Venezuela - Why - War Aims
Until summer 2017, when the Trump administration toughened its stance in response to Maduro's crackdown on protests, regime change hadn't been the U.S. policy goal. The White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' statement 11 August 2017 said "Since the start of this Administration, President Trump has asked that Maduro respect Venezuela’s constitution, hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, cease all human rights violations, and stop oppressing Venezuela’s great people" It continued, "The Maduro regime has refused to heed this call, which has been echoed around the region and the world. Instead Maduro has chosen the path of dictatorship...President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country."
In the State of the Union Address, Trump on February 5, 2019 stated : "Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."
John Bolton stated 28 January 2019: " ...the authoritarian regime of Chavez and Maduro has allowed penetration by adversaries of the United States, not least of which is Cuba. Some call the country now Cubazuela, reflecting the grip that Cuba’s military and security forces have on the Maduro regime. We think that’s a strategic significant threat to the United States, and there are others as well, including Iran’s interest in Venezuelan’s uranium deposits."
Admiral Craig Faller told Voice of America 12 February 2019 that "We’re focused on supporting a political and diplomatic solution and as you’d expect from a combatant commander we’re working to ensure that U.S. citizens and property, our diplomats that are there are safe, and so that’s where we’ve been, our efforts have been centered.... this is our neighborhood, and we share a lot across this neighborhood: values, a respect for law, democracy, for the most part democracy, and we have common sea, land, air, cyber, space, all of the domains right here in our neighborhood and so we look at our neighborhood and there are some glaring examples of countries that aren’t democracies. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua to name the three most glaring examples. And what you see common in these cases is the influence of Russia, and Cuba, and to some extent China.... Russia ... is almost, you know, a wounded, declining bear that’s just lashing out, and I couldn’t predict what Russia will do, and I wouldn’t want to. We’ve seen what they’ve done, and I think we have to be prepared for what might happen in the future."
There are external actors that have come to the aid and support of the Maduro regime. They include some Cuban security forces, as well as colectivos and motorcycle gangs that support the Maduro regime, but most notably the arrival 24 March 2019 of several hundred Russian military into Caracas, landing at Simón Bolívar airport outside of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. This, of course, complicates the situation. A US forcible entry operation in Venezuela would almost certainly seek to gain initial control of an airport, and the presence of Russian troops would discourage seizure of this airfield.
Nicolas Maduro and his regime turned to the Russian Federation, one of its strongest political allies, for financial support during its current economic crisis and to counter international support for Juan Guaido. In December 2018, the Russian Federation sent two Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela for joint exercises with the Venezuelan military. In January 2018, Russia sent contractors linked to the Wagner Group to provide security for Nicolas Maduro.
Russia's unwavering commitment to Nicolas Maduro should not come as a surprise. This is part of Putin's larger aspirations for global reach and influence and Putin knows the importance of having a loyal Russian ally in South America. In recent years, Russia has increased its support for the Venezuelan security forces.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz said 25 March 2019 "This menacing Kremlin influence creates not only a hurdle to restoring a functioning, legitimate democracy to the people of Venezuela, but it also poses an imminent military threat to the entire Western Hemisphere."
Washington alleges that Havana has thousands of intelligence and security forces in Venezuela to shore up Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, which Washington is openly seeking to oust from power. Currently around 20,000 Cubans, mostly doctors and healthcare workers, work in Venezuela as part of a cooperation agreement, which dates back to 2000. On 17 April 2019, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a speech in Miami that Cuba had sent special troops to the border between Venezuela and Colombia, an accusation that was categorically denied by the island. Florida Republican Rep. Mike Waltz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, commented on 02 May 2019 "What's propping it up is the Cubans, and I’ve seen estimates ranging anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 Cuban intelligence and security forces are on the ground."
Rep. Paul A. Gosar of Arizona had stated April 4, 2019 that "as we watch the human tragedy that is Venezuela, it should be a stark reminder to everyone that socialism does nothing but destroy the lives of the people while enriching the elites.... The emerging socialist movement in this country is an imminent risk of harm to everything that has made us the leader of the free world. The socialists in this country present a clear and present danger to our health and well-being and should be fought at every opportunity. Our fathers and grandfathers fought against socialists. They fought and died to make sure the United States remained free, capitalist and prosperous. Let the lessons of Venezuela, Cuba, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries that have failed miserably, and inflict death and harm to millions, teach us to promptly reject U.S. socialists and their harmful ideology, their useful idiocy, and their malevolence."
Florida Republican Rep. Mike Waltz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, commented on 02 May 2019 on the possibility of U.S. military action in Venezuela, saying it would take the form of "a supporting" role and "a logistics effort.”
“At the end of the day, this needs to be a coalition effort. The U.N. is a non-starter because of the Russia and China veto. I think we look to the OAS, the Organization of American States, 34 nations, and keep in mind, 50 nations have recognized the Guaidó regime. If we're putting boots on the ground, they need to be regional troops and it needs to be a humanitarian effort that they are protecting.”
"Why does this matter to Americans and to Floridians?
"One, you have a massive refugee crisis that I think has been underreported. It’s approaching the size of what’s happened in Syria. Three million refugees are flowing into neighboring countries and destabilizing the region; meanwhile they’re going to start destabilizing Central America as well, and that will affect the United States.”
“Secondly, we have to look at what happens if Maduro doesn't go. He has opened the door to the Chinese, he’s opened the door to the Russians. The Cubans are already there in a big way. If Maduro does go, I think the Castro regime is not far to follow because they shifted the Cuban regime's dependence from the Soviet Union to Venezuela and [Hugo] Chávez, Maduro's predecessor, a long time ago. So there’s a lot at stake here.”
On 01 May 2019, Pompeo had a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, telling him that Russia should "not interfere" in the Latin American country. Lavrov called the allegations of Russian involvement "rather surreal" and said that Russia's "principled position" was to "never interfere in the affairs of others."
Bolton warned countries "external to the Western Hemisphere," including Russia against deploying military forces in Venezuela, and signaled the US administration's readiness to use the Monroe Doctrine in its policy toward Latin America. US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams similarly indicated that the US might impose sanctions against Russia over Moscow's military assistance to Venezuela, telling reporters that "the Russians will pay a price for this" for their meddling earlier this year.
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