Yes, America has strategic interests in Venezuela

Juan Guaidó and his supporters failed to overthrow the Maduro regime this past week.  This was but one of many failed attempts to rally the people and the military to oust Maduro and establish an interim government.  As a rule, the longer a political crisis drags on and the worse the economy gets, the less support an incumbent ruler has.  So, despite the string of failures, time and inertia are on the side of Guaidó and the opposition.

So far, the Trump administration has been playing it safe, limiting its involvement to the political and economic arenas.  Military intervention (even military aid) might more quickly remove Maduro, but it will have negative political consequences for both the U.S. and the interim government.  The U.S. need only be patient and perseverant in its continued support of Guaidó.  Venezuela's spiraling economy will most likely drag Maduro down with it in due time.

The Trump administration has expended vast diplomatic resources to build a coalition of over 50 countries who now support Guaidó's government.  Humanitarian concerns might be justification enough for this great expense, but there are also good justifications by way of America's strategic interests.  A reconstituted Venezuela, removed from under the influence of Russia, China, and Iran, has the potential to dramatically improve the state of global affairs.

Challenge Russian Oil

The biggest loser in the event of the Maduro government's collapse would be Russia.  Russia's economy relies heavily on oil exports, so Putin is playing a cynical game with Venezuela.  By keeping Maduro in power and the volume of Venezuelan oil production suppressed through corruption and mismanagement, Putin effectively eliminates a market competitor.  This also helps keep the price of oil up, buoying the Russian economy and generating the revenue Putin needs to fund his buildup of the Russian military.

Furthermore, Europe relies heavily on Russian oil.  While not commanding a monopoly, Russia has a significant market share of the oil imports into Europe (including several NATO countries).  This produces a vulnerable pressure point.  Just as the Arabs in OPEC weaponized oil exports during the 1970s to hammer Western economies and influence political decisions, Putin can cut off (or merely threaten to cut off) oil exports to Europe.

If Venezuela gets its government and infrastructure rebuilt, its vast reserves of oil will begin flooding the market.  This would likely lower the price of oil and give Europe a new alternative to Russian imports.  These outcomes would weaken Russia's economy and significantly diminish its ability to exert political influence over European leaders by holding their continent's economies hostage.  That is why Putin isn't letting Maduro fly off to some villa in Cuba.

Secondary Benefits

Practically the only reason the Middle East has had any significant geopolitical influence since WWII is because if its dominance in the energy sector.  Any American tired of decades of U.S. involvement in the Middle East should be ecstatic about the possibility of bringing Venezuela into the American sphere of influence and its oil production up to par.  As more oil is produced outside the Middle East, the less relevant the Middle East becomes.  Already, the development of oil reserves in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, and Kazakhstan has dramatically decreased the strategic importance of the Middle East.

Venezuela has the potential to be a major player in the energy sector and further accelerate the diversification of the global economy's energy and add an additional layer of protection to soften any blows to the global economy caused by instability in the Middle East.  Threats to oil production in the Middle East due to its never-ending ethnic and religious rivalries may no longer be of vital concern to the U.S.

Additionally, flipping Venezuela from an adversary to an ally (or even just a neutral state) would be a major diplomatic coup for the U.S. and a significant blow to Russia, China, and Iran by whittling down their short list of allies.  It would also devastate Cuba, which relies heavily on subsidized Venezuelan oil imports and which the Trump administration is also currently hammering with economic sanctions.

Overly Optimistic?

This is all assuming the best-case scenario: that Guaidó and his interim government get Venezuela on a solid footing and build a functioning government, economy, and society.  This also assumes that Guaidó and the future Venezuelan governments will feel at least some level of appreciation for America's assistance and be drawn into a close relationship.

There are a million ways events could turn sideways or continue spiraling downward.  Putin can be expected to continue doing everything within his power to make sure that Venezuela doesn't get on its feet.  However, the Trump administration apparently believes that that there is enough probability of success to warrant its efforts — or at least that the vast number of benefits makes even a slim chance of success worth pursuing.

Juan Guaidó and his supporters failed to overthrow the Maduro regime this past week.  This was but one of many failed attempts to rally the people and the military to oust Maduro and establish an interim government.  As a rule, the longer a political crisis drags on and the worse the economy gets, the less support an incumbent ruler has.  So, despite the string of failures, time and inertia are on the side of Guaidó and the opposition.

So far, the Trump administration has been playing it safe, limiting its involvement to the political and economic arenas.  Military intervention (even military aid) might more quickly remove Maduro, but it will have negative political consequences for both the U.S. and the interim government.  The U.S. need only be patient and perseverant in its continued support of Guaidó.  Venezuela's spiraling economy will most likely drag Maduro down with it in due time.

The Trump administration has expended vast diplomatic resources to build a coalition of over 50 countries who now support Guaidó's government.  Humanitarian concerns might be justification enough for this great expense, but there are also good justifications by way of America's strategic interests.  A reconstituted Venezuela, removed from under the influence of Russia, China, and Iran, has the potential to dramatically improve the state of global affairs.

Challenge Russian Oil

The biggest loser in the event of the Maduro government's collapse would be Russia.  Russia's economy relies heavily on oil exports, so Putin is playing a cynical game with Venezuela.  By keeping Maduro in power and the volume of Venezuelan oil production suppressed through corruption and mismanagement, Putin effectively eliminates a market competitor.  This also helps keep the price of oil up, buoying the Russian economy and generating the revenue Putin needs to fund his buildup of the Russian military.

Furthermore, Europe relies heavily on Russian oil.  While not commanding a monopoly, Russia has a significant market share of the oil imports into Europe (including several NATO countries).  This produces a vulnerable pressure point.  Just as the Arabs in OPEC weaponized oil exports during the 1970s to hammer Western economies and influence political decisions, Putin can cut off (or merely threaten to cut off) oil exports to Europe.

If Venezuela gets its government and infrastructure rebuilt, its vast reserves of oil will begin flooding the market.  This would likely lower the price of oil and give Europe a new alternative to Russian imports.  These outcomes would weaken Russia's economy and significantly diminish its ability to exert political influence over European leaders by holding their continent's economies hostage.  That is why Putin isn't letting Maduro fly off to some villa in Cuba.

Secondary Benefits

Practically the only reason the Middle East has had any significant geopolitical influence since WWII is because if its dominance in the energy sector.  Any American tired of decades of U.S. involvement in the Middle East should be ecstatic about the possibility of bringing Venezuela into the American sphere of influence and its oil production up to par.  As more oil is produced outside the Middle East, the less relevant the Middle East becomes.  Already, the development of oil reserves in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, and Kazakhstan has dramatically decreased the strategic importance of the Middle East.

Venezuela has the potential to be a major player in the energy sector and further accelerate the diversification of the global economy's energy and add an additional layer of protection to soften any blows to the global economy caused by instability in the Middle East.  Threats to oil production in the Middle East due to its never-ending ethnic and religious rivalries may no longer be of vital concern to the U.S.

Additionally, flipping Venezuela from an adversary to an ally (or even just a neutral state) would be a major diplomatic coup for the U.S. and a significant blow to Russia, China, and Iran by whittling down their short list of allies.  It would also devastate Cuba, which relies heavily on subsidized Venezuelan oil imports and which the Trump administration is also currently hammering with economic sanctions.

Overly Optimistic?

This is all assuming the best-case scenario: that Guaidó and his interim government get Venezuela on a solid footing and build a functioning government, economy, and society.  This also assumes that Guaidó and the future Venezuelan governments will feel at least some level of appreciation for America's assistance and be drawn into a close relationship.

There are a million ways events could turn sideways or continue spiraling downward.  Putin can be expected to continue doing everything within his power to make sure that Venezuela doesn't get on its feet.  However, the Trump administration apparently believes that that there is enough probability of success to warrant its efforts — or at least that the vast number of benefits makes even a slim chance of success worth pursuing.