The shot at Caracas

The currently unfolding crisis in Venezuela presents another hopeful in the long series of tragic mistakes of political math.

February 23, 2019 21:10
3 minute read.
The shot at Caracas

Juan Guaido, President of Venezuela's National Assembly, holds a copy of Venezuelan constitution during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in Caracas, Venezuela January 23, 20. (photo credit: CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/ REUTERS)


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Many, if not most, catastrophic events of modern history started with incidents of minor significance. Their marginality helped the major powers of the time to appear completely unprepared, then to overreact and finally to miscalculate.

“The shot at Sarajevo” that assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand is perhaps the most famous example of that behavior.

The Second Defenestration of Prague that set the Thirty Years’ War in motion is another one of arguably no less historical significance. We may recount many more.

The currently unfolding crisis in Venezuela presents another hopeful in the long series of tragic mistakes of political math.

Latin and South America have been US’s political backyard since the day of the announcement of the Monroe Doctrine almost 200 years ago. Cuba, Nicaragua and Chile were all Soviet attempts (some successful and some less so) at challenging American supremacy in the region.

Those Soviet rendezvous had little to do with the countries in question, but everything to do with the grand struggle of the time. Now comes Vladimir Putin’s Russia with its obsession with glory, honor and love for sitcoms – hence, these recent remakes of the Cold War, with the same characters who are now much older and their kids all grown up.

Russia’s engagement with Venezuela goes back to the days of the original Cold War. It intensified during the early years of the Chavez regime purely to spite the Americans.

However, as it routinely does these days, that process of interference morphed into deep financial interests predicated on the regime’s survival.

Former pro forma Communist ideology has been replaced by hate for America and dubious financial schemes. Iran and China play second fiddle in this mostly Russian orchestra, though China’s approach is more nuanced as it attempts to preserve its financial interests by paying both sides. Iran’s involvement is limited to showing its middle finger to the United States.

To help itself with this newly found thirst for adventure, Russia has developed this new concept of hybrid war.

The concept, as most Russian inventions in the sphere of politics, is nothing other than a brute force intervention based on the “green men” (Russian soldiers without insignia), clever pimping of useful idiots abroad and absolute unwillingness of the modern democracies to engage in military conflicts.

This approach worked in Crimea, Syria and to some degree in Eastern Ukraine. In all those cases the Kremlin has correctly calculated the US’s unwillingness (at every government level up to the White House) to seriously engage and confront. But as Comrade Stalin in his famous piece “Dizzy with Success” (praising “successful” collectivization campaign) clearly warned, one must be careful not to get carried away by the victory.

Venezuela is a different story. Here, US has no choice but to insist on its interest and confront any foreign power attempting to change the status quo in the region.

The main reason why US has not intervened earlier in a more forceful way is the belief (proving to be correct) in Washington that the policies of the Socialist government would lead to its eventual collapse. Now that the time has finally arrived, nothing will stand between US and the climax of its decades-long policy.

The main concern is that Mr. Putin (the Iranians and the Chinese seem to understand the situation in a much clearer way) will push a little harder and try his model of subversion on the third continent.

There are already rumors (though of questionable validity) of the “green men” already present in Caracas. The government of President Nicolás Maduro is preparing for the prolong fight for its survival, but without direct Russian help it stands no chance.

We should only hope the Kremlin understands that its circus act, though it travels far and wide, is not a hit in every town and village. Nobody needs “the shot at Caracas,” least of all the long suffering people of Venezuela.

The author lives and works in Silicon Valley, California. He is a founding member of San Francisco Voice for Israel.

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