Saturday, November 02, 2019

Russia Goes All In On Maduro

I recently talked to Jason Marczak about China's role in Venezuela, which along with Russia is Nicolás Maduro's lifeline. What we're seeing, though, is that ideology and rivalry is showing the clear differences between the two countries' approaches. China is the pragmatic one, looking for return on investment, not wanting to throw good money after bad. Rivalry with the U.S. doesn't make that worth it.

Russia, on the other hand, is literally showering the government with euro and dollar bills, sent by planeload, to keep Maduro afloat. This is money the Russians will never get back, and they know that. But they're all in. This is all about Russia's position vis-a-vis the United States. Russia wants to project into the western hemisphere as tit for tat, and does not want to look weak (either at home or abroad) by losing or giving up on Venezuela.

It's not a particularly risky diplomatic move for Vladimir Putin. The U.S. is not going to retaliate, and certainly as long as Donald Trump is in office, Putin knows there will be no real repercussions. The problem Putin faces is financial, because this there are diminishing returns. As time goes on, the benefits flatten out and eventually become negative, in part thanks to Russia itself.

Think of it as something like this:

As long as the military backs the regime, this can go on a long time. As in Afghanistan, the Russians will likely feel compelled to keep going given sunk costs. Would Putin just decide one day to walk away? Maybe, but it seems unlikely.


shah8 10:06 PM  

As said before in a previous thread, I do not think the US can keep sanctions on Venezuela forever (i.e., neighboring countries explicitly attempt to subvert), let alone tighten them.

The other thing is that Russia produces somewhat comparable grades of oil and has had boosted sales prices due to the exclusion of Venezuelan oil.

Greg Weeks 1:55 PM  

Well, the US has done so for Cuba, so there is a precedent. I doubt this will go on that long, but I don't see why the US couldn't keep doing this for quite a while.

Maybe Russia gets something back, but they're pouring in an awful lot.

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