Is a Blockade of Venezuela Possible?

US President Donald Trump has not ruled out the possibility that he might go ahead with a blockade of Venezuela and isolate the country, in light of the assistance it receives from Russia, China and Iran. However, such sanctions against Venezuela would play out in a situation where its government structures remain loyal to the current leadership, and time is on the side of the government of Nicolas Maduro, and would only lead to disappointment for the United States, says Boris Martynov, Head of the Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia at MGIMO University.

Washington is unable to force a number of Latin American countries that do not support the self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó to join the blockade. The cessation of Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States may be partly compensated by an increase of its oil exports to China, North Korea, the APEC countries, and Cuba. Paradoxically, Washington’s refusal to launch a direct intervention and its attempt to bring about the economic strangulation of Venezuela may be a good sign for Caracas – it can give the Maduro government respite and a chance to restore the economy and diversify its exports. At the same time, sanctions will only strengthen solidarity with Venezuela among those countries that oppose US hegemony – Russia, China, Iran, Belarus, Mexico, Cuba, Bolivia, Uruguay, etc. This could make Venezuela less “concessive” in its relations with the West.

The example of Cuba here is very appropriate. The United States not only wants to learn from its mistakes, but even insists on repeating them. The psychology of the “besieged fortress” helped Cuba not only extend the existence of the socialist system to the present, but also achieve significant successes in the development of education and healthcare, strengthening its position in the international arena. Moreover, the anti-Cuban sanctions never were total in nature, since initially the United States could not fully link to them even the countries of the Western Hemisphere — Mexico and Canada, and in 1975 the Organisation of American States altogether abolished any obligation to comply with them.

The United States is also unlikely to be able to prevent the passage of aircraft and the ships of third countries to Venezuela, since this is fraught with a repeat of the Caribbean crisis. Of course, neither Russia nor China will enter a direct conflict with the United States over Venezuela, but everyone understands that in the context of a general global imbalance and the presence of unpredictable leaders like Donald Trump, events can easily slip out of the control. The second “Caribbean crisis” may be the last one.

Washington is unlikely to take such a step – its geopolitical position in the world is clearly weakening. It does not dare to engage in open confrontation, not only with countries like Russia and China, but even with Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, preferring a policy of sanctions. Even the countries of the so-called “right turn” in Latin America don’t support a military intervention in Venezuela. This clearly indicates that Washington does not have “free hands” in its own “sphere of influence.” 

Therefore, sanctions – no matter who they are targeted at – are a symbol of the growing weakness of the United States, not its strength. They practically “guarantee” that Venezuela will maintain its independence from the United States, which, given the aggravation of the global geopolitical confrontation and the US withdrawing from a number of international agreements, particularly the INF Treaty, objectively “plays into the hands” of Russia’s interests.

Venezuela: Two for Tango and the Voyeurs
Andrés Serbin
The good news is that dialogue between Washington and Moscow regarding Venezuela seems to be re-established. But this is not the only game in town: many various actors will try to have a say regarding any negotiations that eventually will follow after Sochi.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.