The Venezuela endgame

It now looks like President Trump is teaching his appointees how to do the unexpected. As his own action officer he has had to personally create strategic maneuvering space to motivate a peaceful regime change in Venezuela.   

He astutely showed the world an unexpected leadership move when he personally called on President Putin to reverse the May Day Big Fizzle of the NSC-directed plan to remove Venezuela’s Maduro gang by intimidation and threatened use of force. The President ascertained that Putin was a key person to engage. In my opinion, Putin holds the key to Maduro leaving peacefully.

Both China and Russia have huge outstanding debts owed to them secured by Venezuelan oil reserves. Maduro had his turn and grossly failed in his experiment to bring socialism to a heretofore very wealthy country at the barrel of a gun.  The oil production is crashing, illegal drug money and dwindling gold reserves are Maduro’s last play and that economic model is not sustainable, so time is not on his side.

China appears to be hedging its bet that Maduro will get the boot, so they are keeping the option of not burning a bridge with interim President Juan Guadió.

This is a brilliant move with a huge financial strategic marker being put in play by the Guaidó administration:

Francisco Sucre said he and his team have made some informal contacts with the Chinese government. "The answer that we received: They are tired of Maduro and they are worrying about the recovery of the amount [of money].

"The only way to recover the amount is with political change in Venezuela," Sucre said. Otherwise "they will never get repaid."

The despotic leaders of the PRC often know that when dealing with the West it is not just about the money, it is all about the money. President Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, also knows that game very well and with that knowledge has created strategic leverage over China on many financial fronts, Venezuela included.

With respect to Putin’s Russia, Maduro had best be worried that not only has he lost Russian support, but Putin has possibly just sent a signal that he will support Cuba but not Venezuela. The appearance of the frigate Admiral Gorshkov in Havana harbor may be that exact signal.

Russian leaders know they can only go so far in posturing through the use of force in the Caribbean and that President Trump is very capable of channeling President Kennedy’s famous naval blockade if the U.S. is directly threatened. So why is that ship making an appearance now?

In a statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday morning, NORTHCOM said, “We are aware of the deployment of the Russian ship Gorshkov and are taking steps to actively track it. We won’t discuss all measures being taken, but NORAD is conducting air operations in defense of the U.S. and Canada and USNORTHCOM has deployed maritime assets to track Gorshkov.”

I have had combat scrambles against Soviet MiGs and Russian gunboats sortieing out of Cuba with my Marine  F-4 from Boca Chica, Key West. The Admiral Gorshkov is not a tactical or strategic threat because President Putin is not a stupid man and he doesn’t want it sunk by a bad move.  NORTHCOM knows exactly what to do at all times to protect America.

Consequently, this is what we in the Marines call a SWAG (Silly Wide Ass Guess).

Could it be a Russian face-saving gesture to tell the Cubans to give up on Maduro but you are not being sold out. If that is an accurate summation, then the peaceful removal of the brutal  enforcers of the Maduro regime -- the Cuban Intelligence services -- can clear the way for Venezuela’s renaissance.

Maduro will go away sooner than later. The Gorshkov will be tracked regardless and the only question about peaceful regime change is: can Maduro and his gang leave keeping their money or will they all be branded as criminals?

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