Trump meeting his match in Putin?

Interesting things are shaping up on the continent to the south.  Despite the Monroe Doctrine, or perhaps because of it, Russia has installed soldiers in Venezuela.  Not that long ago, Vlad Putin said he was willing to do a rerun of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he's clearly pushing and shoving to see who'll do something about it.

Donald Trump has made it clear he doesn't want to send troops to Venezuela.  In fact, Elliott Abrams has pretty much taken off the table any likelihood of us intervening militarily — for the time being.  Some interpret the Abrams remarks as temporizing; I see them as diplo-speak for watchful waiting.

We have a history of meddling in Latin American countries.  That history, particularly in Venezuela (which came up with "Yankee Go Home"), has to be factored into whatever we do.  Because of it, I don't think military intervention right now would be the smartest move.

We do, nevertheless, need to keep the option open and to be seen keeping it open.  Words alone won't suffice.  On the principle of not letting our troops and Russian troops onto the same battlefield at the same time, perhaps some anti-cartel assistance to Colombia along her border with Venezuela would make the point.  Airpower.  Lots of it.  Some gunboats off the Venezuelan coasts, on each side of the Panama neck, also to interdict drug-trafficking.

The troublemaker in all this, as usual, is Vlad Putin.  Nicolás Maduro's regime owes Russia billions for past services rendered, but that's not why Putin put a hundred soldiers in Caracas.  With Europe (Germany, anyway) in his hip pocket via natural gas, he now wants to control South America the same way.

But we stand in his way.

Putin's about destabilizing Latin America in order to cause problems with more refugees on our border and with firebrands running loose throughout the region.  Control of Venezuela means control of the largest petroleum reserves on the planet, meaning control of much of South America.

In the bargain comes leverage over China, which has no appreciable oil of her own but does control the Panama Canal, and Japan, also with no oil reserves of her own and also vulnerable to petrol extortion.

Imagine having the three most potent economies of Europe and the Far East vulnerable to you.

It's all about geostrategic power via oil.  While no change from ten years ago, or 20, or even 40, the players and personalities have changed.  It may even be that we're not Putin's Number One target.  Given China's lengthy border with Russia and the fraught history there, Xi may well be the one Putin's really hoping to impress.  By introducing military forces into Venezuela a little at a time, he sets the stage to throttle the Panama Canal out of Caracas.

It's a big gamble for Putin, going for the throats of two of the largest economies in the world (China and Japan) plus his two most dangerous military adversaries (China and America).  The boy has shown he has the 'nads, the brains, and the chutzpah to play this game.  He hopes to do what the Nazis did in the mid-thirties, going slowly so as not arouse too much suspicion while he lines up his ducks.  I don't think he wants war; I do think he wants to see how far he can push until somebody blackens his eye — diplomatically, of course.

Donald Trump has shown himself an unusually astute player of geopolitics.  In Putin, he may have met his match.  Watching it unfold will be engrossing if scary.

Interesting things are shaping up on the continent to the south.  Despite the Monroe Doctrine, or perhaps because of it, Russia has installed soldiers in Venezuela.  Not that long ago, Vlad Putin said he was willing to do a rerun of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he's clearly pushing and shoving to see who'll do something about it.

Donald Trump has made it clear he doesn't want to send troops to Venezuela.  In fact, Elliott Abrams has pretty much taken off the table any likelihood of us intervening militarily — for the time being.  Some interpret the Abrams remarks as temporizing; I see them as diplo-speak for watchful waiting.

We have a history of meddling in Latin American countries.  That history, particularly in Venezuela (which came up with "Yankee Go Home"), has to be factored into whatever we do.  Because of it, I don't think military intervention right now would be the smartest move.

We do, nevertheless, need to keep the option open and to be seen keeping it open.  Words alone won't suffice.  On the principle of not letting our troops and Russian troops onto the same battlefield at the same time, perhaps some anti-cartel assistance to Colombia along her border with Venezuela would make the point.  Airpower.  Lots of it.  Some gunboats off the Venezuelan coasts, on each side of the Panama neck, also to interdict drug-trafficking.

The troublemaker in all this, as usual, is Vlad Putin.  Nicolás Maduro's regime owes Russia billions for past services rendered, but that's not why Putin put a hundred soldiers in Caracas.  With Europe (Germany, anyway) in his hip pocket via natural gas, he now wants to control South America the same way.

But we stand in his way.

Putin's about destabilizing Latin America in order to cause problems with more refugees on our border and with firebrands running loose throughout the region.  Control of Venezuela means control of the largest petroleum reserves on the planet, meaning control of much of South America.

In the bargain comes leverage over China, which has no appreciable oil of her own but does control the Panama Canal, and Japan, also with no oil reserves of her own and also vulnerable to petrol extortion.

Imagine having the three most potent economies of Europe and the Far East vulnerable to you.

It's all about geostrategic power via oil.  While no change from ten years ago, or 20, or even 40, the players and personalities have changed.  It may even be that we're not Putin's Number One target.  Given China's lengthy border with Russia and the fraught history there, Xi may well be the one Putin's really hoping to impress.  By introducing military forces into Venezuela a little at a time, he sets the stage to throttle the Panama Canal out of Caracas.

It's a big gamble for Putin, going for the throats of two of the largest economies in the world (China and Japan) plus his two most dangerous military adversaries (China and America).  The boy has shown he has the 'nads, the brains, and the chutzpah to play this game.  He hopes to do what the Nazis did in the mid-thirties, going slowly so as not arouse too much suspicion while he lines up his ducks.  I don't think he wants war; I do think he wants to see how far he can push until somebody blackens his eye — diplomatically, of course.

Donald Trump has shown himself an unusually astute player of geopolitics.  In Putin, he may have met his match.  Watching it unfold will be engrossing if scary.