Trump's Russia collision ... in Venezuela

Trump's Russia collision ... in Venezuela
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Some say collusion. Some say collision.

While Congress and the White House are playing tit-for-tat over border security and the wall, it’s possible that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE may have launched a strategy that will do infinitely more for America’s southern border security and drug interdiction than anything currently conceived of or discussed by Congress and the media.

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The White House is actively leading a high-stakes, global effort to displace the fraudulently elected and disastrous Nicolás Maduro regime and replace it with the arguably elected Juan Guaidó.

From a strategic perspective, this risky move may prove to be a master stroke in foreign policy strategy.

Russia, Cuba and, to some degree, Venezuela’s major creditor, China, have been using Venezuela as a platform for expanding their strategic interests in the hemisphere.

Cuba reportedly has an estimated 20,000 agents in Venezuela, supporting the police state, supporting drug (and terrorist) smuggling routes to the United States, attempting to disrupt democratic politics elsewhere in Latin America, and, of course, reportedly taking a cut of whatever profits from oil production are still left after the rampant corruption in Venezuela.

Russia has seen Venezuela as a new strategic military base in the Western Hemisphere, and there were recent indications that Venezuela had agreed to allow Russia to develop La Orchila Island as a Caribbean base that could support a White Swan strategic nuclear bomber force within short reach of the United States — read: potential Cuban Missile Crisis #2.

Of course, Russia always is on the lookout for strategic Caribbean threats to the United States as leverage against Western strategic expansion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet States. But it appears that Vladimir Putin may have overplayed his hand in Venezuela last year and that may have been an additional factor pushing the White House to move now against Maduro.

In addition, if Russia lost influence in Venezuela, they could not team up to influence oil production and pricing policies that keep both Russia and Venezuela (and Iran) afloat. Replacing Maduro would be a huge strategic loss to Russia, Venezuela and Iran, and put a large dent in drug and terrorist activities in the Western Hemisphere.

Finally, of course, the policies of Hugo Chavez and Maduro, partially engineered and fully supported by Russia and Cuba, have moved Venezuela from one of the most successful Latin American developing countries 25 years ago to the pit of misery it is today. Trump’s moves may begin to reverse that and create hope in the region.

It is a huge irony that, as the White House executes what may be a brilliant foreign policy strategy that cuts to the heart of Russia’s strategy against the United States and Western Hemisphere, the Democratic leaders in Congress, and many in the media, continue to brand Trump as an agent of Russia.

It is an equal irony that on the global map of the many countries supporting the White House in moving against the illegal, disastrous regime in Venezuela, our NATO allies are sitting on the sidelines. Arguably, NATO would be a huge beneficiary since undercutting Russia’s Caribbean strategy removes a point of leverage used by Putin to stop the United States from supporting the defense of Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Republics, and ultimately, Western Europe.

Trump unquestionably has been rude to our NATO allies, but perhaps he was not wrong to press them a little harder to accept their own responsibilities in defending themselves against Russian aggression.

U.S. news of late has been consumed by the border security issues and the investigations into collusion with Russia. The aggressive White House policies on Venezuela create a huge collision with Russia, rather than collusion. It is a continuation of White House policy to confront Russia on all fronts:

  • Continued pressure on Putin’s cronies through expanded enforcement of the Magnitsky Act (the real nature of the Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign was to have Putin representatives beg Trump to remove those sanctions);
  • Expanded NATO budget to deal with potential Russian incursions in Europe;
  • Undercut Russia’s strategy to support North Korea;

  • Confronted Russia’s strategic and OPEC ally, Iran; and

  • Expanded the Department of Defense budget to address increased Russian military threats.

And now, potentially, blowing up Russia’s Western Hemisphere strategy. And it’s a political two-fer since it goes a long way toward strengthening border security for the United States.

Some days the president’s style makes him hard to appreciate. On the other hand, it is in the best interest of the country to look at his results — and this week he may be doing something huge.

Grady Means is a writer and retired corporate strategy consultant. He consulted to the Venezuelan government in the early 1990s to privatize communications systems and strengthen capital markets as a support to democratic institutions. He was special assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller in the Ford White House.