- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.

Can Washington Bribe Russia's Allies to Condemn De-Nazification of Ukraine?

© REUTERS / LEONARDO FERNANDEZ VILORIA / Venezuelan opposition 'Justice First' party demonstration in Caracas against the Russian special military operation in UkraineVenezuelan opposition 'Justice First' party demonstration in Caracas against the Russian special military operation in Ukraine
Venezuelan opposition 'Justice First' party demonstration in Caracas against the Russian special military operation in Ukraine - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.03.2022
US, UK, and European Union sanctions on Russia over the special operation in Ukraine have sent petroleum prices soaring to levels not seen since just before the 2008 "Credit Crunch" recession. Russian oil firms are ironically set to profit while consumers in the West are already seeing their fuel and electricity bills skyrocket.
Now Washington has turned to its declared enemies in South America and the Middle East in a bid to increase supplies of the black gold.
State Department negotiators in the Austrian capital Vienna are scrambling to finalise a deal for Washington’s return to the 2016 JCPOA agreement. The deal guaranteed Iran’s right to peaceful atomic energy and lifted the blockade on its oil exports, in return for allowing regular International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear sites.
US diplomats have also begun meetings with the government of Venezuela, the biggest oil producer in Latin America, to discuss lifting sanctions at their end. Caracas could offer in return to free a handful of US citizens imprisoned in the country — but Washington reportedly wants more.
Those sanctions were gradually ratcheted up over the past two decades since the failed Washington-backed military coup attempt against late president Hugo Chávez in 2002. Under the last US president Donald Trump, the economic stranglehold was tightened to an economically-crippling degree.
Russia and Iran both came to the rescue, the former sending shipments of grain and the latter tankers full of chemicals for its oil refineries — previously sourced from the US — to ease shortages at filling stations.
Venezuela has not exported a single drop of crude oil to the US since June 2019. America imported an average 670,000 barrels of oil and petrochemicals from Russia per day in 2021, which it will have to make up now that President Joe Biden has announced the end of those imports.
Paul Dobson is a British independent journalist and political analyst based in Venezuela. I caught up with him when he returned to the UK for a visit this week.
Sputnik: There are reports that the US government is negotiating with Venezuela about lifting sanctions and the resumption of oil exports, as the price of Brent crude is now more than $130 per barrel due to the conflict in Ukraine. Is this true? What's really going on?
Paul Dobson: It's hard to know the precise details of the talks, but Caracas' agenda has long been focused on a whatever-is-necessary approach to achieve sanction relief.
In this context, it's entirely plausible that the government is willing to meet US officials despite historic differences between them, just as they did meet hard right Venezuelan politicians in Mexico recently, to pursue this objective.

As usual, Venezuela finds itself in the centre of global geopolitics whether it likes it or not.”

Sputnik: What effect have the sanctions had on Venezuela?
Paul Dobson: The criminal blockade against Venezuela has been devastating in exacerbating pre-existing structural economic problems, such as oil or import dependency, as well as handicapping any efforts to overcome the eight-year recessionary crisis.

As is to be expected, it is the Venezuelan people who have suffered instead of government officials or wealthy business sectors, with ongoing power cuts, fuel queues, and even inflation levels being blamed on the sanctions.

While generally Venezuelans recognise the negative impact of the blockade, local opinion is divided, however, as to the extent of this impact, with some analysts pointing to government inefficiency in overcoming the external attacks, as well as elements such as corruption, brain drain, and a recent rightward shift in policy as spearheading some of the day-to-day problems people face.”
Sputnik: How have countries like Russia, China, Iran and Cuba helped Venezuela survive the sanctions?
Paul Dobson: International support from countries willing to brave US sanction threats has been a central policy theme of the Maduro government. From Iranian refinery technicians to Middle Eastern credit lines, Chinese infrastructural development, Cuban doctors and Russian geopolitical backing, Venezuela has been arguably successful in reorienting its international backing since the blockade intensified.
This, however, has limited local development in some cases, with largely private multinational capital absorbing greater portions of the Venezuelan economy and leaving few competitive openings for domestic capital, not to speak of community- or people-owned means of production.

In this context it is hard to understand the government's claim to be ‘building socialism’, and a number of analysts have insisted that when we go beyond government rhetoric it's easy to see that what exists in Venezuela is an outright capitalist system.

That said, international private capital has played a vital role in what seems to be a recent turnaround for the Venezuelan economy, with growth reported for the first time at the end of 2021 and a slowly increasing oil output. However, wages remain dismal and social roll-backs in place, which means we have to ask who is benefiting from this economic turnaround?”
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela January 22, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.03.2022
US Officials Reportedly Make Scant Progress Gauging Venezuela as Alternative Oil Supply
Sputnik: There are reports that the US wants Venezuela to denounce the Russian military operation in Ukraine in return for the lifting of sanctions. How likely is the US to get that concession?
Paul Dobson: In my opinion it is unlikely. Venezuelan-Russian ties are strong and Caracas has depended on Moscow's backing in the global chess game on more than one occasion. To betray that would be foolish and counterproductive.

That said, sanction relief remains Maduro’s primary objective, but I would be surprised if US officials were willing to offer more than crumbs in exchange for a new realignment of Venezuela when it comes to the Ukraine.

Sputnik: Does Maduro have enough leverage over the US, now that filling station pump prices are hitting $7 per US gallon ($1.85 per litre) in some places, to reject any conditions?
Paul Dobson: Given the estimated 80 per cent contraction in the Venezuelan economy since 2014, and the expected impact of sanctions on Russia's capacity to assist allies abroad, I would say that Caracas has more to win from reopening trade relations with a greater range of countries than the US has in accessing Venezuelan oil.
The detained US citizens in Venezuela are not high-profile enough to become powerful bargaining chips for Maduro, and while Venezuelan oil is attractive, low extraction levels reduce its role as any part of any potential Maduro power play to his northern counterparts.

On the other hand, recent events show the extent to which Caracas is anxious to achieve sanction relief at any cost, essentially gifting the White House the trump cards at the negotiation table.

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