On Russia, Vlad the TBD and Why it Matters for LatAm

First of all, what happens with Russia and Ukraine does not really affect Latin America or the its expat community.

However I have mentioned, somewhere in this corner of the metaverse, that I know a Peruvian whose brother married a Russian internet bride. She looked exactly like what you would think a Russian internet bride looks like. I’ve since learned of another case. This second woman wasn’t an internet bride per se. She met a Peruvian friend of a friend who was in Russia on business (government business, of course), and they were betrothed. He brought her to Peru and secured her a resident visa. She soon dumped him, and then stayed in Lima. Brave new world. Despite its troubles, Peru rich AF.

Russia’s GDP per capita is higher than Peru’s, but this may be paper wealth (petrostate fallacy) and not indicative of real wealth in people’s lives. Otherwise, how do you explain Russian internet brides escaping for Peru by marrying men unseen? Maybe it’s a rural Russia vs. Lima thing, but that’s speculation. I have no idea where the Russian women were from.

How does land war in Europe affect Latin America? Assuming the economic isolation of Russia persists, the supply of desperate Russians looking to escape by marrying into upper-middle-class Latin America will increase. How do you like that?

Kind of a stretch, but I’ve justified the title. Now, on to Russia and Vlad the TBD.

What prompts this post is obviously the unprovoked war of aggression by Vladimir Putin. Coincidentally, I have for years now embarked on a binge of Russian history. It started with Red Notice, which I reviewed on the blog (the Magnitsky Act was not on anybody’s radar at the time of publish, which goes to show this blog isn’t only for entertainment but also edification).

I didn’t deliberately keep with the Russian theme, but other books were too compelling. War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Vladimir Nabokov’s novels. Something in there opened the floodgates and I got hooked. I recently finished Robert Massie’s Romanovs series covering Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Nicholas II & Alexandra. I’m now reading about the fall of the Soviet Union and, in keeping my mixed-up order, will do the Bolsheviks next.

Why the fascination with Russia? If we expats love the chaos of primitive Latin America, that comes from the relative backwardness of Spain and Iberia. Russia is even more backwards, more brutal. Spain has only been a democracy since 1977, but Russia still isn’t one. Russian history is stranger than fiction, more compelling than television.

For anybody watching the news, you’ve certainly heard the pundits opine that Putin aspires to restore the Russian Empire. Some pundits focus more on the Soviet Union, given Putin’s KGB background and the recency bias. Whichever flavor sells better, it involves the same territory.

In 2008, Putin told George W. Bush that Ukraine wasn’t really a country. He has been planting the seeds of a land grab for years. In Putin’s defense, he’s not entirely wrong. To be clear, I believe Ukraine is a nation, not just legally but practically. But on the spectrum of whether a place is really a country or not, Ukraine is not cut and dry. It’s on the spectrum. It’s more of a country than many recognized countries (Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Panama, El Salvador), but it’s still on the spectrum.

There was an attempt at independence in the wake of the Russian Revolution, but Ukraine has only been a country since 1991. In fact the East Slavic nation (comprised of non-Balkan, non-Polish Slavs) was born in Kiev, not Moscow. Kiev was the birthplace of the Russian Orthodox Church, where Vladimir the Great introduced Christianity in 800. The imperial capital St. Petersburg was only built in the 18th century. Before that, Russia’s two great cities were Moscow and Kiev.

Whether reunification was Putin’s idea from the beginning, or an aspiration to build a legacy after consolidating power for so long, it’s clear Vladimir the TBD is trying to restore parts of the Russian empire. He’ll never take all of it, but if he’s going to do anything, the major prize is Ukraine. If Putin is trying to secure a place in history, let’s have a look at how he compares.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great is my (and most people’s) favorite Russian leader. He’s hard not to like. He was a reformer in a deeply backwards country, more backwards than it is today. When Peter ascended the throne, Russia wasn’t considered a part of Europe. It was Asia. Its people were white Christians, but considered barbaric primitives. Light-skinned Mongols.

Peter the Great ended that. Peter couldn’t have been more different than Putin in that he embraced Western Europe. He was an anti-traditionalist. He ostracized the Old Believers of Russian Orthodoxy, in part by enforcing a ban on traditional beards … personally … with scissors. He grabbed grown men by the beard, often nobles, and cut their beards off himself! As a young man, he organized a drunken revelry mocking orthodox ritual, officially sanctioned blasphemy which he continued throughout his life.

Peter was the first Russian to name a woman as his successor, and a peasant at that (his Lithuanian wife Catherine I). On today’s standards, Peter the Great was at least an anti-traditionalist, if not a woke revolutionary. Putin, on the other hand, has embraced a nostalgia for tradition, particularly religious, and cultural conservatism.

More important than culture, Peter adopted Western Europe’s methods. He imported not only its technologies and practices, but its people. A recurring scandal in his government was how many Germans, Brits and Dutch he elevated to the highest offices, particularly in the military. He mandated Russian nobles send their sons off to study shipbuilding in Italy, Holland and beyond. Peter modernized a primitive country and converted it into a respected, if not feared, European power … with a navy.

Russia had no navy before Peter the Great. Its only seaport was Archangel, which is frozen six months a year. Peter expanded by conquest Russia’s territory to gain access to the Baltic Sea via Riga, Tallinn and of course St. Petersburg (which he built on a swamp). He won these cities by destroying in spectacular fashion the preeminent northern power, Sweden, whose humbling was the beginning of what it is today, the country that awards peace prizes.

It isn’t fair to judge Putin against Peter based on territory gained, because the world is more settled than it was 300 years ago. But another point of differentiation is success rate and degree of difficulty. Not only did Peter lead an underdog to a shocking upset over the regional champ, he did it with continuous tactical retreats.

Putin is often credited as a brilliant strategist who knows how to play a weak hand, but he has also benefitted from good timing. He has been able to play aggressive offense for the last 15 years given how weary the West (read “the U.S.”) is of war after Iraq and Afghanistan. But he’s been a one-trick pony so far, doubling down on threats and aggression time and again. Time will tell how he adjusts to adversity as Ukraine is not lying down.

Can Putin retreat in a way that ultimately advances Russia’s interests? TBD.

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great was not only an admirer of Western Europe, she was German herself. She admired the Enlightenment thinkers of France, particularly Voltaire. She certainly loved Russian culture and in particular Russian Orthodoxy, but she was on the side of progress. Early in her reign, she embarked on a failed campaign to free the serfs. She would later grow quite reactionary, especially after the nobility saved her from a peasant rebellion, after which came the French Revolution. But on the whole, Catherine aimed to be a merciful and benevolent leader for Russia. Putin, not so much.

However progressive, this was still the 18th century and kingdoms were fluid. Like Peter, Catherine expanded Russia’s empire. Russia’s blueprint for the slow-motion seizing of territory was in part pioneered by Catherine’s Partitions of Poland.

Catherine first installed as king of Poland a puppet ruler in her former lover, Stanislaus. She attempted to rule through him by keeping the country divided (which it was naturally). But when the Poles united behind opposition to Russian hegemony, Catherine sent in troops to occupy Warsaw until the legislature ratified a cessation of territory. With co-conspirators Prussia and Austria, Russia got the largest share of 36,000 square miles and 1.8 million people, most of whom were ethnic Russians.

After French revolutionaries slaughtered their royals, Russia and Prussia sent armies into what was left of Poland to oppose what they branded a rising “Jacobin threat.” Austria wanted to leave Poland somewhat intact, with an amenable government. Prussia wanted to take more land but leave a small, amenable buffer state between the three. Catherine proposed erasing Poland from the map. Her idea won.

In 1795 they sliced up what was left of Poland, which wouldn’t be an independent country again until the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 (when Germany, Austria and Russia collapsed). In the partition, Russia gained 89,000 square miles, which completed Russia’s absorption of present-day Belarus, Ukraine and most of Lithuania. Russia gained 3 million subjects. A Russian governor was installed and the kingdom of Poland was shuttered, with all regalia, banners, insignia, archives and libraries sent to Russia.

Catherine claimed she had annexed “not a single Pole,” but had simply reunited a people of Russian faith and race to the Russian motherland, and restored Russian and Lithuanian lands to the Russian principality of Kiev. Sound familiar? There’s more. Catherine annexed Crimea in an expansion on previous conquests of Peter the Great to gain access to the Black Sea in the south.

If Catherine sounds like Putin’s perfect antecedent, it’s worth noting Catherine never got into trouble militarily, unlike even Peter, who overextended himself with the Turks, which is why he lost access to the Black Sea. Catherine had temptations, including a request to help the English keep its American colonies. But she never committed to anything that ultimately lost.

Catherine was never in as much trouble as Putin is in now. I can’t think of a time when Putin exercised calculated restraint. Assuming he doesn’t turn the tables in Ukraine and come out with some astonishing victory, Putin will likely limp away with at least one more L than Catherine.

Catherine was a patron to the arts, amassing the world’s best art collection of the era in the Hermitage Museum. While Peter founded St. Petersburg, she built it into the “Venice of the North” and commissioned the construction of Russia’s most iconic architecture. She set the stage for the emergence of Russia’s best-known novelists, artists and thinkers. Putin? TBD.

Historic gem unrelated to Putin, but relevant today, Catherine was a champion of science. Smallpox was a plague of the era, and Catherine convinced a skeptical public to get vaccinated by being the first to be inoculated herself. I’ve heard academics say, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Man, I don’t think this episode stops at rhyming. From the book:

At the time, the prevailing attitude toward the disease was fatalistic: people believed that, sooner or later, everyone must have it, and that some would survive and some would die.

Many in Moscow’s terror-stricken population came to believe that the physicians and their medicines had brought the plague to the city. They refused to obey orders forbidding them to gather in marketplaces and churches and to kiss supposedly miraculous icons in hope of protection. Instead, they gathered to seek salvation and solace around these icons.

“My objective was, through my example, to save from death the multitude of my subjects who, not knowing the value of this technique, and frightened of it, were left in danger,” [Catherine wrote].

“Catherine the Great” by Robert Massie

Nicholas the Inept

Giving autocrats nicknames fell out of favor before Nicholas II ascended, but I would call him Nicholas the Inept. He was probably a nice guy, just out of his league. Not up to the task. In hindsight, he may have been able to slow-walk a transition to constitutional monarchy.

Nicholas was pressured by the family elders who insisted he maintain the autocracy. He may have sincerely agreed, but his mismanagement laid the path for the Bolsheviks to rise to power, the formation of the Soviet Union and the implementation of communism over tens of millions of people. No small blunder.

Carrying an autocracy into the 20th century was outside Nicholas’s sphere of competence. Russia’s government badly needed reforms, without which would have required a brutal tyrant. Nicholas II was too young and unprepared. In this sense, Putin is nothing like Nicholas. Putin has not only maintained autocracy in the more challenging 21st century, he has helped others maintain or even spread autocracy (e.g. Syria, Belarus, Venezuela).

But people will say Putin has total control of Russia … until he doesn’t. If he is ousted in a year, or in five or 10, the previous 20 count for nothing. Nicholas II held on for over two decades. If Putin is ever ousted, he will also be judged as tone-deaf. Will he have that in common with Nicholas II? TBD.

Nicholas was naïve in geopolitics. He was manipulated by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who goaded him into the disastrous Russo-Japanese War and later facilitated the effective swindling of Russia’s interests in Serbia and Bosnia. Putin may be TBD, but we have no indication he is manipulated by other leaders. If the world is led by manipulators and the manipulated, he is the former.

Nicholas is occasionally lauded for saving France. His confronting the Germans prevented them from sacking Paris early in World War I. In doing so, Nicholas mobilized 15 million Russians into the trenches, almost 2 million of whom died. In this respect, Putin is currently following Russia’s tendency to wage war of attrition with staggering casualties. Estimates aren’t verified, but it seems possible at the time of publish that Russia has already lost as many soldiers in Ukraine as the United States did in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. That’s 20 years of American losses in just two weeks … and they don’t even control the territory yet. If Russia’s casualties aren’t that high yet, it’s inevitable they will be if Putin doesn’t cut and run within the next two weeks.

Nicholas the Inept was a sympathetic character in being a family man. He was a devoted husband and father. At a time when royals married for convenience and found love and diversion elsewhere, Nicholas was the exception to the rule in sharing a bed with his wife. A man who could have had a new woman for every erection he ever had, he probably never cheated on Alexandra. They lived for their children, and to be together as a family. If he weren’t so inept at the brutal business of autocracy, they could have had a longer life together. Despite the atrocities of his government, the world was shocked at the Bolsheviks’ undignified slaughtering of Nicholas, Alexandra and their five children.

Will any redeeming virtues emerge for Putin? TBD.

Stalin the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible is the only king I am aware of who was dubbed “the Terrible.” Massie touches on Ivan in Peter the Great, and I get the impression he was like Nero of Rome in just being a mild prick for most of his life, and becoming truly terrible at the end. Stalin was on another level. Like an antichrist.

Putin’s dominance of the political arena and national media isn’t just similar to Stalin, the architect of the Soviet system that produced Putin. It is directly inspired by if not inherited from him. The false reality the Soviet Union created for the public was captured in George Orwell’s 1984. The misinformation was truly untethered, yet so ingrained that revealing reality under Gorbachev’s glasnost was a gargantuan and politically perilous effort.

We’ve heard modern Russia has a similarly closed environment of propaganda, if not as extreme. A telling example are the reports of captured Russian prisoners saying they didn’t know their mission was to invade Ukraine until the day before. Meanwhile, all the newspapers of the world forecast for weeks that Russia had some kind of designs on Ukraine given the troop buildup. Big Brother and Newspeak are alive and well in Russia.

Stalin ordered high-profile assassinations of rivals and defectors throughout the world, most notably fellow Bolshevik Leon Trotsky in Mexico City. The assassinations continued for decades after Stalin’s death, but there was a notable pause during Gorbachev’s perestroika. Putin revived the practice with poisonings, often outside Russian borders, and often failing to kill their targets.

Stalin engaged in a handful of short wars with neighbors over territory, as Putin has done in Ukraine and Georgia. Stalin fought Finland, (newly constituted) Poland and Iran. After the defeat of Japan in World War II, Stalin backed a newly divided North Korea’s invasion of the U.S.-backed South Korea. In foreign policy, whether they be land grabs of various success or backing dictatorial regimes and economic degenerates, Putin acts much like Stalin.

Something Americans aren’t taught in schools, or weren’t when I grew up in the 80s and 90s, but which I’ve come to see in my informal education, is that antichrist Stalin the Terrible led Russia in sacrificing more than any other nation to defeat Nazi Germany. Will Putin have any noble legacy? TBD.

Stalin killed between 3 million and 7 million Ukrainians in the Great Famine, an attack meant to undermine Ukrainian national identity and more easily absorb Ukrainians into a Soviet identity. Putin won’t hit those numbers, but he seems to be using the same tactics in terrorizing civilians to break the collective will and undermine their aspirations to a national identity.

Stalin’s final death toll is high enough to join the ranks of Hitler and Mao Tse-Tung as the 20th century’s top villains. Nobody does those kinds of numbers today, but will Putin join the elite villains of the 21st century? TBD.

Vlad the TBD and Latin America

We don’t know how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will end. Putin’s legacy is to be determined, but I’ll forward one politically incorrect suggestion, and a final way this episode could affect Latin America.

If Putin wins and it turns out the world continues as it has always been, which is to say national borders are fluid, then let’s made some edits in Latin America … for the better. Instead of growing the territories of closed countries ruled by despots, let’s shrink them.

Colombia can absorb parts of Venezuela, under the pretext of depriving nonstate actors of safe harbor given Maduro’s government is not in control of vast swathes of Venezuelan territory near the Colombian border. While Colombia doesn’t completely control all its own territory, it can certainly do enough to take some of Venezuela.

Mexico can annex parts of the northern triangle. If Ukraine isn’t really a country, certainly Honduras and El Salvador aren’t. Unlike Russia for Ukraine, Colombia and Mexico would be better governance for these target subjects. It would be good for them, like it was for the western states to become part of the United States after the Mexican-American War. Who’s with me? More ideas at Make Latin America Great Again.

Go Deep

Peter the Great is the best read if you want to cheer for an inspiring underdog who prevails against the odds. I understand there is a television series based on his life, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I found myself cheering for Catherine the Great early, as her position is tenuous and vulnerable. The story of her arranged marriage to Peter III is nothing less than outlandish, surreal, freakish, Game of Thrones-esque, ripe for an astonishing television series. Unfortunately, the HBO series based on her life was bollocks precisely because it skipped over her young life and marriage to Peter the Child. Skip the show, read the book.

The most bizarre, page-turning chapter in Russian history is Nicholas and Alexandra (and Rasputin!). If you don’t want to read the book, an excellent Netflix captures the story in The Last Tsars. Must-see TV.

I’m currently reading Lenin’s Tomb on the final days of the Soviet Union, which featured public revelations of its sordid past. I’m set to start Stalin and the Bolsheviks afterward. The Russian television series Trotsky was the best television I’ve seen on the revolution.

Of course Red Notice kicked it all off for me, which originally attracted me as an international business adventure (see my review).

War and Peace is great for an intimate picture of the colonial Russians, with the context of Napoleon’s invasion. Its length is exaggerated. It’s about as long as Atlas Shrugged, but without the long, boring speeches by John Galt. Pale Fire by Nabokov is an all-time favorite, but like anything by Nabokov, only provides a little color to existing Russian history.

Please share your recommendations, whether they be books or video!

20 comments

  1. It isn’t surprising that Russian soldiers didn’t know about the invasion in advance. In the US army, when our national guard unit was called up, we didn’t know where we were being deployed until maybe a few days before. And it was within the United States, well after the invasions — Afghanistan, Iraq — had begun. I think silence is maintained for tactical purposes.

    As to book recommendations, I suggest the memoirs of Prince Felix Yusupov. He’s the guy who killed Rasputin.

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    1. I will concede your point on tactical intent, but I will also beg a little difference. This guy wasn’t in the dark from his home base in the Russian interior. He was in the dark from his camp inside Belarus near the Ukrainian border. They were in the dark for the weeks they were already deployed.

      Massie talks a lot about Yusupov. Colorful character who made it out with some of the family money, if I remember correctly. I didn’t know he wrote a memoir, will have to check it out!

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      1. They didin’t know about the invasion advance, so what? A soldier’s job is not to know or even care what he is fighting for, his job is to obey and serve.

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  2. A lot of the Russian rich have already left and have residency in western Europe/US/Canada etc – the Russian middle class are going to find their ways out very restricted and visas will be hard if not impossible to get hold in the EU.US, Canada, however, the parts of the world where they will be welcome is…

    Most of Latin America where Russians are able to travel visa free and in Peru’s case, for up to six months.

    Latin American culture is quite well recived in Russia and the former FSU (which might have began with their fraternal relationship with Cuba) – when the wall came down, the screens were filled with Latin American telenovelas and it isn’t uncommon to meet a Russian who was named after a famous telenovela star or character (and interestingly enough, the name ‘Malvina’ isn’t an uncommon girls name for babies born around 1982 when the Falklands War took place) salsa music and dances are also popular as is the learning of the Spanish language – and if you think about Russian society and a lot of Latin America – they’re quite similar in a lot of ways in how to get things done etc. Peru would be a better fit for the average Russian than Switzerland would be.

    If Peru and the rest of Latin America keep it visa free for Russians, they will end up going there – maybe not a lot of them but there will be enough who will set up there for you to notice because even if Putin withdraws his troops from Ukraine tomorrow, sanctions against Russia will be in-place until he and his inner circle have been removed – which might take years.

    (Ukrainian refugees fleeing war are being warmly received all across the EU so they don’t have to worry about decamping in a far away place but Russian economic migrants won’t have that same luxury – they have some choices at their disposal – Turkey, Thailand, India, South Africa… Brazil, Peru, Mexico etc look like good bets in comparison).

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    1. Lenin’s Tomb talks about how wildly popular the telenovelas are. In context, it’s a common criticism of the conservative Soviets unhappy with the opening of the culture. I’d be curious to know how many Peruvians, Colombians, Mexicans and other non-Venezuelan Latins settle in Russia, and specifically which side is losing / gaining more people.

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  3. On the topic of Latin America and its relation to this situation, there’s a few things I’d add on or agree with.

    First, while plenty of countries are closing their borders to Russians or at least were discussing it, I agree that countries in Latin America are not likely to punish Russia or its citizens for what happened. You already have leaders in Mexico that won’t sanction Russia (not sure said sanctions would’ve done too much damage compared to what has been done now) and Bolsonaro in Brazil won’t condemn the invasion.

    Mexico: https://www.reuters.com/world/mexicos-president-says-will-not-take-any-economic-sanctions-against-russia-2022-03-01/

    Brazil: https://www.reuters.com/world/bolsonaro-wont-condemn-putin-says-brazil-will-remain-neutral-over-invasion-2022-02-27/

    And then there’s this sentence here that I mostly agree with but not entirely: “First of all, what happens with Russia and Ukraine does not really affect Latin America or the its expat community.”

    To the expat community, I don’t see it impacting us much outside of the Russian expats you have down here (the odd number of them anyway you see asking questions on Facebook expat groups about money issues given the sanctions that has impacted normal Russian people or how to stay in the country longer because they don’t want to go back to Russia, etc).

    When it comes to the impact of this on Latin America at large, we have the interesting question about Venezuela.

    Will this crisis change the course of Venezuela and make it see noticeable improvements in its economy and its relations between the US and Russia?

    As the price of oil is going up, you’ve had special talks not seen since the 1990s supposedly according to this story here: https://www.ft.com/content/503e557e-947c-4993-8016-69b2135f4432

    As of right now, we’ve had some success in getting US prisoners released from Caracas and the talks were mostly focused on energy concerns.

    Some could argue there is geopoltiical significance behind the talks also in that, if a deal could be reached between the US and Venezuela, that it could also weaken Russia’s influence in Latin America as you can see here: https://english.elpais.com/international/2022-03-17/between-russia-and-the-us-how-venezuela-is-playing-both-sides-in-the-ukraine-conflict.html

    “One day, Nicolás Maduro gives Vladimir Putin his unconditional support over Russia’s war against Ukraine. The next, the Venezuelan leader tones down his support for the Russian president and calls for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine – a move that came just after he received the highest-level US delegation to visit Venezuela since 1999. But four days later, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has her picture taken with “good friend,” Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, at a meeting in Turkey, which was reportedly about bilateral relations. This is how Venezuela is playing both sides in the war against Ukraine.”

    Still, I have strong doubts that such talks will be completely successful in reducing Russia’s influence in the region.

    Ignoring the fact that Russia also has friends in places like Cuba or Nicaragua, we have the last paragraph to go back to.

    The last paragraph states (along with the rest of the article) that Venezuela obviously has its interest in playing both sides because, as we have seen with the US, its politics can change quite quickly whenever a new political party is in office and deals aren’t always reliable (like what you saw with Iran for example).

    Also, the memory of the US violating human rights and other atrocities in Latin America is always well-remembered and, among leftist presidents who love talking about those details regarding the US to their voters, all that alone obviously makes things more difficult when it comes to reestablishing relationships.

    And, as that FT article pointed out (and as I remember seeing in the news elsewhere), you had backlash within the US against the idea of Biden opening relations with Venezuela. It does come at a political cost to him to do so.

    Still, there are obvious reasons for why such a deal could come forward. On the US side, as I said, it would be beneficial to somehow limit Russia’s influence in Latin America and to MAYBE address the rising oil prices:https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/venezuela-could-add-400000-bpd-oil-output-if-us-approves-licenses-petroleum-2022-03-11/

    “Venezuela’s oil output could rise by at least 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) if the United States authorizes requests by state-run PDVSA’s partners to trade Venezuelan crude, the country’s petroleum chamber said on Friday.

    The increase would allow the OPEC member’s oil production, which in January averaged 755,000 bpd according to official figures, approach some 1.2 million bpd, said the president of Venezuela’s Petroleum Chamber, Reinaldo Quintero.”

    Still, to be fair, I’m not personally aware of how much it could impact oil prices (it obviously isn’t going to bring gas back down to 2.50 I imagine) and you have other skeptical articles about the topic here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-u-s-shifts-focus-to-venezuelan-oil-but-output-is-low-11646694776

    On Venezuela’s side, it would be beneficial to provide some relief from the previously established sanctions and also to be able to supply oil to the US as a boost (to whatever degree) to the Venezuelan economy.

    Regardless though of whatever deal can be struck (if one ever is), you also have the simple fact that the price of oil is going up and that alone serves Venezuela quite nicely: https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/oil-futures-open-higher-iea-supply-warning-2022-03-17/

    At the end of the day though, when it comes to the impact that this crisis could have on Latin America and the expat community, I think there is some expat though (at least for Russian expats) and, when it comes to Latin America as a region, I’d say that the impact so far has been relatively minimal but has potential for SOME noticeable changes with Venezuela specifically in regards to its economy and also the geopolitics of the region.

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    1. Did many Latin American countries criticize or condemn the US for its many bombing campaigns and invasions?
      Invaded Panama because George Bush got pissed off at Noriega who used to be a CIA asset for him

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      1. This article is about Russia. Clearly you are obsessed with the sins of the United States. There are articles here criticizing United States policy, but this is not one of them. By attributing everything that happens in the world to the United States, you grant the country more power than it has in the 21st century. The mid- and late-20th century were … last century.

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      2. It matters to “the west” because Ukrainians are white Europeans, the.master race, not a lesser race. And Russia would be right beside a NATO member country.
        Though of course the west thinks it’s fine that NATO has had Russia , and formerly the USSR, encircled with military bases for decades. “We can do it, but they cannot “.
        Kind of like the US bombing and invading seven countries in the past 30 years, then complaining China was “too aggressive” for building a couple of artificial islands, though not bombing ,nor invading anywhere..Hypocritical AF.

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    2. As you mentioned, there was a meeting between U.S. and Venezuelan officials about sanctions to release oil, but I imagine those would have come with substantive concessions toward political pluralism that Maduro and company were not prepared to give, without which there won’t be political appetite to change standing policy in U.S. (Florida). I think Biden would like a good excuse to restore diplomatic relations, given the untenable and dysfunctional situation of recognizing a government with no power on the ground (Guaido).

      I’m also old enough to remember the crisis in the shale patch of 2020, when energy markets wondered if all these new producers would ever be viable given low prices. The sector made popular news when the price of oil fell under $0 per barrel, meaning you could be paid for each barrel you were willing to receive from producers. In a bid to shore up the industry, which includes an astonishing array of vendors to energy companies, the U.S. government lobbied OPEC to cut production. That was two years ago. The best cure for high prices is high prices. Whatever crazy gyrations this year will be normalized in short order.

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      1. “As you mentioned, there was a meeting between U.S. and Venezuelan officials about sanctions to release oil, but I imagine those would have come with substantive concessions toward political pluralism that Maduro and company were not prepared to give, without which there won’t be political appetite to change standing policy in U.S. (Florida).”

        No disagreement. Definitely concerns about democracy, humans rights and all are involved in the negotiations.

        Still, some latest developments have come out of it all in the last week that I just read as it relates to this war’s impact on Latin America. Plenty of reporting on the latest development regarding Venezuelan oil here with some key quotes:

        “Italian oil company Eni SpA and Spain’s Repsol SA could begin shipping Venezuelan oil to Europe as soon as next month to make up for Russian crude, five people familiar with the matter said, resuming oil-for-debt swaps halted two years ago when Washington stepped up sanctions on Venezuela.

        The volume of oil Eni and Repsol are expected to receive is not large, one of the people said, and any impact on global oil prices will be modest.”

        “U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration hopes the Venezuelan crude can help Europe cut dependence on Russia and re-direct some of Venezuela’s cargoes from China. Coaxing Maduro into restarting political talks with Venezuela’s opposition is another aim, two of the people told Reuters.”

        “A key condition, one of the people said, was that the oil received “has to go to Europe. It cannot be resold elsewhere.”

        “Washington believes PDVSA will not benefit financially from these cash-free transactions, unlike Venezuela’s current oil sales to China, that person said.”

        “Washington has not made similar allowances for U.S. oil major Chevron Corp(CVX.N), India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd (ONGC) (ONGC.NS) and France’s Maurel & Prom SA(MAUP.PA), which also lobbied the U.S. State Department and U.S. Treasury Department to take oil in return for billions of dollars in accumulated debts from Venezuela.

        All five oil companies halted swapping oil for debt in mid-2020 in the midst of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign that cut Venezuela’s oil exports but failed to oust Maduro.”

        “The Biden administration held its highest level talks with Caracas in March, and Venezuela freed two of at least 10 jailed U.S. citizens and promised to resume election talks with the opposition. Maduro has yet to agree on a date to return to the negotiating table.”

        “Washington maintains further sanctions relief on Venezuela will be conditioned on progress toward democratic change as Maduro negotiates with the opposition.

        Last month, the Biden administration authorized Chevron, the largest U.S. oil company still operating in Venezuela, to talk to Maduro’s government and PDVSA about future operations in Venezuela.”

        “The person familiar with the matter in Washington declined to say whether Chevron’s request remained under consideration.

        The U.S. oil major did receive a six-month continuation of a license that preserves its assets and U.S. approval to talk with Venezuelan government officials about future operations.”

        Link: https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/exclusive-us-let-eni-repsol-ship-venezuela-oil-europe-debt-sources-2022-06-05/

        Of course, there’s no reason to be overly optimistic as to how it relates to the future of Venezuela. It’s a small step but time will tell how things progress.

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  4. I like how most people from the US never see US bombing and invasion of many other countries as “wars of aggression” ..they are always fully justified and ho!y, even whan based on lies like “massive stockpiles of WMDs” in Iraq. Only OTHER countries conduct “wars of aggression” in contrast to the “humanitarian” bombing campaigns and invasions conducted by the US. Can you even try to be objective? Probably not with all the pro-US propaganda.

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    1. Equating the U.S. war against Iraq with Russia’s on Ukraine is a form of whataboutism that serves as propaganda … for Russia. If you want to say that Russia’s war on Ukraine is justified, say that. I left a few nibbles in this piece to expand on. 

      Russia’s war on Ukraine is a land grab unlike anything we’ve seen in the developed world for generations. There are precedents from U.S. history, but you’re getting the history wrong. Iraq may have been folly, but it wasn’t rooted in the same intent of conquest as Russia’s. The main criticism of the U.S. war in Iraq was that it was a waste of blood and treasure. The U.S. did not annex Iraqi territory. The U.S. didn’t expropriate Iraqi oil or other assets. The U.S. didn’t install a puppet regime to implement its will. You could have cited U.S. wars with Mexico and Guatemala for the first and third of those, or Gran Colombia / Panama (not war so much as gunboat diplomacy) for the second. All the United States has to show for war in Iraq is a democracy (albeit a flawed one) in the region. It’s fair to criticize that intent, or the WMD justification, but it’s clearly different than what Putin is doing in Ukraine. If you disagree there is a difference in intent, I and most of the world would doubt your objectivity.

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      1. Yes, that American war in Iraq was such a diginified adventure. What a win for America and the world!

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  5. Just heard from an old Lithuanian friend, who I visited in 2007. His feedback below.

    History is always very interesting in its parallels with today’s realities. As Russia have always had complex of being not quite European, not quite civilized and hence the hatred. They committed the atrocities in Bucha and other places because they hate to see how nice the Ukrainians are living in contrast to the shitholes those orcs come from. Not saying that about all of them. There are always some outstanding individuals due to their talents, abilities, etc. But there is too much of a heritage of the golden horde that formed a very weak civil society, hardly ever able to stand up against their inhumane ruler. Being silent makes them accomplice. Too bad Europe forgets this and every so often tries to befriend Russia. While it results in much disappointment and loss of human lives.

    There is something positive that Putin has done – united and armed the region. We have our and Ukrainian flags all over. NATO support is very much visible. I as many other fellow Lithuanians have sworn into rifleman’s union (a paramilitary organization), will be getting a gun permit and acquiring rifles (AR15 and similar), have a bug-out bag and other necessary arrangements in place. Some friends have signed up for the foreign legion in Ukraine and helping our brothers there.

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  6. “….if Putin doesn’t cut and run within the next two weeks” Russia has been at war in eastern Ukraine since 2014. This year saw a major escalation in an already existing war, which will likely continue for many more bloody years. Putin is no wimp.

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