The Editorial Board
Putin Pulls a Syria in Venezuela
Alexei Nikolsky /AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs
a Security Council meeting in Moscow, March 29.
The Russian is betting he can prop up Maduro at little political cost.
Vladimir Putin has made a career of intervening abroad and seeing if the world lets him get away with it. He did this in Georgia when George W. Bush was President, then in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria in Barack Obama's Presidency. Now he's doing the same on Donald Trump's watch—this time in America's backyard in Venezuela.
Two planes arrived in Caracas last weekend with 100 Russian troops, and in recent years Russia has provided cash, food and weapons to prop up the regime of Nicolás Maduro. The U.S. has thrown its support behind Juan Guaidó, the interim president chosen by the National Assembly and backed by nearly every country in the region. But Mr. Putin is betting that with a limited military and financial investment he can keep Mr. Maduro in power, expand his control over Venezuela's oil company, impress the world with his moxie, and embarrass Mr. Trump.
The Russian has Mr. Trump's attention. Russia “has to get out,” the U.S. President said this week at the White House, which sounds like an invocation of the Monroe Doctrine.
White House national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement Friday clearly aimed at Russia: “We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations. We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region.”
Sounds good, but words aren't likely to be enough to move Mr. Putin, who knows Mr. Trump is averse to sending U.S. troops abroad. The U.S. has been hoping that sanctions and international pressure will cause Mr. Maduro to fall, but Russia's intervention and Cuban intelligence make that less likely.
Mr. Trump's credibility is now on the line. If he doesn't want to be humiliated in our own hemisphere, he needs a strategy to get Russia and Mr. Maduro out of power in Caracas.
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