Analysis from Foreign Policy Review and the Miami Herald indicate the likelihood that China and Russia will continue to pay for a lot of influence in Venezuela and will build on existing relationships.
The current situation in Venezuela is untenable. Oil production is declining, public unrest is spreading, inflation is up nearly 13,000 percentage points in the last two months, and military and civilian elites are becoming increasingly dissatisfied. A military coup seems likely.
However, Russia, China, and Cuba all currently have extensive and friendly relations with the Venezuelan military.
Russian, Chinese, and Cuban engagement with the Venezuelan armed forces has increased exponentially over the last decade — Venezuelan personnel have been attending Russian and Chinese military schools for years, and Venezuela is the top buyer in Latin America for Russian and Chinese military equipment. As for the Cubans, their security forces started providing technical assistance on the ground to the Venezuelan military shortly after the last — arguably U.S.-inspired — coup attempt in 2002.
In the event of a coup, these existing ties mean that the priorities of Moscow, Beijing, and Havana will likely prevail over Washington’s in managing a military transition. Moscow has experience in this regard. Russia and the Soviet Union before it supported the rise and maintenance of authoritarian regimes in Latin America — including Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Fidel Castro in Cuba, and military dictators such as Juan Velasco Alvarado in Peru.
A Russia and China-backed coup could help both countries get additional rights to exploit Venezuela’s oil fields. In exchange, China and Russia may offer new grace periods on Venezuela’s debts and technical assistance to revamp the country’s oil production.
“The Chinese and Russians would be running the oil fields, paying off the corrupt Venezuelan elites, and paying enough rent to keep the Venezuelan military happy, while extracting oil for their own strategic benefit,” Ellis told me. “That would assure them the continuation of a friendly regime in close proximity to U.S. shores.”