Lo que sigue es una extensa nota de Andrew Korybko publicada estos días en dos partes en el sitio web The Vineyard of the Saker. ¿Tema? El cerco del Imperio sobre Venezuela, y qué papel juegan tres actores adicionales que se mueven (o los mueven) en torno de ella: Cuba, Colombia y Guyana. Como siempre, podés estar de acuerdo, podés no estar de acuerdo. Te puede parecer un poco maniquea la posición del autor sobre la postura de Colombia o la "rendición incondicional" de Cuba. Food for thought, anyway.
Título: Geopolitical War Against Venezuela
Subtítulo: PART I: The US’ Geopolitical War Against Venezuela
Texto: Ever since the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has been the brightest multipolar beacon in the Western Hemisphere. Although Brazil is much larger and wealthier, some Latin American states have expressed fear about its future intentions, believing that ‘multipolarity’ is simply a slogan to justify Brasilia’s soft expansion into regional markets and resource reserves and replace Washington’s historical position. Venezuela is thus a much more attractive model to Latin America because it’s clearly motivated by none other than ideological considerations, and its shared language and history with the other former Spanish colonies gives them a degree of familiarity and comfort with the country that they could never fully experience with Brazil.
The natural resource wealth that Venezuela has been endowed with makes it capable of spreading its influence all across the region, which it has institutionalized through the ALBA grouping . For these very reasons, Venezuela is a prime target of the US’ unipolar ‘rebound from the past couple of years, and other than the near-continual asymmetrical attempt at a Color Revolution, the US’ anti-Venezuelan campaign has also taken concrete geopolitical dimensions as well. Three countries (Cuba, Colombia, and Guyana) are being used as proxies of destabilizing influence against Venezuela, and each one fulfills a unique role in advancing the larger American strategy at play. Taken together, the US’ relationship with each of them forms the basis of a containment coalition against Caracas, which if left unchecked, can lead to the dismemberment of ALBA and the stationing of American military units (both ground and naval) right next to Venezuela’s borders.
The article begins by describing how each of these three states is being used by the US to contain Venezuela, with exposes into Cuba and Colombia’s role being contained in the first part. The second part begins by detailing Guyana’s role in all of this, and then summarizes the strategic consequences of the emerging trilateral containment of Venezuela. Finally, a set of policy recommendations that Caracas must urgently adhere if it is to survive the coming intensification of strategic and military pressure against it concludes the analytical piece.
Cuba As The Cause Of Multipolar Confusion
At the end of a year that had already brought the world such political surprises as the EuroMaidan coup, the Crimea Reunification, and the rise of ISIL, President Obama announced that the US and Cuba had been engaged in secret negotiations to reestablish diplomatic relations. At the time, the author urged the global public, overwhelmingly pro-Cuban, to exercise caution and restraint in over-enthusiastically describing the developments as a victory for Cuba. The audience was reminded that the US didn’t pursue this decision in a vacuum, and that there were clear geopolitical motivations behind it, specifically to split ALBA and destabilize the rest of its member states (notably Nicaragua and Venezuela). Going further, the author investigated the strategic consequences of the proposed move and showed that Raul Castro risked reversing the entire Cuban Revolution, concluding that the country had essentially surrendered without a shot after its valiant half-century-long resistance made it a legendary actor in the global consciousness.
The entire episode was presented as a victory for Cuba at the US’ expense, but the reality has always been the opposite. The US gladly sucked up the ‘loss’ in order to strategically disarm the rest of the Western Hemisphere’s multipolar states, who were now led to believe that if Cuba, one of the global leaders of the anti-American political resistance, could cut a deal with the US, why couldn’t they? The premature celebratory atmosphere and Raul’s absurd proclamation that “Obama is an honest man” made many people, even in the region, forget that Obama’s first coup was actually against Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in 2009 and how the US exploited Haiti’s 2010 catastrophe in order to occupy it indefinitely . Still, because the act was agreed upon by two sovereign governments, the rest of the world, even those who may have harbored geostrategic suspicions about Cuba’s move and recognized the ridiculousness of Raul’s pro-Obama rhetoric, were forced into issuing surface statements of support that echoed the reactionary global sentiment.
The US’ flipping of Cuba was intended to achieve three goals, two of which it has already met:
Create Ideological Confusion: Washington succeeded in sowing confusion between the multipolar states in the region, which were now forced to second-guess their ideological commitment to opposing the US after their role model was unexpectedly revealed to have been in top-secret negotiations with it for a couple of years already. Countries like Venezuela now had to consider under what circumstances they, too, would cut a deal with the US if it came to it. Would it be after implicit threats had been issued against it, or after a Color Revolution had been attempted? How about in the midst of a heavy economic war? The point here is that while the idea had previously been to weather the storm as long as possible, using Cuba as an inspiration, the entire paradigm changed when Havana opened up talks with Washington, and now a negotiated surrender of sorts seems not only ideologically possible, but perhaps even admirable.
Push Venezuela To A ‘Compromise’: Continuing along the trajectory of the first goal, the US wants to pressure Venezuela to the point where it’s forced to enter into a similar surrender agreement as Cuba, although one that’s of course also falsely marketed as a ‘defeat’ for Washington. Venezuela, strategically vulnerable as a result of Cuba’s compromised geopolitical and ideological position per the Raul deal, has actually initiated steps towards this move. According to a Reuters report uncoincidentally released on the same day that Obama announced the date for the restoration of American-Cuban diplomatic relations, President Maduro made the overtures in the midst of an aggressive Color Revolution campaign , the designation of his country as a ‘ national security threat ’ to the US, and a failed coup and assassination plot . He obviously didn’t intend to negotiate from a position of strength, but likely initiated the dialogue anyhow because, after all, if Cuba could do it under arguably less pressing circumstances, why couldn’t Venezuela do so in a much worse situation? It remains to be seen how far this process will go and whether Caracas will eventually agree to make any geopolitical concessions as a form of ‘safety payment’ to Uncle Sam or if this is all just a time-buying tactic, but it’s important to highlight that this development wouldn’t have even been conceivable had it not been for Cuba’s symbolic capitulation to the US first.
Manufacture A Crisis In Venezuelan-Cuban Relations: Should Venezuela not accede to the US’ demands, then it’s likely that Washington will eventually try to manufacture a fake crisis between Caracas and Havana in a bid to divide the two ideological allies along the template of a 21st-century Sino-Soviet split. Both states stand in ideological alignment within ALBA, but the emergence of some forthcoming source of friction between them (perhaps naturally stemming from the result of Raul’s surrender or emerging differences over FARC) could fatefully divide the bloc into two camps, much as the Sino-Soviet split divided the communist world. Given that ALBA is a much smaller, weaker, and looser model of integration than the communist bloc, it’s expected that such a division between its two major poles could quickly lead to its unravelling and would take the multipolar governments of Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia down with it. In order for this scenario to happen, some form of disagreement must emerge between Venezuela and Cuba, and with the latter buddying up with the US lately out of desperation to seal the diplomatic deal, it’s predicted that it’ll be the one to take the first step in souring bilateral ties when the time eventually comes.
Overall, Venezuela’s threat assessment of Cuba is strictly of a strategic nature and doesn’t have any military component behind it, although that isn’t in any way to underestimate the potential for destabilization emanating from the island’s pivot. The US’ co-opting of Cuba is the Latin American relationship that has had the most immediate effects on Venezuela’s national security, albeit in an indirect way, since it’s already led to it entering into secret talks with Washington after having survived a string of failed Color Revolutions, coups, and assassination plots. The only reason Venezuela would deign to speak to the US after such blatant affronts to its sovereignty (to say nothing of the intense economic war being waged against its people) and risk contradicting its proud anti-American rhetoric is because the deal with Cuba showed that it’s acceptable for beleaguered multipolar states to eventually throw in the towel of resistance, provided of course that the US helps them save face by calling it a ‘victory’ and goes along with the entire charade. In the future, if Venezuela doesn’t surrender (which it doesn’t seem likely to do), then it may find itself engaged in an unfriendly regional competition with its former ideological mentor, prodded on by the US, in what could likely lead to at least a few multipolar casualties (e.g. Ecuador, Nicaragua) in the region.
Creating A Casus Belli For Colombia
Colombia has functioned as the US’ Lead From Behind proxy for decades already, and it’s not predicted that this relationship will change anytime soon. If anything, it’ll only strengthen, and the impetus for this is the US’ geopolitical war against Venezuela. It’s well-known that the two Andean neighbors don’t exactly have a recent history of cordial relations with one another (although they’ve lately been somewhat on the mend), and they almost went to war in 2008 after Colombia staged a unilateral special forces operation against FARC in Venezuelan-allied Ecuador, so the there’s certainly an atmosphere of exploitable hostility and mistrust that’s developed between them. While the US can certainly use Colombia as a staging ground for anti-Venezuelan destabilization operations (special forces deployments, information warfare hubs, etc.), the country’s real potential opens up once the FARC conflict is finally resolved.
Herein lies the overlap between the US’ moves in Cuba and Colombia. The FARC peace talks have been ongoing in Havana, which has just pivoted towards the US. As a result of the island’s foreign policy reversal towards the US, Washington reciprocated by removing Havana from the list of ‘ state sponsors of terrorism ’. The sticking point is that the US officially designates FARC, which Cuba has had ties to in the past, as a terrorist organization, although it recognizes that Havana hasn’t provided any material support to it, ergo its removal from the list. An interesting diplomatic tango is going on here, whereby the US removed Cuba from the politically minded ‘state terrorism’ list not only as a prerequisite for the resumption of bilateral relations (and to give Cuba a symbolic victory), but also with the expectation that the quid pro quo would be for Havana to sincerely press the group to reach an historic peace accord. With the US, Colombia, and Cuba all pushing for peace, the likelihood for an historic breakthrough increases, which, although it’s long overdue and theoretically in everyone’s interests to see happen (including Venezuela’s), could predictably lead to long-term negative consequences for Caracas.
Here’s the four-step anti-Venezuelan plan that the US would like to see come into effect after a Colombia-FARC agreement is reached:
1. Colombian Military Deployment Along The Venezuelan Border: As it stands, FARC has lost a tremendous amount of its territory since 2002, now only occupying various niches scattered haphazard throughout the country. Still, the group’s existence and its recently renewed campaign against the government (even in light of the ongoing peace negotiations) creates a less than desirable security situation for the country, and accordingly detracts from a significant military focus along the Venezuelan border. Should FARC be neutralized, however, then the Colombian military could reverse this state of affairs and concentrate more on the country’s external security as opposed to its internal one. As such, it’s likely that Colombia’s military will strengthen its position along the border and reinforce strategic areas. In the event of future hostilities with Venezuela, this could give the Colombians a decisive edge and tilt the balance of power in its favor, especially if Caracas has to contend with a simultaneous threat from Guyana (to be described later). This change of affairs would ironically place Venezuela in the same position that Colombia once found itself in during 2008, when it was between two potential foes (Venezuela and Ecuador) and on the verge of war with both.
2. More US Bases: The US already has a handful of bases in Colombia, but following the conclusion of the FARC conflict, it’ll probably expand its military footprint even more. Ostensible ‘justification’ for such deployments could be to help the Colombian government ‘reinforce control’ over the formerly rebel-administered zones (a derivation of the US argument for giving military assistance to Kiev), and it doesn’t matter whether the military presence is permanent, rotating, or part of an extended ‘training’ regimen (again, like Ukraine ). In essence it’s all the same, since the US won’t withdraw from Colombia just as it won’t pick up and leave from Germany, and just as it crept ever eastward towards Russia after the end of the Cold War in Europe, it’ll do the same in regards to Venezuela after the FARC war in Colombia. The combination of US and Colombian military deployment and hand-in-hand cooperation along Venezuela’s borders would lead to a deterioration of the security situation and offer tempting opportunities for staging a false-flag attack.
3. Aggressive Colombian Claims For The Guajira Peninsula And Related Maritime Area: As it stands, Colombia controls the vast majority of the Guajira Peninsula, with Venezuela only administering a tiny sliver along Lake Maracaibo. Still, as a result of its control over the Los Monjes islands (basically tiny, inhospitable rocks) at the lake’s entrance to the Caribbean, Venezuela is able to exercise sovereignty over the entire oil-rich area, which forms the bedrock of its natural resource industry, and the Gulf of Venezuela that connects it to the outside world. Colombia has taken issue with this since the 1950s , and the dispute once more resurfaced after Maduro released Decree 1787 on 26 May to create Operating Zones of Integral Maritime and Insular Defence (Zodimain) along the Colombian and Guyanese maritime borders. Per its relation to Colombia, Bogota is incensed that it’s now cut out of the opportunity to control its neighbor’s most critical maritime trading route, and it’s possible that it could try to transnationalize the crisis by bringing the US in on its side. Such a development would surely increase the geopolitical pressure on Venezuela, and might even see the US beefing up its forward operating locations in nearby Aruba and Curacao. Furthermore, the Fourth Fleet might even decide to set up a ‘temporary’ location in Colombia’s planned state-of-the-art naval facility in Tierrabomba, right near Cartagena and within operational capacity of the Guajira Peninsula.
4. Chase FARC Into Venezuela: The final step of the US’ ideal plan in Colombia would be for the country’s military to ‘chase’ renegade FARC units into Venezuela, preferably at a time when the country is undergoing the height of Color Revolution destabilization. The pretense would be simple enough – rogue FARC units would be accused of operating cross-border and exploiting Venezuela’s domestic difficulties, which would give Colombia the ‘justification’ it needs for surgical strikes against its neighbor. If this sounds like the same thing that happened in Ecuador in 2008, it’s because it is, just this time, with Venezuela much weaker than it previously was, such brazen breaches of national sovereignty could now be directed to the east with the intent of decisively shifting its neighbor’s domestic balance of power towards the side of the Color Revolutionaries. Expanding upon this scenario, it might just so happen that the Colombian military ‘tracks’ the supposed FARC fighters to the Guajira Peninsula, and the resultant military intervention there could lead to a fait accompli of Colombian control over disputed mainland territories. This would carry over into a change of maritime boundaries (the main purpose) that would give Colombia control over the primary access point to Venezuela’s critical oil reserves, Lake Maracaibo.
Because of the concrete geopolitical benefits that this scenario would entail, it’s meant to infer that any potential cross-border anti-FARC raids on Venezuelan territory would only be staged by Colombia in the midst of its neighbor’s deteriorating domestic situation, most likely a partially successful Color Revolution. In fact, there might not be any cross-border FARC fighters to begin with, but if Colombia’s information apparatus (aided by the US’ global communication networks like CNN) manages to coordinate a buildup of hype concurrent with the escalation of a Color Revolution campaign in Venezuela, then it could create the ‘plausible pretexts’ for at least threatening such an intervention. This in turn would keep the Venezuelan military on edge and unable to fully deploy in the cities experiencing the worst unrest, as they would have to retain a sizeable enough deterrent force on the Colombian border to guard against the possible threat. Thus, even if Colombia never crosses over into Venezuelan territory, the mere threat of doing so in the context of a full-scale Color Revolution could be enough to achieve the desired power tilt that the anti-Venezuelan forces are looking for, and the successful completion of the regime change operation could bring to power a pro-Colombian government that’s amenable to changing maritime and/or land borders to Bogota’s favor.
The threat coming from Colombia is of a classic military nature and seeks to physical contain Venezuela. While its consequences would be severe, much of the plan is ultimately contingent on the resolution of the FARC war. The longer that the conflict drags on for, the more time Venezuela can gain for itself in crafting an adequate defense against such military-political intrigue, thereby meaning that although it’s in favor of a peaceful settlement, it does acquire a certain strategic edge if the reconciliation process can be prolonged as much as possible. While it’s indeed possible that the US could deepen its military commitment to Colombia if the FARC war intensifies, it may not be able to project the coordinated force against Venezuela that it envisions if the domestic conflict is still ongoing or is not yet fully resolved. Additionally, since it’s expected that US forces will continue their involvement in Colombia after the war anyhow, from Caracas’ strategic perspective, it’s better for them to focus more on FARC for as long as possible before they set their full attention on Venezuela. Even if a peace treaty is signed tomorrow, it will still take some time for government control to be entirely reestablished throughout all regions of Colombia, meaning that the abovementioned scenario of anti-Venezuelan destabilization is one to prepare for in the near future (at the earliest), but which has yet to see immediate consequences for the time being, although this could of course change pending an unexpected escalation of the Guajira Peninsula and related maritime dispute.
Subtítulo: PART II: The US’ Geopolitical War Against Venezuela
The Military-Political Game In Guyana
The US is exploiting its latest proxy client, Guyana, in order to open up a second ground front in the containment of Venezuela. Franco Vielma, in a translated article for The Saker, brilliantly explains how this came to be. To summarize his detailed research (which the reader is highly recommended to read in full), Venezuela and Guyana have been engaged in an over-100-year-long territorial dispute stemming from the UK’s colonial seizure of a large swath of Eastern Venezuela. Although the 1899 Paris Arbitration Award set the current borders, the 1966 Geneva Agreement invalidated its predecessor, but retained the status quo until a joint resolution could be worked out between them. Guyana, however, was reluctant to see this happen, recognizing the potential energy wealth lying underneath both the mainland and maritime portions of the disputed territory that it controls. When Exxon Mobil prospected for oil in the disputed maritime area, Venezuela saw t he writing on the wall of an imminent destabilization and knew that it had to act in protecting its territorial claim before it could be stolen out from under it, ergo the 26 May decree establishing the Zodimains, one of which cut into the contested area (the other was in the Gulf of Venezuela and was described earlier).
Mr. Vielma rightly notes that Venezuela took this step in order to preempt the deployment of affiliated mercenaries by Exxon in securing its potential offshore resource stake, which could eventually even gain a mainland component someday. He also makes proper mention of the US’ strategic interests in all issues related to energy, arguing that prospective major finds in Guyana would surely place the country front and center on the Pentagon’s radar and invigorate full-spectrum bilateral relations, including in the military sphere. Taking that into account, it’s thus worthwhile to sketch out where the situation is headed, and how it fits into the larger strategy of containing Venezuela.
Here’s the three-step escalation plan that Venezuela must prepare to deal with:
1. Attract US Attention: Guyana wants to transnationalize the crisis and move it past the realm of Venezuelan-Guyanese bilateral relations. It had hoped that its CARICOM allies , some of which are also ALBA members (Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines), would issue a strong declaration of support for its side, which would then escalate the issue to one of regional attention and create friction between the Caribbean members of ALBA and the Venezuelan core. While ultimately not worded as strongly as Guyana would have preferred, the regional grouping did take its side in the dispute after a three-day summit in Barbados, showing that the topic has officially become one of international importance and raising the possibility of a larger fissure within ALBA.
The US saw CARICOM’s support of Guyana as a trigger for its own diplomatic involvement, with the American Ambassador to Georgetown expectedly issuing his own statement in support of the country, too. Thus, the crisis has expanded to hemispheric proportions and the door has been opened for further American involvement in it. This could predictably see a rotating presence of US warships stationed in the disputed maritime area, supposedly to ‘protect’ the Exxon prospectors from the Venezuelan navy. Along the same lines, the US Navy could also base its operations out of the port of Georgetown, which it previously called port at for the first time in 2010, showing that there is indeed a precedent that could be built upon in expanding bilateral maritime cooperation with Guyana.
2. Divide Venezuela’s Military Focus: The appearance of US naval vessels and their expected ground component counterparts in Guyana would instantaneously elicit an angry response from Venezuela, which would likely attempt to counter it with a reinforcement of military assets along the border. One needs to keep in mind that the Venezuelan military has up until this point paid less attention to Guyana than it has to Colombia, so an urgent focus on the eastern border would be something akin to a military pivot of sorts. Additionally, this region is scarcely populated and infrastructure development is at a bare minimum, meaning that this will be somewhat of a different operational environment for the military than it is accustomed to as regards Colombia. Complicating matters even further is that the military must still retain a sizeable presence in the country’s major cities in order to deter and respond to any Color Revolution destabilizations, so it must consequently enact a careful balance between this priority as well as its deployments along the Colombian and Guyanese borders. All of this serves to divide the Venezuelan military from a concentrated focus on any singular crisis spot that erupts (be it Colombia, Guyana, or a Color Revolution), and the simultaneous opening of all three fronts would represent a doomsday scenario for its strategic planners.
3. Entrap Venezuela In A Disastrous Military Campaign: The US’ grand strategic goal is to coax Venezuela into a military intervention to restore its historical sovereignty up to the Essequibo River. It’s not being argued that Venezuela shouldn’t reestablish control up until this point or that it has no grounds to do so, but rather that such a move, if it takes a military dimension (no matter if it’s to preempt an American deployment in the area or to respond to a Guyanese provocation), entails significant tangential costs that might not be recognized at first glance. It’s not as simple as beating a much weaker military foe, but in holding and administering dense jungle territory with barely any infrastructure to speak of. This is an enormous hurdle for even the most advanced global militaries, to say nothing of a regional mid-rate power like Venezuela’s, although it does have a bit of a competitive edge over them because of its own jungle terrain that its soldiers are accustomed to training in.
The problem, however, is that the area being claimed by Venezuela is about 56,121 square miles large, which to put it a different way, is about the size of Nepal (or one-fifth the size of Venezuela’s currently governed territory). Administering such a vast and difficult-to-traverse area carries with it enormous financial costs and creates a plethora of military vulnerabilities to stay-behind US-supported guerrilla forces. There’s a serious risk that Venezuela could find itself quickly engaged in a mission creep scenario where it ultimately overstretches its military forces and creates strategic openings for provocations coming from Colombia and the Color Revolutionaries. Compounding this risk, an extended military campaign, wrought with financial burdens and piling casualties, could escalate dissent at home and increase the risk that the next expected Color Revolution attempt could gain wider support and perhaps succeed in toppling the government (especially if it’s aided by surgical ‘anti-FARC’ strikes and complementary ‘limited incursions’ by the Colombian military).
Guyana has fast emerged as a major strategic vulnerability for the Venezuelan leadership, in that it presents a Catch-22 dilemma which must be responded to in one way or another. If Caracas concedes to Georgetown’s oil exploration in disputed waters and allows Exxon to drill there, then it essentially cedes the maritime zone to Guyana once and for all. However, by responding to this clear provocation, Venezuela has unintentionally initiated a process whereby Guyana will can now escalate the crisis to regional and hemispheric proportions, all with the ultimate goal of inviting the US military as a de-facto party to the conflict, albeit on its side. Furthermore, because Venezuela is in a much better military position against Guyana than it is against Colombia, it can be expected the Pentagon would accelerate any assistance it renders to Georgetown in order to rapidly mend the military imbalance as best as it could (perhaps substituting its conventional inequality with asymmetrical advantages such as unconventional warfare training ). There’s no ‘silver bullet’ solution to the Guyanese threat, showing that Venezuela must carefully mind all of its options and their expected consequences before taking its next step.
Calculating The Containment Consequences
There are three immediate consequences of the US’ current progress in containing Venezuela:
1. Strategic Damage To ALBA Unity: The co-opting of Cuba’s leadership has created the opportunity to eventually split Havana and Caracas. This won’t be evident on the physical side of things (bilateral on-the-ground assistance to one another is still strong) but more on the strategic one, such as through an unfriendly rivalry for control of ALBA. Any number of scenarios could present themselves in the near future where Raul Castro and Nicolas Maduro enter into firm and public disagreement with one another (perhaps over FARC, or Cuba’s friendly relationship with the US amidst a renewed Washington-driven regime change campaign against Venezuela), and given the personality-driven nature of Latin American politics in general, this could lead to a national falling out between the two that would inevitably force the ALBA states to take sides. Speaking of which, the Caribbean members of the alliance have refused to take their Andean patron’s side out of institutional CARICOM solidarity with Guyana (which hosts the organization’s headquarters , incidentally), thus setting the stage for a larger intra-ALBA split in and of itself, and if Cuba uses this occasion to promote its own interests with those countries at Venezuela’s expense, then this could herald in the Venezuelan-Cuban split that was just discussed.
2. Two-Pronged Encirclement: The US has manipulated South American politics in such a way that Venezuela is now caught in the middle of two pincers, each of which can use their respective territorial disputes to escalate the situation at will. Venezuela is pushing back against these aggressive claims, but it is not yet certain how long it can hold out for. Should Colombia and Guyana enter into coordinated agreement with one another under American strategic supervision, then they could realistically construct a scenario by which their united efforts could be channeled in destabilizing Venezuela for each of their respective territorial gains. The reemergence of Guyana as a hostile anti-Venezuelan force dramatically changes Caracas’ strategic calculations, since it must now simultaneously balance between countering it and Colombia, which could lead to weaknesses along either of these fronts that could be exploited by the other per their American-coordinated strategic collaboration.
3. Self-Imposed Containment: Faced with two serious strategic concerns along its borders, an economy that’s tanking due to the US’ subterfuge, and the ever-present threat of a renewed Color Revolution, Venezuela has been forced onto the strategic defensive for self-preservation purposes. It still retains influence in the region, but it’s not as capable of projecting it in the same manner as it previously did a few years ago owing to the plethora of problems that the US has unleashed against it under Barack ‘honest man’ Obama’s Administration. It simply doesn’t have the available resources or manpower to focus on such goals as it once did. In and of itself, this is already a victory of sorts for the US, since it’s succeeded in tempering Venezuela’s multipolar exports throughout the region, but in order for Washington to fully come out on top, it must either topple the Venezuelan government or guarantee its capitulation in the same fashion as it did Cuba’s.
It’s advised that Venezuela urgently follow the prescribed action plan below in order to best defend itself against the imminent containment threats that are brewing around it:
-Regain Control Of The Country: The first thing that must be done is for Venezuela to stabilize its economy and reign in the Color Revolutionary civil society. Prolonged economic malaise, regardless of the cause, naturally leads to dissatisfaction with the government, and even individuals who are not orientated towards regime change may innocently be drawn into Color Revolution protests because of this, without understanding the full context of what they’ve gotten themselves into. So far, Venezuela has secured a $5 billion loan from China in exchange for future oil exports, but it’s not yet known whether this is the proper scale of relief that its economy needs right now. More than likely, the country will require a lot more than China’s loan to get back on its feet again, but if it adequately invests this amount into easing the economic burden that its citizens have faced over the past year (made even worse by the global oil price slump), then it could be a positive step in the right direction.
When it comes to reigning in Color Revolutionary elements, it’s advised that Venezuela follow Russia’s model in forcing foreign-funded NGOs to register as foreign agents. After that, it can then continue in Russia’s footsteps by giving the government the right to shut down undesirable NGOs, which could simplify the legal hassle in dismantling these subservient networks and kicking them out of the country. However, removing the foreign elements of regime change will arguably not be enough in securing Venezuela’s sovereignty, since a large amount of the forces agitating against the government are its very own (albeit misguided) citizens. This means that the absolute prime focus must be on helping citizens deal with the ongoing economic turmoil, which in turn would diminish the appeal of anti-government Color Revolution protests (whether the participants recognize their larger regime change intent or not) and aid the government in separating the legitimate demonstrators from those who want to overthrow the state.
- Engage In Proactive Defense: The most commendable thing that the Venezuelan government has done in protecting its sovereignty was the establishment of the two Zodimains. These demonstrated that Caracas was cognizant of its neighbors’ plots against its territorial claims and showed the state’s commitment to securing its legitimate interests. In a way, Venezuela emulated the China approach to the South China Sea, by which China took proactive steps to fortify its maritime position in advance of its rivals doing the same in the disputed territories. Had China or Venezuela refrained from their respective actions, it’s entirely conceivable that the US would have set up bases in the same islands that China is currently reclaiming and that American naval assets would be sailing along Venezuela’s northeastern Atlantic coast.
At this point, Venezuela needs to show that its proactive defense is a serious move predicated on a solid commitment to maritime sovereignty, and it will pragmatically respond to any forthcoming provocations from either side (just as China has done). By showing that it’s not a pushover and won’t be intimidated into backing down from its position (while keenly avoiding a military entrapment by the US, be it on land or at sea), the Venezuelan government can score patriotic points among the population and hopefully increase its appeal among the many that had been adversely affected by the latest economic crisis. If the population can acutely understand the threat facing their country at the moment, the well-intentioned anti-government flock being herded by the Color Revolution organizers might horrifyingly recognize their inadvertent contribution to regime change and change their ways. They may not be any more satisfied with the government or their despairing economic position, but realizing that their physical anti-government manifestations are only making the situation worse might be enough to get them to stop partaking in such protests for the time being, which could help achieve the earlier stated goal of separating the legitimate protesters from the regime change provocateurs and therefore helping the state reassert control within its own borders.
-Reconceptualize ALBA: The Venezuelan leadership needs to understand that political alliances of the type that it expects cannot be bought by oil subsidies alone, and sincere ideological solidarity to the multipolar cause is much more important than rhetorical statements of support. While not all members of Petrocaribe (Venezuela’s regional subsidized oil network) are part of ALBA and vice-versa, there’s still a strong overlap between ALBA membership and Petrocaribe participation. Excluding Ecuador and Bolivia, all members of ALBA are part of Petrocaribe, meaning that they receive Venezuelan oil imports at preferential prices. The weak link in this allied chain are the smaller Caribbean states such as Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These countries are reportedly looking for supplier alternatives as Venezuela cuts back on shipments and their own fears are raised that their once formerly reliable partner, having been brought to its economic knees by the US’ asymmetrical war against it, might not be able to continue the program in the same format in the future. As such, these island countries, which are also members of CARICOM alongside Guyana, might deepen their support for the latter in its territorial dispute with Venezuela, hoping that doing so could lead to a compensational windfall of resource benefits from the US in the likely form of fracked oil .
Venezuela must therefore accept that its smaller Caribbean ‘allies’ might leave ALBA when their oil subsidies dry up, and that such tiny countries are easily susceptible to the US’ ‘dollar diplomacy’ when the bolivar finds itself in the tough times it’s currently experiencing. Instead of viewing any potential CARICOM-member desertion from ALBA as a loss, Venezuela must see it as a strategic gain in the sense that it frees up its resources and attention to focus more intensely on aiding the joint ALBA-Petrocaribe state of Nicaragua. Cuba, too, is a member of both groups, but given its leadership’s recent pivot towards the US, it’s also just as susceptible to dollar diplomacy and ‘fracked friendship’ as its CARICOM counterparts, and must no longer be seen as an ally whose ideological loyalty can be guaranteed. Nicaragua, on the other hand, is in strict ideological solidarity with Venezuela and the multipolar world because of the Chinese-financed Trans-Oceanic Canal that’s planned to run through it. By looking at ALBA more as a constellation of firmly committed multipolar states like Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia, Venezuela can cushion the blow from the any CARICOM desertions that occur and work on strengthening its core constituency in confronting the US’ renewed unipolar ‘rebound’ in Latin America.
-Receive Multipolar Diplomatic Support: Venezuela should use its diplomatic channels to inform its multipolar allies of the importance of any supportive statements they can make on its behalf. Russia, China, and Iran have close relations with Venezuela, but each is presently so embroiled in handling their own complicated regional affairs that they may not be aware of the threat that their South American ally is facing right now. They should thus be informed of Colombia and Guyana’s boisterous actions against Venezuela’s maritime sovereignty and encouraged to publicly proclaim their position on the issue. It’s not expected that they’ll be as openly partisan as Venezuela may want them to be, but those familiar with diplomatic speech could easily read through the lines and see the implicit support being expressed. This is very important because it would demonstrate multipolar solidarity with Venezuela (in whichever degree it’s being voiced) and cause the US to take note that the local meanderings of its regional proxies have now attracted global attention, which would set the stage for the logical implementation of the final policy recommendation.
-Host Russian And Chinese Naval Facilities: The capstone recommendation in securing Venezuela’s territorial integrity from American-directed Colombian and Guyanese geopolitical intrigue is to have the country host Russian and Chinese naval facilities. Such a proposal is quite logical in light of recent statements made by each of these multipolar giants. Russia has conducted joint naval drills with Venezuela before in 2008 and has announced plans to do so again in the near future, so maritime cooperation between the two is not unprecedented or unusual. Additionally, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has voiced interest in having Venezuela host such a naval base as is envisioned by the author. Regarding China, its first-ever white paper on military strategy makes it abundantly clear that it wants to spread its naval influence throughout the globe as a means of defending its economic interests. It goes without saying that China would likely open up a facility in Nicaragua to guard the canal that it’s financing there, but it could also do the same thing in Venezuela in order to more concretely secure its oil interests. After all, the South American country is home to the Orinoco oil basin, which experts have assessed as containing one of the world’s largest untapped reserves totaling upwards of 513 billion barrels , and Maduro said that he received assurance that China would invest $20 billion in the country’s economy (some of which will naturally go to Orinoco resource developments) during an early 2015 trip to Beijing.
Russia and China evidently have strategic interests in Venezuela, and it would be natural for them to defend their investments in the country via a (joint) naval deployment there. If the US can and has been doing similar things for decades in relation to its own allies, there’s no reason why Russia and China can’t do the same with theirs. The presence of their naval forces in Venezuelan waters would cause the US to second-guess the proxy conflict potential that it had planned to unleash against Caracas, as it may not be prepared for an escalation of the New Cold War right on its own doorstep (despite the irony of it doing so against Russia and China in Ukraine and the South China Sea, respectively). A coordinated Russian-Chinese naval posting in Venezuela (whether at the same facility or separate ones) has the potential to completely disrupt the current dynamics of the New Cold War and turn the initiative against the US, and since it can also secure Venezuela’s sovereignty and reinforce its government against the external threats facing it, it should be seriously contemplated by the highest decision makers from all three states as a masterful move to be unveiled in the near future.
Venezuela is being geographically choked by the US’ latest inroads in regional affairs, which seek to constrict the strategic and military flexibility that Caracas once wielded in Latin America. Cuba has, whether knowing or unwittingly, become one of the highest strategic uncertainties for Venezuela, and it can no longer unquestionably rely on its supposed ally’s ideological solidarity in guaranteeing the positive state of bilateral relations between them. The main consequence of this emerging doubt is that ALBA’s unity is not as solid as was once thought, and that any forthcoming Havana-Caracas fissure could lead to the dissolution of the alliance or its separation into two distinct blocs (with Cuba influencing the CARICOM members and Venezuela retaining influence on the mainland). This strategic threat doesn’t have any immediately military implications, unlike the one emanating from Colombia. Venezuela’s neighbor seems primed to flex its muscles the moment the FARC conflict is resolved, and it’s expected that this will take the form of an eventual American-Colombian military buildup along Venezuela’s borders. In the future, this could be used to add teeth to Colombia’s maritime claims in the Gulf of Venezuela, or even stage a false-flag ‘anti-FARC’ operation in Venezuela to push the government to the breaking point if it’s mired in Color Revolutionary chaos at the time. Finally, Guyana has somewhat unexpectedly jumped to the forefront of Venezuela’s security concerns as a result of the renewed maritime dispute in the Atlantic Ocean, which has the prospective of drawing in the US’ Fourth Fleet.
Confronted with such heated geopolitical adversity, the Venezuelan government must find a way to neutralize the domestic Color Revolution threat in order to secure its territory, and only after that can it efficiently and confidently defend its border and maritime claims. Behind as proactively as China does in the South China Sea is a good model to follow, but Venezuela must commit to remaining consistent in its actions and rhetoric and not cede in the face of aggressive threats, something which may be difficult for it to do in its currently weakened position. However, if it can succeed in doing so, as well as in reconceptualizing the ALBA grouping, then it could more reliably count on the diplomatic support of the multipolar world. The end game must be for Venezuela to successfully court the Russian and Chinese navies into setting up a (joint) base in the country, as this would provide it with the necessary deterrent to stave off the US’ proxy games. It would also turn the entire tide of the New Cold War by shifting the theater of competition into the US’ own Caribbean backyard, a much-needed reversal of Washington’s own policy of tension in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea. This development, more so than anything else that Russia and China can do in the entire Western Hemisphere at the moment, would signify the seriousness of their resolve in deterring threats to their strategic Venezuelan interests and finally taking the initiative in turning the New Cold War dynamics around in their favor.