Saturday, February 2, 2019

Venezuelan Crisis Highlights Varied Calculations by Post-Soviet Countries, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 1 – The crisis in Venezuela has called attention to the increasing division between what used to be called East and West, between Russia, China, South Africa, and Turkey, and the US, the EU countries, and most of Latin America, according to the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta.

            That division has attracted enormous attention, but Venezuela has also brought into sharp focus the increasing divisions among the countries of the former Soviet space, divisions that are driven by the national interests of the various countries, the editors of the Moscow paper say in a lead article (

            If Russia is on one side, the paper notes, Georgia is on the other, not only because of its desire to distinguish itself in the eyes of Washington” but also because of it hope that a new Venezuelan government will withdraw the recognition the Chavez-Maduro regime extended to the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

            Those two entities, Nezavisimaya gazeta continues, are showing a somewhat more “contradictory” approach. The leaders of both attended Maduro’s inauguration, hopeful that Venezuela would provide them with needed assistance. But the economy of that Latin American country has tanked, and they no longer can hope for much.

            Indeed, the likelihood is that a post-Madurov government would revisit the issue of the recognition of the two that Chavez extended. 

            Belarus is also very much interested in the situation in Venezuela. Alyaksandr Lukashenka made a deal with Caracas for oil to substitute for the petroleum he had been getting from Russia but a supply that is in question given tensions between Minsk and Moscow.  To make that possible, Minsk has been investing in Venezuela but is unlikely to see a return.

            Whatever outcome there is in Caracas, Minsk can count on only a partial repayment of the debt, but not now or anytime soon. “In a word,” the editors, say, Belarus finds itself in the very same position that Russia does.” But Minsk is taking a more cautious wait-and-see approach to events there.

            Lukashenka’s line in this case may be the product of simple pragmatism, the editors continue. But he may be taking a longer view, possibly considering offering one or another Venezuelan leader political asylum much as he has done with Kurmanbek Bakiiyev, the former president of Kyrgyzstan.

            What is important about this editorial is the following: Instead of viewing what this or that post-Soviet state is doing only through the lens of its attitude in support or opposition of Russia’s position, the paper is arguing that each of the countries in the region has its own complex calculus for doing what it does.

            That is a lesson many in Moscow and not only there have not yet learned. 

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