The Geopolitics Of The US And Russia Over Venezuela Showcase The Need To Embrace Diplomacy Over Politics
Venezuela is a nation in full-blown crisis thanks to a collapsed economy and a failed, illiberal political system. Some blame US sanctions for Venezuela’s woes while others blame the South American nation’s over-reliance on oil, weak commodity prices, an overly generous social welfare system, and corruption. Whatever specific reasons Venezuelans must endure political instability and economic ruin, the situation is creating very real problems for very real people. Quite frankly, the kind of socialist, authoritarian control embraced by those in power did suffocate Venezuela’s private sector. Venezuela’s problems will not, however, be solved by political skirmishes. Venezuela needs solution-driven leaders, not opportunistic ideologues driven by political gains. Struggling with an internal power struggle, Venezuela certainly does not need world leaders using Venezuela as a battlefield for their proxy wars and geopolitical conflicts. Unfortunately, the United States and Russia seem determined to do just that.
No country is a just observer when it comes to the behavior of foreign governments. The Peoples, nations, and governments of the world can only be expected to respond to the behavior of a foreign government by acting in line with their interests and their moral character. For democracies, that means supporting democratic processes. There is, however, a difference between disengaging from country over its offensive behavior or taking measures to defend against the threatening policies of a foreign government and manipulating the internal affairs of a foreign land to serve domestic interests. For its part, the US is against the illiberal, ill-democratic behavior of the Venezuela government as well as its extreme socialist policies. Former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s tendency to criticize US leadership also invited the ire of the US government. It is why Venezuela faces has continually faced US sanctions, but US President Donald Trump has threaten to accelerate US disengagement with Venezuela to US military intervention. For its part, Russia has used socialist countries like Venezuela to entangled itself in the geopolitics of America’s geographic backyard, which is a response to US entanglement in Russia’s sphere of political influence.
Currently, the US finds itself leading an international effort to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim President. In response, Russia has come forward to defend the embattled President Nicolas Maduro. As part of their effort to sway the International Community and lend support to their preferred political faction, the US and Russia have drafted competing UN resolutions. The American resolution questions the legitimacy of the May 20, 2018 proceedings that resulted in the election of Nicolas Maduro. It also demands all parties embrace an open and honest political process. The Russian resolution criticizes attempts to interfere in the international affairs of Venezuela, including threats of military intervention. The competing messages are, of course, familiar. The US tends to frame situations like the one in Venezuela as an issue of an illegitimate government oppressing its People while Russia tends to frame them as international attempts to override the sovereign will of legitimate governments. Whether receptive to one side or the other, it is the same old rhetoric that has defined the geopolitical conflict between the US and Russia since the Cold War.
If the US government was truly concerned about the welfare of the Venezuelan People, which it should be and many Americans are, it would not “pick” a side in Venezuela’s internal political conflict. It would support policies that could help Venezuelans cope with the economic issues they are struggling to overcome and push for specific democratic reforms that would help the Venezuelan People achieve representation in government and proper governance. Russia would do the same. Russia would also not simply lend support to the Maduro government in order to shield it from political dissent and prop it up. The Maduro government has continually failed to solve the problems of Venezuela and the Venezuelan People are not satisfied with it, so it needs replaced. It does not need replaced by the US, Russia, or any other special interest group It needs to be replaced by the Venezuelan People. Unfortunately, both the US and Russia are being dishonest in their approach to Venezuela. The US does not like the Chavez-Maduro regime while Russia does not want to allow democratic forces to uproot what has been a stalwart enemy of US capitalism, i.e. the fuel of US power.
Both US and Russian interference in Venezuela is largely a product of the geopolitical conflict between the longtime rivals. It is a situation that mirrors the political strife inside Venezuela as well as the political strife inside the United States and Russia. Just as divisive politics and the influence of special interests is undermining proper governance inside these countries, it does the same on the world stage. The US and Russia use international governing institutions like the UN as battlegrounds for their geopolitical conflict. They use the struggles of countries like Venezuela to forward their messages and tilt the balance of world power to their advantage. In doing so, they undermine international governance and the value of international institutions. International institutions like the United Nations exist to help foster diplomatic engagement and solve conflicts through diplomatic outreach. Just as the inability to move beyond politics prevents US and Russian leaders from providing proper governance at home, the inability to move beyond geopolitics undermines their ability to help address the issues of other countries. Unfortunately, the US and Russia are not the only world powers that do this. They are simply two of the most influential. The solution is to push world leaders to move beyond their self-serving political motivations to embrace mutually beneficial diplomatic missions.
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