Expert Igor Pshenichnikov from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies on development scenarios concerning events in Venezuela and the possibility of an American military invasion.
The gloves are off. In an interview with CBS, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, clearly stated that deployment of American military forces to Venezuela “is an option.” Previously, various senior administration officials have said that “other options” had not been ruled out, only hinting at the use of force against Caracas. Now, everything is completely clear: The U.S. is preparing for an invasion.
But this is also clear because the coup in Venezuela, which has been organized by Washington, has actually misfired. It was already clear on the second or third day after Juan Guaidó declared himself the interim president that the U.S. attempt to quickly replace the legal head of state, Nicolás Maduro, had stalled. The White House was counting on a speedy realization of its plan. But now, one week after Guaidó’s first public appearance as the nation’s savior, it can be said with confidence that the American plan for a quick coup has reached a dead end.
Undoubtedly, this very fact is forcing the U.S. to frantically search for an opportunity to intervene in its initiative, in order to unravel the Venezuelan crisis in its favor. At this stage, this can be implemented in at least three ways.
The first method would be to sway the Venezuelan army and security forces to join the opposition, which, as the past week has shown, Washington has so far failed to do. The second method would be to undertake a direct military invasion of the country. The Americans are losing time: With every new day, Guaidó loses power, rendering the U.S. plans for a “peaceful” replacement of Maduro increasingly bleak. And the potential for a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela is becoming increasingly more tangible. The third method would be this: Right now, in Venezuela, it is far from being a diarchy, the legal president has the situation under control and time is working against the White House, which means we can soon expect decisive measures, probably, against Maduro himself. His personal security is, therefore, now Venezuela’s top priority.
Taking all of this into account, Trump’s statement to CBS does not only seem like an act of psychological pressure on the Venezuelan authorities and army. It’s about preventive manipulation of American and international public opinion. This is an obligatory ritual for the U.S., since without the U.S., no military venture is possible − everything needs to be set up through a public relations media barrage. One of the goals of this information campaign is to demonize Maduro in the same way the U.S. demonized the former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and former Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi before executing them and ruining their countries.
Under what pretext can the U.S. invade Venezuela? The motive known as “humanitarian catastrophe” has already been used in many of the world’s countries. We only need to recall how the U.S. and NATO bombed Yugoslavia in 1999. The pretext for interfering in the affairs of this Balkan country assumed the form of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the autonomous region of Kosovo. Though such a catastrophe didn’t exist, there was, however, a desire by the U.S. to stop the Yugoslavian army’s suppression of the Albanian minority’s unconstitutional rebellion, to end the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and to take control in the Balkans.
The Venezuelan refugee camps, which are located in Brazil and Colombia in the areas bordering Venezuela, can be used as an instrument to create the necessary television images. American TV stations will spin the situation all day long, showing Venezuelans who “were brought to despair by Maduro.”*
In mid-January, Brazilian Minister of Defense Fernando Azevedo e Silva inspected the Venezuelan refugee camp, which is located in Roraima not far from the Venezuelan border, and the “Boa-Vista” base of the Brazilian air force. The inspection took place against a background of aggressive anti-Venezuelan statements from the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. As far as Colombia is concerned, there are over 700 soldiers at the Colombian air base, not far from the Venezuelan border, who are prepared to “neutralize” military objects on Venezuelan territory. A strange coincidence.
Meanwhile, the U.S. manipulation of international public opinion is creaking along. Even among the Latin American countries, which are almost all oriented around Washington, countries such as Mexico and Uruguay are refusing to participate in the harassment campaign directed at Caracas, which is being developed by the Lima Group under Washington’s supervision.
The European Union, which is experiencing severe pressure from the U.S., has opted to take a half-hearted position, leaving itself with an escape route. Curious, then, were the statements of EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, who has announced the formation of a certain contact group consisting of a number of European and Latin American countries. It should be noted that in 90 days, the contact group, as announced, will be dissolved if its activity bears no results. It cannot be ruled out that, if after 90 days the situation in Venezuela remains the same, the EU can only limit itself to making meaningless statements against Maduro, without taking real measures.
The first meeting of the contact group is scheduled to take place on Feb. 7 in Uruguay. Representatives from several European and Latin American countries will be attending. These negotiations, which are taking place under EU supervision, prove that the EU is far from being 100 percent behind the U.S. in its replacement of Maduro (with the exception of individual countries such as France). However, a few European states such as Italy, for example, are completely against any interference in Venezuelan affairs.
During these negotiations, Maduro’s government is receiving a wide platform from which to broadcast its position of legitimacy and denounce the U.S. It is therefore understandable that any negotiations − either within the framework of the contact group or between Maduro and the opposition − are in no way advantageous for the U.S. And Washington will try to sabotage and discredit them. Nevertheless, there is hope that these negotiations will become the cool wave that will soothe the hotheads in Washington and extinguish the fire ignited by them in Venezuela.
*Editor’s note: This quote, although accurately translated, could not be verified.