by Andrew Korybko
PART I: The US’ Geopolitical War Against Venezuela
Ever since the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has been the brightest multipolar beacon in the Western Hemisphere. Although Brazil is much larger and wealthier, some Latin American states have expressed fear about its future intentions, believing that ‘multipolarity’ is simply a slogan to justify Brasilia’s soft expansion into regional markets and resource reserves and replace Washington’s historical position. Venezuela is thus a much more attractive model to Latin America because it’s clearly motivated by none other than ideological considerations, and its shared language and history with the other former Spanish colonies gives them a degree of familiarity and comfort with the country that they could never fully experience with Brazil.
The natural resource wealth that Venezuela has been endowed with makes it capable of spreading its influence all across the region, which it has institutionalized through the ALBA grouping . For these very reasons, Venezuela is a prime target of the US’ unipolar ‘rebound from the past couple of years, and other than the near-continual asymmetrical attempt at a Color Revolution, the US’ anti-Venezuelan campaign has also taken concrete geopolitical dimensions as well. Three countries (Cuba, Colombia, and Guyana) are being used as proxies of destabilizing influence against Venezuela, and each one fulfills a unique role in advancing the larger American strategy at play. Taken together, the US’ relationship with each of them forms the basis of a containment coalition against Caracas, which if left unchecked, can lead to the dismemberment of ALBA and the stationing of American military units (both ground and naval) right next to Venezuela’s borders.
The article begins by describing how each of these three states is being used by the US to contain Venezuela, with exposes into Cuba and Colombia’s role being contained in the first part. The second part begins by detailing Guyana’s role in all of this, and then summaries the strategic consequences of the emerging trilateral containment of Venezuela. Finally, a set of policy recommendations that Caracas must urgently adhere if it is to survive the coming intensification of strategic and military pressure against it concludes the analytical piece.
Cuba As The Cause Of Multipolar Confusion
At the end of a year that had already brought the world such political surprises as the EuroMaidan coup, the Crimea Reunification, and the rise of ISIL, President Obama announced that the US and Cuba had been engaged in secret negotiations to reestablish diplomatic relations. At the time, the author urged the global public, overwhelmingly pro-Cuban, to exercise caution and restraint in over-enthusiastically describing the developments as a victory for Cuba. The audience was reminded that the US didn’t pursue this decision in a vacuum, and that there were clear geopolitical motivations behind it, specifically to split ALBA and destabilize the rest of its member states (notably Nicaragua and Venezuela). Going further, the author investigated the strategic consequences of the proposed move and showed that Raul Castro risked reversing the entire Cuban Revolution, concluding that the country had essentially surrendered without a shot after its valiant half-century-long resistance made it a legendary actor in the global consciousness.
The entire episode was presented as a victory for Cuba at the US’ expense, but the reality has always been the opposite. The US gladly sucked up the ‘loss’ in order to strategically disarm the rest of the Western Hemisphere’s multipolar states, who were now led to believe that if Cuba, one of the global leaders of the anti-American political resistance, could cut a deal with the US, why couldn’t they? The premature celebratory atmosphere and Raul’s absurd proclamation that “Obama is an honest man” made many people, even in the region, forget that Obama’s first coup was actually against Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in 2009 and how the US exploited Haiti’s 2010 catastrophe in order to occupy it indefinitely . Still, because the act was agreed upon by two sovereign governments, the rest of the world, even those who may have harbored geostrategic suspicions about Cuba’s move and recognized the ridiculousness of Raul’s pro-Obama rhetoric, were forced into issuing surface statements of support that echoed the reactionary global sentiment.
The US’ flipping of Cuba was intended to achieve three goals, two of which it has already met:
Create Ideological Confusion:
Washington succeeded in sowing confusion between the multipolar states in the region, which were now forced to second-guess their ideological commitment to opposing the US after their role model was unexpectedly revealed to have been in top-secret negotiations with it for a couple of years already. Countries like Venezuela now had to consider under what circumstances they, too, would cut a deal with the US if it came to it. Would it be after implicit threats had been issued against it, or after a Color Revolution had been attempted? How about in the midst of a heavy economic war? The point here is that while the idea had previously been to weather the storm as long as possible, using Cuba as an inspiration, the entire paradigm changed when Havana opened up talks with Washington, and now a negotiated surrender of sorts seems not only ideologically possible, but perhaps even admirable.
Push Venezuela To A ‘Compromise’:
Continuing along the trajectory of the first goal, the US wants to pressure Venezuela to the point where it’s forced to enter into a similar surrender agreement as Cuba, although one that’s of course also falsely marketed as a ‘defeat’ for Washington. Venezuela, strategically vulnerable as a result of Cuba’s compromised geopolitical and ideological position per the Raul deal, has actually initiated steps towards this move. According to a Reuters report uncoincidentally released on the same day that Obama announced the date for the restoration of American-Cuban diplomatic relations, President Maduro made the overtures in the midst of an aggressive Color Revolution campaign , the designation of his country as a ‘ national security threat ’ to the US, and a failed coup and assassination plot . He obviously didn’t intend to negotiate from a position of strength, but likely initiated the dialogue anyhow because, after all, if Cuba could do it under arguably less pressing circumstances, why couldn’t Venezuela do so in a much worse situation? It remains to be seen how far this process will go and whether Caracas will eventually agree to make any geopolitical concessions as a form of ‘safety payment’ to Uncle Sam or if this is all just a time-buying tactic, but it’s important to highlight that this development wouldn’t have even been conceivable had it not been for Cuba’s symbolic capitulation to the US first.
Manufacture A Crisis In Venezuelan-Cuban Relations:
Should Venezuela not accede to the US’ demands, then it’s likely that Washington will eventually try to manufacture a fake crisis between Caracas and Havana in a bid to divide the two ideological allies along the template of a 21st-century Sino-Soviet split. Both states stand in ideological alignment within ALBA, but the emergence of some forthcoming source of friction between them (perhaps naturally stemming from the result of Raul’s surrender or emerging differences over FARC) could fatefully divide the bloc into two camps, much as the Sino-Soviet split divided the communist world. Given that ALBA is a much smaller, weaker, and looser model of integration than the communist bloc, it’s expected that such a division between its two major poles could quickly lead to its unravelling and would take the multipolar governments of Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia down with it. In order for this scenario to happen, some form of disagreement must emerge between Venezuela and Cuba, and with the latter buddying up with the US lately out of desperation to seal the diplomatic deal, it’s predicted that it’ll be the one to take the first step in souring bilateral ties when the time eventually comes.
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Overall, Venezuela’s threat assessment of Cuba is strictly of a strategic nature and doesn’t have any military component behind it, although that isn’t in any way to underestimate the potential for destabilization emanating from the island’s pivot. The US’ co-opting of Cuba is the Latin American relationship that has had the most immediate effects on Venezuela’s national security, albeit in an indirect way, since it’s already led to it entering into secret talks with Washington after having survived a string of failed Color Revolutions, coups, and assassination plots. The only reason Venezuela would deign to speak to the US after such blatant affronts to its sovereignty (to say nothing of the intense economic war being waged against its people) and risk contradicting its proud anti-American rhetoric is because the deal with Cuba showed that it’s acceptable for beleaguered multipolar states to eventually throw in the towel of resistance, provided of course that the US helps them save face by calling it a ‘victory’ and goes along with the entire charade. In the future, if Venezuela doesn’t surrender (which it doesn’t seem likely to do), then it may find itself engaged in an unfriendly regional competition with its former ideological mentor, prodded on by the US, in what could likely lead to at least a few multipolar casualties (e.g. Ecuador, Nicaragua) in the region.
Creating A Casus Belli For Colombia
Colombia has functioned as the US’ Lead From Behind proxy for decades already, and it’s not predicted that this relationship will change anytime soon. If anything, it’ll only strengthen, and the impetus for this is the US’ geopolitical war against Venezuela. It’s well-known that the two Andean neighbors don’t exactly have a recent history of cordial relations with one another (although they’ve lately been somewhat on the mend), and they almost went to war in 2008 after Colombia staged a unilateral special forces operation against FARC in Venezuelan-allied Ecuador, so the there’s certainly an atmosphere of exploitable hostility and mistrust that’s developed between them. While the US can certainly use Colombia as a staging ground for anti-Venezuelan destabilization operations (special forces deployments, information warfare hubs, etc.), the country’s real potential opens up once the FARC conflict is finally resolved.
Herein lies the overlap between the US’ moves in Cuba and Colombia. The FARC peace talks have been ongoing in Havana, which has just pivoted towards the US. As a result of the island’s foreign policy reversal towards the US, Washington reciprocated by removing Havana from the list of ‘ state sponsors of terrorism ’. The sticking point is that the US officially designates FARC, which Cuba has had ties to in the past, as a terrorist organization, although it recognizes that Havana hasn’t provided any material support to it, ergo its removal from the list. An interesting diplomatic tango is going on here, whereby the US removed Cuba from the politically minded ‘state terrorism’ list not only as a prerequisite for the resumption of bilateral relations (and to give Cuba a symbolic victory), but also with the expectation that the quid pro quo would be for Havana to sincerely press the group to reach an historic peace accord. With the US, Colombia, and Cuba all pushing for peace, the likelihood for an historic breakthrough increases, which, although it’s long overdue and theoretically in everyone’s interests to see happen (including Venezuela’s), could predictably lead to long-term negative consequences for Caracas.
Here’s the four-step anti-Venezuelan plan that the US would like to see come into effect after a Colombia-FARC agreement is reached:
1. Colombian Military Deployment Along The Venezuelan Border:
As it stands, FARC has lost a tremendous amount of its territory since 2002, now only occupying various niches scattered haphazard throughout the country. Still, the group’s existence and its recently renewed campaign against the government (even in light of the ongoing peace negotiations) creates a less than desirable security situation for the country, and accordingly detracts from a significant military focus along the Venezuelan border. Should FARC be neutralized, however, then the Colombian military could reverse this state of affairs and concentrate more on the country’s external security as opposed to its internal one. As such, it’s likely that Colombia’s military will strengthen its position along the border and reinforce strategic areas. In the event of future hostilities with Venezuela, this could give the Colombians a decisive edge and tilt the balance of power in its favor, especially if Caracas has to contend with a simultaneous threat from Guyana (to be described later). This change of affairs would ironically place Venezuela in the same position that Colombia once found itself in during 2008, when it was between two potential foes (Venezuela and Ecuador) and on the verge of war with both.
2. More US Bases:
The US already has a handful of bases in Colombia, but following the conclusion of the FARC conflict, it’ll probably expand its military footprint even more. Ostensible ‘justification’ for such deployments could be to help the Colombian government ‘reinforce control’ over the formerly rebel-administered zones (a derivation of the US argument for giving military assistance to Kiev), and it doesn’t matter whether the military presence is permanent, rotating, or part of an extended ‘training’ regimen (again, like Ukraine ). In essence it’s all the same, since the US won’t withdraw from Colombia just as it won’t pick up and leave from Germany, and just as it crept ever eastward towards Russia after the end of the Cold War in Europe, it’ll do the same in regards to Venezuela after the FARC war in Colombia. The combination of US and Colombian military deployment and hand-in-hand cooperation along Venezuela’s borders would lead to a deterioration of the security situation and offer tempting opportunities for staging a false-flag attack.
3. Aggressive Colombian Claims For The Guajira Peninsula And Related Maritime Area:
As it stands, Colombia controls the vast majority of the Guajira Peninsula, with Venezuela only administering a tiny sliver along Lake Maracaibo. Still, as a result of its control over the Los Monjes islands (basically tiny, inhospitable rocks) at the lake’s entrance to the Caribbean, Venezuela is able to exercise sovereignty over the entire oil-rich area, which forms the bedrock of its natural resource industry, and the Gulf of Venezuela that connects it to the outside world. Colombia has taken issue with this since the 1950s , and the dispute once more resurfaced after Maduro released Decree 1787 on 26 May to create Operating Zones of Integral Maritime and Insular Defence (Zodimain) along the Colombian and Guyanese maritime borders. Per its relation to Colombia, Bogota is incensed that it’s now cut out of the opportunity to control its neighbor’s most critical maritime trading route, and it’s possible that it could try to transnationalize the crisis by bringing the US in on its side. Such a development would surely increase the geopolitical pressure on Venezuela, and might even see the US beefing up its forward operating locations in nearby Aruba and Curacao. Furthermore, the Fourth Fleet might even decide to set up a ‘temporary’ location in Colombia’s planned state-of-the-art naval facility in Tierrabomba, right near Cartagena and within operational capacity of the Guajira Peninsula.
4. Chase FARC Into Venezuela:
The final step of the US’ ideal plan in Colombia would be for the country’s military to ‘chase’ renegade FARC units into Venezuela, preferably at a time when the country is undergoing the height of Color Revolution destabilization. The pretense would be simple enough – rogue FARC units would be accused of operating cross-border and exploiting Venezuela’s domestic difficulties, which would give Colombia the ‘justification’ it needs for surgical strikes against its neighbor. If this sounds like the same thing that happened in Ecuador in 2008, it’s because it is, just this time, with Venezuela much weaker than it previously was, such brazen breaches of national sovereignty could now be directed to the east with the intent of decisively shifting its neighbor’s domestic balance of power towards the side of the Color Revolutionaries. Expanding upon this scenario, it might just so happen that the Colombian military ‘tracks’ the supposed FARC fighters to the Guajira Peninsula, and the resultant military intervention there could lead to a fait accompli of Colombian control over disputed mainland territories. This would carry over into a change of maritime boundaries (the main purpose) that would give Colombia control over the primary access point to Venezuela’s critical oil reserves, Lake Maracaibo.
Because of the concrete geopolitical benefits that this scenario would entail, it’s meant to infer that any potential cross-border anti-FARC raids on Venezuelan territory would only be staged by Colombia in the midst of its neighbor’s deteriorating domestic situation, most likely a partially successful Color Revolution. In fact, there might not be any cross-border FARC fighters to begin with, but if Colombia’s information apparatus (aided by the US’ global communication networks like CNN) manages to coordinate a buildup of hype concurrent with the escalation of a Color Revolution campaign in Venezuela, then it could create the ‘plausible pretexts’ for at least threatening such an intervention. This in turn would keep the Venezuelan military on edge and unable to fully deploy in the cities experiencing the worst unrest, as they would have to retain a sizeable enough deterrent force on the Colombian border to guard against the possible threat. Thus, even if Colombia never crosses over into Venezuelan territory, the mere threat of doing so in the context of a full-scale Color Revolution could be enough to achieve the desired power tilt that the anti-Venezuelan forces are looking for, and the successful completion of the regime change operation could bring to power a pro-Colombian government that’s amenable to changing maritime and/or land borders to Bogota’s favor.
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The threat coming from Colombia is of a classic military nature and seeks to physical contain Venezuela. While its consequences would be severe, much of the plan is ultimately contingent on the resolution of the FARC war. The longer that the conflict drags on for, the more time Venezuela can gain for itself in crafting an adequate defense against such military-political intrigue, thereby meaning that although it’s in favor of a peaceful settlement, it does acquire a certain strategic edge if the reconciliation process can be prolonged as much as possible. While it’s indeed possible that the US could deepen its military commitment to Colombia if the FARC war intensifies, it may not be able to project the coordinated force against Venezuela that it envisions if the domestic conflict is still ongoing or is not yet fully resolved. Additionally, since it’s expected that US forces will continue their involvement in Colombia after the war anyhow, from Caracas’ strategic perspective, it’s better for them to focus more on FARC for as long as possible before they set their full attention on Venezuela. Even if a peace treaty is signed tomorrow, it will still take some time for government control to be entirely reestablished throughout all regions of Colombia, meaning that the abovementioned scenario of anti-Venezuelan destabilization is one to prepare for in the near future (at the earliest), but which has yet to see immediate consequences for the time being, although this could of course change pending an unexpected escalation of the Guajira Peninsula and related maritime dispute.
The 2nd part of this report will be posted tomorrow