Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Venezuela (and Cuba?) as a Trading Chip for Russia

Do Russians Want Reciprocal Monroe Doctrines for their Near Abroad?

During Fiona Hill's impeachment deposition there is an odd reference to the Russians wanting to link their role in Venezuela to the US role in Ukraine, both have Monroe Doctrine type concerns. 

If accurate, would they also make a similar deal with Cuba as the bargaining chip?  Hill is known as hard line on Russia so perhaps she has her own motive.  

The text follows.

joint with the

and the
Monday, October 14, 2019

[Fiona Hill]  it becomes clear that they were certainly up to no good. But that was what I was already hearing.

And I was also told by Amos and other colleagues that they had some linkages, so I also want to, you know, get you to step back at this period. This is, you know, March, April, into May, where we were having a standoff over Venezuela . And the Russians at this particular juncture were signaling very strongly that they wanted to somehow make some very strange swap arrangement between Venezuela and Ukraine.

In other words, if we were going to exert some semblance of the Monroe Doctrine of, you know, Russia keeping out of our backyard, because this is after the Russians had sent in these hundred operatives essentially to , you know , basically secure the Venezuelan Government and , you know , to preempt what they were obviously taking to be some kind of U.S. military action, they were basically signaling: You know, you have your Monroe doctrine. You want us out of your backyard . Well , you know , we have our own version of this.

You're in our backyard in Ukraine. And we were getting that sent to us , you know , kind of informally through channels .

It was in the Russian press , various commentators .

And I was asked to go out to Russia in this time frame to basically tell the Russians to knock this off. I was given a special assignment by the National Security Council with the agreement with the State Department to get the Russians to back off.

So , in the course of my discussions with my colleagues, I also found out that there were Ukrainian energy interests that had been in the mix in Venezuelan energy sectors as well as the names again of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, and this gentleman Harry Sargeant came up. And my colleagues said these guys were notorious in Florida and that they were very bad news.


MR. ZELDIN: That's why I'm asking the question.
So specifically with regards to the first round of questions, you stated something about Venezuela and Russia.

Do you recall talking about some type of

DR. HILL: Yes. I said that the Russians signaled, including publicly through the press and through press articles that's the way that they operate that they were interested in they laid it out in articles, I mean a lot of them in Russian but, you know, obviously, your staff and Congressional Research Service can find them for you positing that, as the U.S. was so concerned about the Monroe Doctrine and its own backyard, perhaps the U.S. might also be then concerned about developments in Russia's backyard as in Ukraine, making it very obvious that they were trying to set up some kind of let's just say: You stay out of Ukraine or you move out of Ukraine , you change your position on Ukraine, and, you know, we'll rethink where we are with Venezuela.
And I said that I went to Moscow. It wasn't a classified trip because I was going to meet with Russians.

And in the course of those discussions, it was also apparent , including with a Russian think tank and other members, that the Russian Government was interested in having a discussion about Venezuela and Ukraine.
MR. ZELDIN: And just for my own knowledge then, so that's something that it's all been publicly reported, everything's unclassified there?

DR. HILL: It's been reported and that the Russians, the Russians themselves made it very clear in unclassified public settings that they were interested at some point in -- and, in fact , it was even reported in the press that I had gone to Russia , by someone that asked a question of our State Department officials in doing a press briefing: Had I gone to Russia at the time to make a trade between Venezuela and Ukraine? It was asked as a question to Christopher Robinson during a press briefing at the State Department.

MR. ZELDIN : Did you state earlier that there was a nexus between Rudy Giuliani associates and Venezuela?

DR. HILL: I was told that by the directors working on the Western Hemisphere. I didn't have a chance to look into this in any way. I was told that the same individuals who had been indicted had been interested at different points in energy investments in Venezuela and that this was quite well-known.


This is what I wrote in our last Vietnam newsletter:

The Problem of China

a personal perspective

Big power hegemony may be the defining problem of the 21st Century. Just as Cuba must deal with the US and Ukraine with Russia, South East Asia has to contend with the growing power and arrogance of China. Vietnam faces the biggest risk with contested maritime claims and a long land border, most recently invaded four decades ago. China has sent oil equipment into Vietnamese waters, blocked Vietnamese sponsored international oil exploration and damaged Vietnamese and Philippine fishing boats. It has turned uninhabited islets into military outposts and threatened other countries' naval passage. Just as Russia for its interests provides support to Cuba, the US allies with Vietnam and Ukraine, upping the strategic ante for all concerned and affecting domestic policies. The potential of unintended escalation to armed conflict over navigation rights and natural resources should not be ignored.

Most recently the US Coast Guard has been deployed in reaction to the assertiveness of the Chinese coast guard as reported in Asia Times.

The Times of India sounded a regional alarm "Crossing a red line: Chinese transgressions in South China Sea need strong pushback"

The Eurasia Review editorialized that "ASEAN Leaders Must Condemn Illegal Acts In South China Sea"

Full newsletter    https://conta.cc/2NyGLMP


I should be clear that I no more criticize Cuba for reaching out to Russia than I do the Vietnamese for reaching out to the US.  The realities of national survival and sovereignty in the shadow of a neighboring superpower require judicious acts of balancing.

That aside, I think there is a real possibility that the best way to understand President Trump’s behavior in the last three years is that he is strongly influenced by Putin for undetermined reasons.  His actions in Syria make no sense otherwise.  The betrayal of the Kurds was bound to result in anger in the Republican party and the conservative interest groups, people who were already angry about his delay in sending weapons to support the Ukrainian government.  The Ukraine drama is most often seen as pursuit of his own political interests against Biden, but also fits into the theme of serving Russian goals.

Trump Administration actions against Cuba are usually attributed to determination to be the antithesis of Obama, to Florida's electoral votes. to the influence of Sen. Rubio, or to the maneuvering of John Bolton and Mauricio Claver-Carone in the NSC.  However, it may also be that the underlying motive for the steady deterioration of a US role in Cuba is the advance of Russian strategic interests.  Surrender to health attacks on US diplomatic and intelligence staff, the gutting of the US and Cuban embassies, serious damage to US travel and Venezuela linked sanctions have pushed Cuba to seek greater assistance from Russia and given Vladimir Putin more leverage in the relationship.

Policy toward Cuba should be added to retreat from international leadership, undermining NATO, withdrawal from the Iran and Paris agreements. and the betrayal of the Kurds as symptoms of a deeper malaise.

John McAuliff

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