Trump’s Silly and Dangerous Venezuela Ultimatum
Trump just made some more irresponsible threats over Venezuela:
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Russia to pull its troops from Venezuela and warned that “all options” were open to make that happen.
Trump’s demand is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because Russia is all but certain to ignore it and keep the troops they have sent to Venezuela where they are, and it is dangerous because it suggests that he might try to use force to expel Russian troops that are there are the invitation of the de facto government. The presence of Russian forces in Venezuela drives home that the U.S.-backed “interim” president is still completely powerless two months after the U.S. recognized him. It also tells us that Maduro and his supporters in the Venezuelan military have no intention of giving up anytime soon, and they are instead hunkering down for a prolonged standoff.
When the president says, “Russia has to get out,” this is more of the same “do something” rhetoric we have heard in the past when a president declares that such-and-such leader “must go” without having any idea how difficult or costly it would be to make him go. Russia doesn’t “have to” withdraw its forces from Venezuela, and it makes no sense for the U.S. to be risking conflict with the Venezuelan and Russian governments over their presence. The Russian deployment is a small token force, but it shows that they are going to lend some tangible support to Maduro that the regime changers in the administration failed to anticipate. The administration’s misguided and wrongheaded push for regime change in Venezuela keeps running into predictable obstacles, and it ought to be abandoned before it gets the U.S. into another unnecessary war.
There will now inevitably be more demands for U.S. intervention to “counter” Russia’s support for Maduro, but further escalation and militarization of the crisis are the very last things that Venezuela needs. Many administration officials and allies are looking for an excuse to escalate U.S. involvement, and Congress needs to make clear that they won’t support any military options in Venezuela. The president is foolishly making threats that he can’t back up without risking a war, and Congress needs to step in and explicitly reject intervention before things get out of control.