Sputnik: What's your take now on Juan Guaido's latest comments on the expulsion of this German diplomat posing a threat to Germany?
Patrick Henningsen: I think this is getting into murky waters from a legality point of view, and this really all comes down to how you define what the authority is of what the United States and its allies deem as the interim president of Venezuela and if this interim president who's been appointed by fiat by the United States, and by all the looks of it strong-arming its allies into compliance on this issues, as it does with sanctions across the board with other countries including Russia, Syria, Iran and now Venezuela. It does set a very dangerous precedent, I can't understand how anybody would accept this level of, I don't know how to describe it, but it's unprecedented and the fact that they're trying this on is amazing.
Patrick Henningsen: I don't know, this is a difficult area again for the same reasons. I don't see how the EU legally has any grounds for sanctions against Venezuela; in fact, they probably don't. If this went to an international court or any kind of international tribunal I'm sure they would have to rule in favour of the government in Caracas because they're a sovereign nation represented in the United Nations.
So could we possibly see the embryonic beginnings of a some sort of an international body of arbitration to deal with the issue of sanctions? This is meant to be done at the UN level, but the UN seems to be toothless on this issue, and so the United States has just been free to wage freehand economic warfare and economic statecraft, punitive sanctions against anybody who deems to be a target and has managed somehow to get some of these allies on their side. The reason they're on the US's side on these issues is because they themselves as allies of the US don't want to be the target of secondary sanctions. So the United States is not only threatening its enemies, it's also threatening its allies and that's the main point of this story.
Sputnik: What effect have these sanctions actually had against Maduro and his government or is it just being felt by the population of Venezuela, what's your understanding?
When I say bilateral it could also means small multilateral clusters like Venezuela will be teaming up with Russia, China, Iran, Bolivia and some of its allies in the region, Nicaragua and Cuba, and forming these kind of like nonaligned movement-type multilateral agreements on a smaller basis. So the United States will want to basically cut off Venezuela from as many markets as it can globally, especially the oil market. That's actually the reason for this aggression, in my opinion, against Venezuela and Iran, as they manage effectively to knock them out of the oil market, so the United States is going to pick up the short end of that supply.
Saudi Arabia and other countries will benefit as well, Russia will benefit from that as well. But the problem is that Venezuela has a very weak fundamental economy in terms of producing its own food; they don't have a booming agricultural sector, they rely on so many different imports, so they're going to suffer in ways that may be Iran won't; it is slightly more resilient in developing its domestic economy having been under sanctions for 20 years. Russia has developed a resilient domestic manufacturing sector and has solidified its banking sector and reduced overall debt levels on corporations; all of those things have made Russia resilient to sanctions and to the oil shock that has devastated other countries such as Venezuela.
Sputnik: Patrick, I have been discussing this theme with Dmitry Babich, radio Sputnik's political analyst, and referring to a situation where the lawmakers within Venezuela have made a judgment that if Guaido actually left the country and then came back, he was likely to be arrested for not complying with the judgment, now that occurrence has actually happened, he's come back to the country and he has not been arrested, is that showing a sign of weakness of Maduro and his government now?
Patrick Henningsen: It's quite the opposite, it's a sign of strength because he is being accused of being a brutal dictator by the United States and his allies and in any other country if a dissident like that threatened to overthrow the US government and struck deals and was declared president of the United States by China and Russia, they'd be arrested as soon as they arrived at Kennedy Airport, so the fact that he's allowed to walk shows that Venezuela is not a closed society like it's been depicted in international media, they're not the brutal dictator authoritarian regime that's advertised, and that's proof positive. So I think it works long-term into the benefit of the Maduro government in Caracas, I think it does benefit them long-term.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.