Russia withdraws personnel from Venezuela but maintains support for Maduro
Putin has not withdrawn his support for Nicolás Maduro but has begun to talk about “political and diplomatic reforms” for the South American country
Russia has informed us that they have removed most of their people from Venezuela.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
Although it is unclear how the Kremlin communicated this information to the U.S., it is inevitable that Russia has not ended its support for Nicolas Maduro but has begun to talk about “political and diplomatic reforms” for the South American country.
The South Command of the U.S. reacted to this news and said, “the unwinding of the presence of state defense contractor Rostec shows the limits of Russia in Venezuela at a time when Moscow faces economic difficulties at home”, an apparent reference to the economic and strategic constraints the European country faces.
According to the American newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, the Russian state defense contractor, Rostec, had gradually reduced its personnel in Venezuela to a mere few dozen from the maximum of a few thousand. The withdrawal must be owing to the absence of new contracts and the apparent conclusion that Maduro does not have enough cash to pay for their services.
On the same Monday, the Colombian Minister of External Affairs, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and his Russian counterpart, Serguéi Lavrov, agreed to support the political and diplomatic reforms in Venezuela.
Russia has made it clear that it does not support any military solution in Venezuela, but it has also stated that it would not fight a “war” against the United States, let alone defend Nicolás Maduro.
Political and international affairs analyst César Sabas told PanAm Post that Russia has neither the interest nor the capacity to fight a “war” with the United States, so Putin would not respond militarily to a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela.
On Monday, June 3rd, Vladimir Putin’s government said it would support Venezuela “within the framework of international law” and proposed applying the UN Charter to request that the “crisis be resolved in compliance with that instrument.
The international analyst Mariano De Alba told PanAm Post that the withdrawal of personnel does not mean a change of policy on the part of Russia and that Putin maintains his support for Maduro.
“If he effectively withdrew the majority of his officials, it is because they accomplished what they were going to do in Venezuela. Russia continues to oppose intervention and seeks to see what political benefit Maduro’s presence. Russia will continue to inconvenience the United States in whatever capacity it sees fit,” he said.
Russia and its economic interests
International analysts assure that Russia continues its support for Maduro not only to increase its presence in Latin America and inconvenience the USA but also because Venezuela has granted Russia concessions worth millions in financial matters.
The Russian oil company Rosneft has channeled more than 17,000 dollars in gifts to the Chavista regime in the last decade. On the other hand, the European company gained three million tons of oil in 2017 from its operations in Venezuela. Overall, Russia has invested in many Venezuelan industries, from banking to bus assembly. At the same time, Venezuela has been one of the largest buyers of Russian arms among the Latin American countries.
Owing to these debts and other economic ties, Putin has backed Maduro. He probably fears that if President Juan Guaidó assumes power, the government will expel those who supported Maduro and revoke Russia’s privileged access to Venezuela’s oil fields.