The US recently announced across-the-board indictments of Venezuelan President Maduro and some of his inner circle on federal drug-trafficking and is sending Navy ships to beef up counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea. Does this mean an invasion is imminent? Highly unlikely.
This anti-narcotics mission has been months in the making but has taken on greater importance following the above-mentioned indictments. It’s to be supported by 22 partner nations, including Brazil (which sent its President to visit the US Southern Command in Florida on 9 March 2020). This is relevant since Brazil is opposed to any military intervention by the US in Venezuela (Reuters).
The US has never camouflaged its desire to topple Maduro. Invading Venezuela wouldn’t be much of a problem for the US since Venezuela’s military has only limited combat value. But what then?
Democracy as we have seen in Iraq, can not be copied and then pasted. The US can ill afford creating another mess without a clear exit plan. It also risks losing hard-won support among Latin American and Caribbean governments. China, Russia and even Iran would eagerly fill up the vacuum left behind by Washington in this region.
It could be argued that China and Russia are less inclined to keep supporting Maduro as before. China for the time being will certainly be focused to revamp its post-covid 19 economy. Russia faces uncertain times with a rapidly aging population, plunging oil prices which will push it further down on the list (currently nr 11 behind Italy and Canada) of the world’s largest economies. The decision by Russian oil firm Rosneft, the biggest economic ally of Maduro, to cease operations in Venezuela and sell all of its assets in the country to an unnamed company that is wholly owned by the Russian government was simply stunning. Whatever Kremlin’s new strategy, Rosneft’s exit will further crumble Venezuela’s economy as the flow of hard currency and supply of gasoline will disappear for the time being.
Could this Kremlin move mean that the US, Russia (and China) are coming to a point that each will respect the other’s right to have and defend its own vital interests in the various corners of the World? (I will dedicate an article on this issue later). Could be, but the arguments against a US invasion of Venezuela are overwhelming as we have seen above.
Will this show of force topple of Maduro? Difficult to say. I believe that the US tough statements and actions are not a sign of an imminent military attack. It’s rather a signal to the Venezuelan opposition and military that the US would support an internal coup. It could also push Maduro in a corner forcing him into negotiating a bloodless exit. Hopefully those often elusive cooler heads will prevail.