Venezuela: It’s Not About Oil

Flight route of Russian Tu-160 long-range nuclear bombers on 10 December 2018.

February 2019 (German)

Even in Venezuela, regime change is not about oil.

As argued in The Logic of US Foreign Policy and contrary to conventional wisdom, US interventions of the last several decades were not “about oil”.

This is obviously true for Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Yemen (which own no oil), but also for Iraq, Libya and Syria. In the case of Syria, the “pipeline theory” was based on a single false report. In Iraq, oil never got privatized after the war. In Libya, production collapsed.

The oil narrative is now reappearing in Venezuela’s case, as Venezuela owns the largest con­ven­tional oil reserves in the world. But the attempted regime change in Venezuela is not about oil either.

As a matter of fact, the US has already been the largest buyer of Venezuelan oil for years. And if the US wanted to physically “control” the oil, why is it that of all countries in South America, Venezuela (together with Bolivia) is the last one to be geopolitically independent of the US?

It is because the geostrategic logic works just the other way round: Venezuela is independent because of its oil, and this independence is a problem from a US perspective. On the one hand Venezuela is a political, economic and military outpost for Russia and China, on the other hand Venezuela supports additional “enemy states” such as, notably, Cuba and Nicaragua.

A regime change in Venezuela would neutralize this entire Russian-Chinese “Latin network” in one fell swoop, ideally without firing a shot – a geostrategic gambit to enforce the 1823 Monroe Doctrine.

John Bolton: Supporters and opponents of regime change in Venezuela (28 January 2019)

Proponents of the oil narrative often cite as “evidence” a FOX Business News interview about the situation in Venezuela with US National Security Advisor John Bolton. However, regarding oil Bolton merely stated that “socialist dictator” Maduro had mismanaged the oil industry, while the “new president”, backed by US industry, would boost investments again. A trivial statement.

Venezuela, while rich in oil, can neither control the global market price nor withhold its oil from another country; on the contrary, it vitally depends on export earnings. For the exact same reason, the USSR supplied Western Europe during the Cold War without any interruption or threat.

The only case in which military control of oil resources becomes relevant is during an active war. However, given its geographical location, Venezuela clearly won’t supply oil to China (or anywhere else) in a Third World War, no matter what its president’s name is. In such a scenario, China will have to source its oil mainly from Russia and Kazakhstan.

(Incidentally, China’s largest oil supplier currently is none other than US protectorate Saudi Arabia).

Another misleading idea is the so-called petrodollar theory: countries like Iraq, Iran, Libya, Russia or Venezuela do not become enemy states because they renounce the US dollar, but they (have to) renounce the US dollar because they are enemy states – and want to bypass US sanctions.

The oil narrative is, nevertheless, popular with Russian media – apparently they prefer to talk about greedy Americans rather than about Russian zones of influence in Latin America.

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Published: February 2019

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