More Russian aid headed to Venezuela but foreign minister says it will not be ‘another Syria’

Apr 6, 2019

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Russian President Vladimir Putin during December meeting.

Venezuela is not going to become “another Syria” for Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a state-backed Russian newspaper in an interview published this week. “We have nothing to hide,” he said in response to a question about what Russian troops are doing in the once wealthy South American nation.

Two military planes carrying about 100 Russian personnel arrived in Caracas last week and more may be on the way. The influx, which U.S. officials have told CBS News was unusual for its size, has fuelled tensions between Russia and the U.S. that were sparked earlier this year as the two countries picked opposing sides in Venezuela’s debilitating political crisis.

The U.S., along with dozens of other countries, has thrown its support behind Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. The former leader of the National Assembly has declared himself the country’s interim president and labelled President Nicolas Maduro a “usurper” following a re-election widely deemed undemocratic. Moscow, however, insists Maduro is still the country’s legitimate leader.

According to U.S. officials, the two planeloads of Russian troops were sent to Caracas to support Maduro. The Kremlin claims, however, that they were sent to do maintenance work on military equipment Russia supplied to Venezuela several years ago.

Other support is reportedly on its way to help Venezuela rebuild its electric power grid. Venezuelan officials returned from Moscow on Friday following talks focused on Russian technological assistance in the areas of electrical and oil production.

The conversation heated up as President Donald Trump told Russia “to get out,” and Russia’s Foreign Ministry shot back that the U.S. should get out of Syria first. Russia and the U.S. similarly backed different sides in Syria’s civil war, and Russian President Vladimir Putin coming to the rescue has arguably kept dictator Bashar Assad comfortably in power.

On Thursday, Venezuela’s deputy foreign minister would not rule out the possibility that more Russian military personnel could arrive in his country, under what he said were existing agreements between the two nations.

Russia does have assets in Venezuela and close ties with the Maduro regime, but defense and foreign affairs analysts see the recent developments much more as a power play by the Kremlin, aimed more at goading the U.S.  than defending the Venezuelan leader.

“Harsh confrontation with Washington over Venezuela, according to the Kremlin’s logic, boosts Russia’s significance in the eyes of the U.S.,” foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov told CBS News. “It’s political theater, and theater needs proper decorations.”

Credit: CBS News,

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