Venezuela and Russia Pursue Strengthened Diplomatic Relations

At a meeting in Moscow on February 6, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, reaffirmed the strength of the relations between their two nations, The Latin American Herald Tribune reports. As the host, Mr. Lavrov opened the meeting with a statement praising the rapidly improving bilateral relations and said, “The presidents, [Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Vladimir Putin of Russia], communicate regularly and confidentially.” Notably, Lavrov also went on the record, saying that Moscow will continue to unwaveringly support the struggling Maduro administration and protect the countries’ shared values—multilateralism, non-intervention, and national sovereignty. 

Rodriguez, for her part, expressed admiration for Russia as an advocate for global stability and world order and proclaimed that Russian interests in Venezuela would always be protected for their mutual benefit. She also condemned recent efforts Western countries’ efforts to strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup as a response to its latest interventions in Ukraine. Later, Rodriguez met with the Russian energy minister to discuss the implementation of the recent oil production-cap agreement.

Reuters reported in December 2016 on an agreement reached between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)—of which Venezuela is a founding member—and Russia to cut oil production to boost the low prices that have lingered since 2014. Price conditions contributed to the deep economic crisis in Venezuela in recent years. Now, Venezuela’s current government seeks stronger allies as it deals with major political upheaval and the distancing of previously close allies, particularly Cuba. The relatively young Maduro administration is crumbling and desperate for economic and political partnerships to bolster its economy and silence the increasingly numerous domestic and international calls for Maduro to step down.

Russia has long been disposed to ally itself with leftist governments in Latin America in an effort to counter American hegemony in the hemisphere. The most notable example of this strategy was the Soviet Union’s close partnership with Cuba in the several decades following the island’s communist revolution in 1959. Venezuela, since the rise of Chavez at the turn of the century, has been at odds with U.S. interests—and thus pursued a closer relationship with U.S. rivals, including Russia.

With Venezuela’s government particularly vulnerable to further destabilization and Russia facing renewed sanctions from the United States and investigation into the country’s influence on American elections, the two states’ emphasis on sovereignty and non-interference is telling yet unsurprising. It hints at a Russian orientation towards the nation-states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which Maduro is the current Secretary-General. NAM also boasts almost all of the developing world as members or observer states. Analysts now seek to understand how exactly a stronger relationship between Venezuela and Russia will manifest on the world stage and what it will mean for the United States and its allies.