WASHINGTON, DC – Russia has emerged as socialist Venezuela’s top foreign weapons provider and overall defense ally, seeking to undermine the United States in its backyard, a prominent U.S. senator and an expert declared on Tuesday.
Their comments came during an event sponsored by the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) as Venezuela’s U.S.-backed interim president announced the military would no longer support dictator Nicolás Maduro. The SFS released a report this week showing that the Venezuela, Russia, Iran, and China (VRIC) alliance is expanding.
Referring to President Juan Guaidó’s call for the final removal of Maduro, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, declared during the event:
Today we are witnessing a long-overdue reckoning for the Maduro regime. … But at the same time, there remains a threat, escalating by the minute, that Maduro and his thugs will stop at nothing to try to cling to power, and that violent clashes will escalate. The regime should know that the United States will hold them accountable for their conduct in the hours and days to come, for any violence, or any atrocities in which they participate.
Joined by about 50 countries, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.
During the SFS-sponsored discussion, Cruz described Russia as Venezuela’s top military ally while China serves as its purse, providing economic loans and surveillance technology, among other military equipment.
“Russia is building a security infrastructure in our backyard with Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.” Cruz declared, citing information obtained from a law-mandated Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on Russian security cooperation with those Latin American countries.
Echoing Joseph Humire, the executive director fo SFS, the senator added:
The strongest security partnership, however, that Russia has within Latin America is that of Venezuela. Russia is the regime’s largest arms supplier, with upwards of $11 billion in arms sales over the past two decades. … Just last year, Russia deployed two Tu-160 Blackjack nuclear-capable bombers to the Venezuelan military, along with ten attack helicopters the previous year.
Asked which country is Maduro’s top supporter, Humire told Breitbart News, “In terms of money, it’s China. In terms of military armament, it’s Russia. In terms of the network are Iran and Cuba. Cuba manages the communist network and Iran the clandestine Arab network, which is larger than the former.”
“I’m not positive Maduro will go … [but] the weaker Maduro gets the easier he will be to control by foreign actors,” he added.
The Texas senator’s warning came a day after the Hill reported that the Kremlin had deployed 100 Russian troops to Venezuela to help in “refurbishing” Kremlin-made anti-missile systems to act as a deterrence against any U.S. military action, which President Trump’s administration has refused to rule out.
Referring to Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy, Cruz noted:
Hezbollah and other hostile actor are exploiting the political uncertainty in Venezuela.
I [am] joining my colleague [Sen.] Chuck Grassley [R-UT] in voicing concerns of our State Department that our adversaries, including known suspected terrorists, are looking to threaten American security via the southern border.
Authorities have linked the Shiite Hezbollah to drug trafficking within and out of the Western Hemisphere and money laundering, among other illicit activity.
Trump administration officials have revealed that authorities have apprehended thousands of known or suspected Islamic terrorists trying to enter the United States illegally in recent years. Some estimates suggest that, for every ten illegals apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, about four successfully enter the United States. The rate varies by sector and with the influx of illegal migrants in recent years, the number making it through the border could be much more significant.
U.S. military officials have long warned against Iran’s and Hezbollah’s growing presence in Latin America, cautioning that they can exploit the knowledge of drug and human traffickers to infiltrate the country.
“This is a moment when change is in the air,” Cruz added, seemingly referring to interim President Guaido’s call for an uprise.
Humire cautioned that Maduro and his allies pose a direct threat to the United States. He suggested that Russia and China may not necessarily stick their neck outs militarily to protect Maduro, but added that they would likely resort to asymmetric tactics to keep at the very least keep someone like him in office.
Echoing other assessments, Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton recently argued that the uprising is “not a coup” as described by some media outlets, but rather an attempt by a democratically legitimate interim president to restore the Venezuelan government’s legitimacy rather than overthrow it.
“This is clearly not a coup. We recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim-president of Venezuela,” Bolton told reporters on Tuesday.
Bolton maintained that all options are on the table for the United States, including military intervention.
“We want as our principal objective a peaceful transfer of power,” but “all options are on the table,” he replied when asked if the U.S. is prepared to use the military option to support the transition away from Maduro.
According to the SFS report, China reportedly provides Maduro economic support through loans and purchasing oil despite U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan crude.
China has also provided Maduro with military technology. According to Voice of America (VOA), China launched the Simon Bolivar satellite about ten years ago to give the socialist military with advanced capabilities to control national territory and communications, considered a key component of Maduro’s ability to counter internal unrest.
Socialist policies by Maduro and his predecessor has plunged Venezuela’s economy into the abyss, with shortages of food, medicine, and power plaguing large portions of the population.