Updated: Oct 24, 2022
The link between the Chavez and Maduro (Venezuelan) governments with Vladimir Putin has not ceased to cause concern on Washington's premises.
As Washington is courting Venezuela to take over Russians supply of oil, we shall discuss some clues about the murky Russia-Venezuela relationship.
We will also discuss whether the US administration's premises are based in reality.
By Maibort Petit
Maibort Petit is a Venezuelan writer, researcher and political scientist specialized in Transnational Organized Crime. Based in New York, she works for various Hispanic media outlets and as a consultant for various firms in New York and Washington DC.
She is also founder of Freedom Voice Reports which is an Investigative Reporting team, started over 25 years ago, with an emphasis on protecting our freedoms. Reporting on authoritative government, dark money used by business to persuade our political institutions, our court system, drug trafficking stealing so many lives, parental rights being lost in our educational system and so much more.
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History of Venezuelan - Russian relationship
Although diplomatic relations between Russia and Venezuela are not a novelty of the Chavista administrations of the last 22 years but have been maintained for 77 years – established on March 14, 1945, and suspended between June 13, 1952, and April 16, 1970. These have increased and accentuated reaching levels of almost dependence with the coming to power of Hugo Chávez Frías and of his official successor, Nicolás Maduro.
During the last two decades the two nations have emphasized issues of a military, energy and geopolitical nature that from Caracas and Moscow are proclaimed, are characterized by respect for the self-determination of peoples and the construction of the bipolar world.
But not a few disagree with this description, as they have come to classify the link as opportunistic and even criminal.
US Premise that Venezuela can replace Russian oil & form a natural relationship with West
Given the war between Russia and Ukraine that has led the United States to sanction the former by suspending the purchase of oil, the eyes of the world have turned to Venezuela after the Joe Biden administration sent several emissaries to talk with Maduro and negotiate a possible lifting of sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, in exchange for the latter assuming the production of the crude oil that the US will stop receiving from the Russians. While some are betting that this will happen and return to the natural relationship with the West, others warn that Venezuela will maintain its loyalty to Vladimir Putin.
How has this relationship been between Russia & Venezuela?
What are its main characteristics?
In this installment we give some clues about it.
Large number of agreements in strategic areas
The government of Nicolás Maduro reported in October 2019 through the page of the Ministry of People's Power for Foreign Relations that Venezuela and Russia had signed agreements in energy, economic and technological matters.
Maduro gave the information on the agreements signed by the presidents of the Russia-Venezuela High-Level Commission (CIAN), namely the Russian First Deputy Prime Minister, Yuri Borisov and the sectoral Vice President for the Economic Area, Tareck El Aissami.
The note underlined that with the new agreements there were already 264 agreements signed in 20 strategic areas, a fact that increased by 10 percent the commercial exchange between Moscow and Caracas. Specifically, the information showed that Nicolás Maduro said that in agricultural matters new and advanced agreements were signed with the presence of Russian technology and advice in the military area.
On March 30, 2021, it was reported that twelve new agreements were signed in financial, energy, commercial, military, health matters, among others, during the visit that Russian Prime Minister Yuri Borisov made to Caracas.
Russia's interest in Venezuela is military
Russia's presence in Venezuela is due, more than for economic interest, to the military, since the strategic Venezuelan geographical location constitutes a tool of pressure from Moscow on the United States.
Such interests acquired special importance after the conflict, derived in war, between Russia and Ukraine and that materialized in a threat formulated by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who warned in January of this year that a military deployment of Russia in Cuba and Venezuela is not ruled out if the United States insisted on its provocations.
The director of the Center for a Free and Secure Society, Joseph Humire, called Ryabkov's remarks "a strategy of pressure." Other analysts at the same institute believe that Russia lacks sufficient economic strength to carry out such a military deployment.
But the Russian military presence would have ceased to be a simple threat for a long time, since the presence of Russian military forces in Venezuelan territory has been denounced for a long time. The issue would be to know if it is to know if the Russian colossus is able to send components of greater offensive power to Venezuela.
At the beginning of the year, the former director of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin), Manuel Cristopher Figuera, denounced that Russia has two military bases in Venezuela. As a supposed location he offered the coordinates 10°14′43.4″N 68°01′06.0″W (10.245389, -68.018333).
He said that one of the bases would be inside the 41st Brigade in Valencia, Carabobo, while the other would be in Manzanares, Miranda state, in the place where the Russian Military Base for The Exploration of Communications and Intelligence works, which would aim to protect Nicolás Maduro.
The exchange of knowledge in situ between the Russian and Venezuelan military operates since Hugo Chavez expressed his first sympathies for Vladimir Putin, united him, the desire to stand up to the US. The Venezuelan military equipment is, in addition, largely of Russian origin, all for the sake of "a powerful military cooperation," Nicolás Maduro has warned. Colombia has also denounced the presence of Russian military personnel on its border with Venezuela.
A series of photographs released in 2021 revealed the alleged presence of the Russian military in the state of Apure, the site of clashes between the National Armed Forces and an eventual FARC dissident group. On the matter, Remigio Ceballos, who at the time served as Strategic Operational Commander of the Fanb (Ceofanb) limited himself to saying "that's old".
The NGO "Control Ciudadano", in its report "Bolivarian National Armed Forces, acquisition, reception and incorporation of weapons and military material 2017-2019", maintains that only Russia and China with the main suppliers of weapons to Venezuela in the last five years, showing the purchase processes great opacity.
Although the military would prevail over other interests, Venezuela also has importance for Russia for its geostrategic potential that led to exchange in other areas, such as economic-commercial and scientific-technical.
In this way, the scientific-technical is observed in the granting of Scholarships Grand Marshal of Ayacucho for students of university level in centers of studies of Russia.
Meanwhile, in the economic-commercial sphere, Russian investments have pointed to energy through Rosneft and Gazprombank with oil as the axis.
A link that has set off alarm bells in the U.S. as much as the Russian-Venezuelan military relationship has. In 2016 it was learned that Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) would have mortgaged 49.9 percent of the shares of the company Citgo Holding Inc., its refiner in the United States, to the Russian state oil company Rosneft. The remaining share package, 50.1 percent, was offered as collateral to the bondholders, according to information offered by the former president of the Venezuelan state-owned company, Eulogio Del Pino.
Such an action will be nothing more than a fraud that seeks to circumvent the lawsuit filed by ConocoPhillips against PDVSA, after refusing to migrate to the joint venture scheme that contemplated the possession of 60 percent of the shares in the hands of Venezuela and 40 percent for the foreign company that Venezuelan legislation proposed. The U.S. company did not accept the new rules that would govern its business in the blocks of the Orinoco Oil Belt.
The possibility of a Russian company taking possession of strategic refineries on U.S. soil set off alarm bells in Washington.
Likewise, the name of Gazprombank has become a permanent presence in the opaque commercial relations that Venezuela establishes with Russia.
But Russia would also have become the center of protection of the money ill-gotten by the Venezuelan military and corrupt officials. In this sense, the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Russia in the face of the conflict with Ukraine, would keep the former in a state of tension due to the fear of losing their fortunes hidden in Russian territory.
The terror would have increased when, supposedly, Vladimir Putin warned Maduro that he could not offer him a guarantee on the gold and fortunes that the hierarchs of the Venezuelan regime trapped in Russian banking.