Between Bolton’s “5000 troops to Colombia” note flashed to the media and what The Military Times calls “mounting signs of military planning for Venezuela” it is clear that the Trump administration is — not really building up for an invasion, but — intent on giving the appearance it might be willing to stage one as a form of pressure on Caracas.
Indeed Trump keeps repeating that “military option” is “on the table”.
Russia for its part has warned Washington a direct US military intervention against Caracas was a red line for Russia:
At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.
The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.
After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”
One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.
For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.
“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.
The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.
That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.
Now the Russians seem to be propping up the appearances on their own side:
Russian military officials have arrived in Venezuela to discuss equipment maintenance and training, and strategy, an official in Caracas has said.
The statement came after a Russian-flagged cargo plane and an airliner were spotted at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas guarded by a contingent of Venezuelan national guardsmen.
A Venezuelan official said the aircraft arrived this weekend as part of ongoing military cooperation between the two allies.
A passanger and a transport jet of the Russian Armed Forces have landed in Venezuela with 35 tons of cargo, the deputy commander of the Russian Ground Forces, and dozens (reportedly “99”) of men clad in uniforms of the kind the Russians wear in Syria.
— CNW (@ConflictsW) March 23, 2019
Venezuela operates numerous Russian-made weapons systems so if a small number of Russian troops flies over to offer training or maintenence that is not necessarily unusual. Likewise if the Russians send a delegation of high-ranking generals to discuss this or the other thing with their counterparts.
But when you have both arriving at the same time, and just days after Moscow tells Washington to better treat its “priorities and warnings seriously” that could be something more significant.
Here is one possibility; the Russians which have been propping up the Syrians against Americans for years, including during US cruise missile attacks, are there to share key advice, and to help prop up Venezuelan signals intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities — two crucial fields in a situation like this.
The 35 tons of equipment could be listening devices and electronic jammers of the kind that can shut down drone controls of the kind some permutation of CIA/special operations/opposition gunmen could use to try and assassinate Maduro as in a botched August 2018 attempt. The Russian troops could be there to give their Venezuelan counterparts a crash course in how to use this equipment.
#Trump's #neocon thugs seeking to carry out regime change in Venezuela have been acting like they are desperate for a new war, but they are more likely to try to assassinate Maduro with drones — again — than to send in US ground troops. https://t.co/lqObLyqvX0
— Gareth Porter (@GarethPorter) March 19, 2019