April 8, 2019

Ukraine, Syria and Venezuela

The Multipolar World as a Source of Crises and Conflicts

 

The objective consequence of the formation of a new multipolar world is the growing problem of relations between different centers of power. Today, the sharpest of these are the contradictions between the West (the USA and Europe) and Russia, which are turning into another “Cold War”. At this, like the previous “Cold War” between the Western and Eastern blocs, it is accompanied by armed conflicts in the centers of intersection of interests of the world leading powers.

 

Ukraine

Ukraine has become the object of a rigid geopolitical struggle between the West and Russia

Ukraine has become the object
of a rigid geopolitical struggle between the West and Russia

Since the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine has been one of such centres, having become a determining factor of the impact on the balance of powers in Europe. In view of this, Ukraine has become the object of a rigid geopolitical struggle between the West and Russia. In this regard, our European choice was perceived by Moscow as the West's direct invasion into Russia's “exclusive interests” in post-Soviet territories. This is exactly the reason for Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine after the final failure of Moscow's attempts to regain control over it by political and economic means.

At the same time, the attack on Ukraine did not allow Russia to return our country into its sphere of influence. In fact, Russia has lost Ukraine, which has left the gray zone between the West and the East and has taken a clear course of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The result of this is further escalation and aggravation of the confrontation between the United States (the leader of the Western world) and Russia, which extends to other regions of the world. So, after the actual failure of its plans in Ukraine, Russia intervened in the armed conflict in Syria, which also found itself at the crossroads of American and Russian interests.

 

Syria

The true goal of the United States and Russia was a struggle for influence in the country and, in general, in the Middle East

The true goal of the United States and Russia was a struggle for influence in the country and, in general, in the Middle East

Formally, the United States and Russia's military operations in Syria were against Islamic extremists. At the same time, their true goal was a struggle for influence in the country and, in general, in the Middle East. At this, thanks to the active use of military force, despite the massive losses among the civilian population and large-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure, Russia succeeded in Syria, namely — it managed to preserve B. Assad's regime. In his turn, US President D. Trump decided to withdraw US troops from Syria, which in fact equals Washington's defeat in the Middle East.

Based on this, Russia has stepped up more active actions in Libya, which also plays an important role in the Russian and American interests. For example, from the second half of March 2019, the forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Marshal Kh. Khaftar, who controls the eastern regions of Libya and is supported by Russia, began a major offensive on Tripoli. At present, they have already entered the suburbs of the Libyan capital, where located the Government of the National Accord (GNA) of Libya, headed by F. al-Sarraj, is recognized by the United Nations and supported by the Western countries. Thus, the center of the confrontation between Russia and the West moves from Syria to Libya, where Moscow is trying to take revenge after its defeat in early 2010’s.

 

Venezuela

Venezuela is strategically important for both, the USA and Russia

Venezuela is strategically important for both, the USA and Russia

Lately, another potential source of conflict is Venezuela, which is strategically important for both, the USA and Russia. The reason for this is its key geographic location in Central America and the Caribbean — in fact, in the “subterranean” of the USA and within a powerful oilfield.

In addition, it is part of a group of Latin American countries with left-wing regimes that traditionally stand on anti-American and pro-Russian positions. Under these circumstances, Venezuela essentially plays the same role in the interests of the United States and Russia in Central America as Ukraine — in Central and Eastern Europe.

This is why Russia pursues a targeted policy of incorporating Venezuela into its sphere of influence in order to strengthen Russia's positions in Central America, to be able to use Venezuela's military infrastructure, and to expand access to its markets and energy reserves. Due to the implementation of these plans, Moscow tries to strengthen its ability to exert pressure on the USA in the most sensitive (security) sphere for it, by military means included. At the same time, deepening of trade, economic and military-technical cooperation with Venezuela, allows Russia to receive certain financial benefits.

…Venezuela plays the same role in the interests of the United States and Russia in Central America as Ukraine — in Central and Eastern Europe…

As part of such a policy, in 1996, Russia and Venezuela signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation. On this basis, the successive development of Russian-Venezuelan relations began, which became especially active under the Venezuelan President U. Chavez. For example, in 2001, the Venezuelan-Russian Friendship Institute named after Francisco de Miranda was opened in Caracas. U. Chavez had visited Russia six times. With him, Venezuela was second only to Brazil's imports of Russian products in Latin America. Within the periods of 2007–2013 alone, the volume of such imports to Venezuela amounted to 7.7 billion US dollars.

Since 2013, Russian-Venezuelan relations have gained new impetus under the next President of Venezuela N. Maduro. In particular, in 2018, the trade between the two countries reached 84.7 million US dollars, of which Russia's exports to Venezuela amounted to 83.9 million US dollars, and imports — to 800 thousand US dollars. At the same time, Russia and Venezuela continued their implementation of old, and also launched a series of new joint economic projects, mainly in the energy sector. As of the end of 2018, Russia's accumulated investments in the Venezuelan economy amounted to 4.1 billion US dollars.

Note:

In 2005, the Russian company Gazprom won a tender and received a license for exploration and production of gas on the shelf of the Gulf of Venezuela. And in 2012 Gazprombank created a joint venture with Venezuelan company PDVSA for oil production.

Russia's state-owned Rosneft participates in five joint projects on oil production in VenezuelaRussia's state-owned Rosneft, which participates in five joint projects with PDVSA on oil production in Venezuela, is even more active in Venezuela. The total oil reserves covered by these projects amount to 80 million tons, and annual production is 3.4 million tons. Besides, Rosneft is implementing Venezuela's gas exploration project with geological reserves of 180 billion cubic meters. In August 2017, Rosneft invested 6 billion US dollars into oil production in Venezuela. And in December 2018, an agreement was reached on Russia's investment of another 5 billion US dollars into the development of the Venezuelan oil industry.

We should also point out a number of other Russian-Venezuelan projects, including with the participation of: the Russian company Uralmash and PDVSA on the production of drilling rigs; the Housing Foundation at the Mayor of Moscow and the Venezuelan Ministry of Housing Development for the development of Venezuelan cities; Russian companies AvtoVAZ and KamAZ on the supply of automotive equipment.

 

 

Moscow's special focus is on deepening cooperation with Venezuela in the military-technical and military spheres

Moscow's special focus is on deepening cooperation with Venezuela in the military-technical and military spheres

Moscow's special focus is on deepening cooperation with Venezuela in the military-technical and military spheres. In 2005–2017, Russia supplied Venezuela with 36 Su-30MK fighters, about 50 striking and military-transport helicopters Mi-35M, Mi-17 and Mi-26, more than 120 tanks and self-propelled artillery systems, 240 armored fighting vehicles, several dozens of “Grad” and “Smerch” MLRS, as well as the air defense systems (S-300VMK/“Antey-2500”, “Buk-M2”, “Pechora-2M” and “Igla-S” SAMs). Besides, an agreement was signed between Russia and Venezuela on the construction of a plant for the production of AK-103 assault rifles and cartridges, as well as a helicopter repair service center.

The total cost of the concluded military contracts amounts to over 11 billion US dollars. Russia three times allocated significant loans to Venezuela for the acquisition of Russian armaments, including in 2009 — 2.2 billion US dollars, and 2 billion US dollars in 2012, and then — another 2 billion US dollars in 2014.

At the same time, was initiated the practice of conducting joint military exercises, which became clearly demonstrative after the resumption of confrontation between Russia and the United States and NATO.

The first of these exercises took place in November 2008 in Venezuela, in the wake of Russia's armed aggression against Georgia, as a result of the aggravation of US-Russian relations. From the Russian side, there was the “Admiral Chabanenko” large anti-submarine ship, two Tu-160 strategic bombers and An-124 heavy military transport aircraft. At the same time, Russian President D. Medvedev paid a visit to Venezuela. Against this background, Caracas's demonstrative steps were the recognition of South Ossetia and supporting Russia in the United Nations.

Similar military exercises involving the Russian strategic bombers Tu-160 were held in October 2013 and December 2018. In addition, Russian military are systematically involved in trainings of the Armed Forces of Venezuela. As a rule, such trainings are conducted in times of aggravation of the relations between Venezuela and the United States.

 

Unlike Moscow, Beijing is pursuing a much more flexible policy in Venezuela

Unlike Moscow, Beijing is pursuing a much more flexible policy in Venezuela

China has its own interests in Venezuela, as it has invested about 21 billion US dollars into the Venezuelan economy. This exceeds both, Russia's and other countries' investments. At the same time, unlike Moscow, Beijing is pursuing a much more flexible policy. In particular, it maintains ties not only with N. Maduro, but with other political forces. Besides, China is by no means positioning its cooperation with Venezuela as a challenge to the USA.

 

Washington is making efforts to influence the policy of Caracas with the use of both, various types of preferences and the methods of hard pressure

Washington is making efforts to influence the policy of Caracas with the use of both, various types of preferences and the methods of hard pressure

Strengthening Russia's presence in Central America and, in particular, intensification of its military activity in the region, cause the USA's negative reaction as it considers them a threat to US interests and security. In response, Washington is making efforts to influence the policy of Caracas with the use of both, various types of preferences and the methods of hard pressure. To this end, the United States uses its position as Venezuela's largest trading partner, as well as the economic and political problems of the country which is in a state of permanent crisis.

Thus, the trade between the USA and Venezuela is about 20 billion US dollars, which is more than twenty times exceeds the volume of the Russian-Venezuelan trade. At this, the main article of US exports to Venezuela is the production of machinery, and of imports — crude oil. Due to this, the United States is largely controlling the Venezuelan economy, which is based on the export of hydrocarbons. This gives Washington wide opportunities to influence Caracas by manipulating bilateral trade issues, as well as imposing sanctions on various occasions.

In addition, Venezuela's dependence on oil exports makes it dependent on world prices for it. The sharp drop in oil prices in international markets in 2014 caused the economic crisis in Venezuela, which also triggered a political crisis in the country. This is used by the United States to undermine the position of the current government of N. Maduro, by imposing additional economic restrictions on it and supporting the opposition.

Unlike the USA, since the beginning of the massive social unrest in Venezuela, Russia has strengthened the support for the regime of N. Maduro. In particular, during the period of the greatest protests in 2017, Moscow provided large-scale financial assistance to the government of Venezuela, and also agreed to a 10-year delay in the debt repayments.

Note:

Massive protests for socio-economic reasons began in Venezuela in February 2014. However, by July of that year, they were suppressed by the Venezuelan government. Despite this, the opposition was able to unite against the country's government and won the parliamentary election in December 2015. However, it never managed to arrange a referendum on the resignation of N. Maduro.

In late March 2017, after the decision of the Supreme Court of Venezuela to assume the powers of the Parliament, a new wave of mass rioting began in the country.

In May 2018, at the initiative of the leadership of Venezuela, the country hold extraordinary presidential elections, which were to confirm the authority of N. Maduro. Despite the boycott of the election by the opposition, the Venezuelan government recognized its validity. At this, N. Maduro was announced the winner of the election, which caused a new wave of protests in Venezuela and the ambiguous reaction of the world community. Thus, most Western and Latin American countries condemned Venezuelan leadership and demanded a new election. For its part, Russia, China, El Salvador and Cuba have supported N. Maduro.

 

On January 23, 2019 Speaker of the Parliament of Venezuela J. Guaido declared himself interim president, which led to a tough confrontation in the country

On January 23, 2019 Speaker of the Parliament of Venezuela J. Guaido declared himself interim president, which led
 to a tough confrontation in the country

In January 2019, the situation in and around Venezuela came to a qualitatively new level of acuteness, resulting in the opposition's turning to open actions to overthrow the Maduro regime. Thus, on January 23, 2019 Speaker of the Parliament of Venezuela J. Guaido declared himself interim president, which led to a tough confrontation in the country.

Under such circumstances, the United States continued to fully support the actions of the Venezuelan opposition and exacerbated pressure on the country's authorities. The United States and their partners have recognized J. Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. And since early March 2019, a number of new sanctions against the Venezuelan government have been introduced. Moreover, the US administration has not ruled out the possibility of using force against Venezuela if political, diplomatic and economic means of influencing the current leadership do not work.

For its part, Russia has confirmed N. Maduro's presidential powers and has not recognized J. Guaido's claims to them. At the same time, in response to the USA's threat to use force against Venezuela, Russia sent its military specialists and instructors.

All this is accompanied by an intensification of the mutual aggressive rhetoric of Russia and the United States. According to statements by representatives of the Russian government, Moscow will not allow the United States to destroy its ally. In response, the United States expresses its firm intention to prevent Russia from assisting N. Maduro to maintain power, and also threatens Moscow with a series of measures in response to its expansion in Central America.

 

The New Caribbean Crisis

The escalation of the confrontation between the United States and Russia around Venezuela threatens with a new Caribbean crisis, similar to that which took place in 1962 around Cuba

The escalation of the confrontation between the United States and Russia around Venezuela threatens with a new Caribbean crisis, similar to that which took place in 1962 around Cuba

According to Western experts, the escalation of the confrontation between the United States and Russia around Venezuela threatens with a new Caribbean crisis, similar to that which took place in 1962 around Cuba, but much more dangerous.

Thus, in the 1960s, the United States was leaving the USSR behind both, in terms of the number of nuclear warheads and of the means of their delivery. At that, Moscow's attempts to compensate for such an advantage by deploying missiles in Cuba almost led to a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. However, at that time, both sides still retained a sense of responsibility and common sense that allowed them to avoid conflict.

Today, the situation is different. The nuclear potentials of Russia and the USA are roughly equal, and both sides have more efficient delivery means. Moreover, Russia has already demonstrated the ability and readiness to bring the nuclear weapons to the United States borders on an example of flights of Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela. In turn, the USA's withdrawal from the INF Treaty allows it to bring its missiles closer to Russia.

Unlike former US and USSR leaders, the current leaders of the two antagonistic centers of power are in fact ready for everything

Unlike former US and USSR leaders,
the current leaders of the two antagonistic centers of power are in fact
ready for everything

And most important. Unlike former US and USSR leaders, the current leaders of the two antagonistic centers of power are in fact ready for everything. This is evidenced by their actions in the military sphere, which are becoming more and more extensive and dangerous. Including violations of the entire system of strategic security in the world, resumption of the arms race and mutual nuclear blackmailing.

It is difficult to tell whether the situation around Venezuela will reach a critical point. So far, the USA and Russia are limited to politically-economical methods and force demonstrations. However, we should not rule out the worst case scenario. At this, like all other conflicts, the situation around Venezuela will distract the world's attention from Ukraine and, at the same time, will make it a hostage to the interests of the leading centers of power.