Venezuela. After the period of  Hugo Chávez Russia went on a long way to strengthen relations with this Latin American country, which was once a former ally of the United States and could return to the orbit of their influence. Turning to the main characteristics of Venezuela, it is worth noting that this Caribbean state is less than three hours flight from the shores of the state of Florida, has the largest oil reserves in the world and significant gold reserves. And if you remember that the United States since the beginning of the 2000s. have already intervened against Russia in a series of armed conflicts in Ukraine, Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, why should Moscow not influence the situation that is “on the outskirts” of Washington this time?

However, not everything comes down to geopolitics: economic interests play a significant role. In turn, these include oil fields and the work of the Russian company “Rosneft” in Venezuela. In addition, Russia provided Venezuela with a $ 4 billion loan in 2011 in order to finance purchases of Russian industrial goods. In 2017, agreements were reached on the restructuring of this debt. To pay off the debt, Maduro transferred to the Russian company “Rosneft” one of the best deposits as payment, as well as 49.9% of the shares of “CITGO Petroleum”, which is a subsidiary of the state-owned oil company “PDVSA”, located in the USA.

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Today, many international observers have the impression that Venezuela is one of the most important allies of Russia not only in the Latin American region, but also on a planetary scale. Probably, the Kremlin should be pleased to realize that the Russian government can influence the politics and economy of a country located 10,000 kilometers away.

However, referring again to the historical perspective, it is worth noting that Russia’s interaction with Venezuela was often characterized by missed opportunities, risky and sometimes unjustified investments, the rapid enrichment of a closed circle of people, and, as a consequence, the development of corruption. Nevertheless, Moscow cannot allow the chaos taking place in Caracas to become a symbol of one of the largest geopolitical failures of Russia in the international arena.

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Today in Russia, they treat the Kremlin’s participation in resolving this situation in different ways. In the higher echelons of Kremlin power, three main trends have emerged that are fighting for Moscow’s support for their position on Venezuela — economists, big businessmen, and geopolitics. According to the position of economists, in order to even out the devastating consequences of the struggle against imperialism of the “left” regime, it will take enormous costs that are unacceptable for the Russian economy and do not justify the possible benefits of being in this Latin American state.

On the other hand, big businessmen and state corporations controlled by the Russian government have the intention to achieve control over the Venezuelan oil and mineral deposits. Geopolitical experts are betting on the opportunities that will open up for Moscow if Venezuela can remain a satellite country in the Latin American region near the United States.

In December of last year, a delegation of the Russian government visited Caracas, which offered Venezuelans to undertake a series of economic reforms, the most important of which were: stopping the printing of unsecured money, lowering prices and raising government taxes. In practice, such recommendations in such cases always proposes to make the International Monetary Fund. President Nicolás Maduro called the advice received correct, but then asked for a loan of $ 6 billion. As a result, he received funding, but he did not start implementing reforms.

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According to official data, since 2005, Russia has invested in total in investments in the development of Venezuela in the amount of more than $ 20 billion. In addition to the aforementioned loan of $ 4 billion, the rest was made up of prepayments for oil supplies, investments in oil and gold mining companies. By the way, in comparison with China, the volume of investments and loans in Beijing is estimated to be three times more. According to different sources, we are talking about a total of about 70 billion dollars.

Summing up, it is worth noting that, if power ultimately changes in Venezuela, agreements with foreign investors, which were concluded by previous manuals, theoretically, from a legal point of view, cannot threaten anything. In turn, the Russian government knows that their contracts with local companies have been approved by the Venezuelan parliament. However, now Venezuela is a “failed” state, and if the United States and their oil companies take part in its restoration, another redistribution of property may occur. With this development, Russian and Chinese companies will be able to recover their assets only through legal means. Their position is weakened by the fact that the huge money they invested did not help save the Venezuelan economy and the financial sector. It is also impossible to exclude that the new authorities in Caracas will offer creditors to write off the old debt, and those will have no choice but to agree to this step.

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