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In a new publication on the relationship between Russia and Venezuela, Russian scholar Vladimir Rouvinski argues that U.S. sanctions against Rosneft Trading, SA, imposed in February 2020, “jeopardize Moscow’s existing approach to Venezuela, which relies heavily on the energy sector.”  Previously, and for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, “Russia managed to veto Washington’s attempt at regime change in a country of the Western Hemisphere friendly to Russia.”

According to Rouvinski, Russian political and security elites view the Venezuelan situation through the lens of a “global process in which Russia struggles to ensure its just place in the international arena,” thwarting attempts by Western powers to reduce its political and economic autonomy.  Rosneft—and Venezuela—are also key to Vladimir Putin’s effort to “sustain and expand” Russia’s role as a global energy supplier. 

At the same time, Russian involvement in Venezuela has “laid bare the many limitations of Russian policy,” not only a shortage of financial resources but also the weak governance capacity of the chavista government.  While Russia has sent military personnel to Venezuela, assisted with oil sales to skirt U.S. sanctions, and defended the Maduro regime in the United Nations, Rouvinski argues that the Kremlin’s goals are to “maintain a modicum of control and assure that Rosneft’s assets are safe.” Moscow views the inclusion of Venezuela in high-level meetings between U.S. and Russian officials as a sign that Russia is a “key player in the struggle over Venezuela’s future.”

About the Author

Vladimir Rouvinski

Former George F. Kennan Fellow;
Director, Center for Inter-Disciplinary Studies, Icesi University, Cali, Colombia
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