Pompeo Threatens Venezuela; Pentagon Threatens Russia

September 4th, 2020 - by Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Agence France-Presse & Ted Galen Carpenter / Information Clearing House

Abandoned by voters, US-backed coup leader Juan Guaido calls for boycott of Venezuelan elections.

Pompeo Tells Venezuela Opposition to Boycott Election

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Agence France-Presse

 (September 3, 2020) — The US usually waits until an election doesn’t go its way to condemn it, but in Venezuela, the US is getting out of front of the December vote, condemning the vote and demanding that the opposition not take part.

This demand is splitting the opposition, however, with top figure HeneiqueCapriles calling for the opposition to compete and ensure a high turnout. Capriles has been the opposition candidate for president twice.

The US doesn’t see the value in another vote, because after Maduro won the last vote the US just declared regime change and demanded the world recognize the opposition as the de facto government.

Capriles faulted this too, saying its time for the opposition to stop “playing government on the Internet” and focus on trying to become a government through elections. Some who are pessimistic about the vote are still looking at the US to install them, but others are keen for a vote to give them legitimacy in a way that the US can’t.

Venezuela Opposition Figure Calls for High Election Turnout

Rival presidential candidate Henrique Capriles calls for Venezuelans to vote in upcoming elections.

Agence France-Presse

CARACAS (September 3, 2020) — Former Venezuela presidential candidate and high-profile figure Henrique Capriles broke opposition ranks on Thursday and called for a high turnout in December’s elections.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido has led a group of 30 opposition parties calling for a boycott of the election due to a lack of transparency and fears President Nicolas Maduro won’t allow it to be free or fair.

But Capriles, a presidential candidate in 2012 and 2013, said he would not leave Venezuelan voters “without options.”

“I call on the country to mobilize and fight … we’re not going to gift the National Assembly to Maduro,” said Capriles on his social media channels.

The National Assembly is the only government branch in opposition hands and Maduro is determined to regain control of it in December.

But Guaido called for a boycott after the Supreme Court, which is loyal to Maduro, appointed the officials to run the electoral body overseeing the poll.

That’s a job that should be done by the National Assembly.

The Supreme Court has previously shown itself to be loyal to Maduro, trying to bar some opposition lawmakers from being sworn in once Maduro’s socialist party lost control of the legislature in 2015.

After the assembly swore them in anyway, the Supreme Court ruled it was in contempt and has annulled every decision it has taken since.

But rather than boycott elections that have been dismissed by top European Union diplomat Josep Borrell as lacking “the conditions for a transparent, inclusive, free and fair electoral process,” Capriles wants to “open the way” and “fight for the conditions” to stage a credible poll.

“We’re not going to leave the people without options,” said Capriles, who hit out at Guaido over his failure to dislodge Maduro in more than a year and a half since making the bold move to declare himself acting president.

While Guaido won backing from more than 50 countries, Maduro retains the support of the powerful armed forces and has not budged.

“What’s the plan?” said Capriles. “To play at being president over the internet? We have to save Venezuela, comrades, save it!”

Capriles, who founded First Justice — one of the main opposition parties — and his deputy Stalin Gonzalez have been accused of holding talks with Maduro’s government before backing the election.

Capriles, who has been barred by the regime from holding public office since 2017, said he was prepared to speak to whomever could help bring about a “credible solution” to Venezuela’s political crisis.

Earlier this week, Maduro pardoned more than 100 opposition lawmakers and associates of Guaido, while also inviting the United Nations and EU to act as observers for the elections.

Guaido dimissed both moves as a ploy to try to legitimize the elections.

Are We Deliberately Trying to Provoke a Military Crisis With Russia?
Tensions are becoming dangerous in Syria and on Russia’s back doorstep

Ted Galen Carpenter / Information Clearing House

 (August 31, 2020) — A dangerous vehicle collision between US and Russian soldiers in Northeastern Syria on Aug. 24 highlights the fragility of the relationship and the broader test of wills between the two major powers.

According to White House reports and a Russian video that went viral this week, it appeared that as the two sides were racing down a highway in armored vehicles, the Russians sideswiped the Americans, leaving four US soldiers injured. It is but the latest clash as both sides continue their patrols in the volatile area. But it speaks of bigger problems with US provocations on Russia’s backdoor in Eastern Europe.

A sober examination of US policy toward Russia since the disintegration of the Soviet Union leads to two possible conclusions. One is that US leaders, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, have been utterly tone-deaf to how Washington’s actions are perceived in Moscow.

The other possibility is that those leaders adopted a policy of maximum jingoistic swagger intended to intimidate Russia, even if it meant obliterating a constructive bilateral relationship and eventually risking a dangerous showdown. Washington’s latest military moves, especially in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea, are stoking alarming tensions.

There has been a long string of US provocations toward Russia. The first one came in the late 1990s and the initial years of the twenty-first century when Washington violated tacit promises given to Mikhail Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders that if Moscow accepted a united Germany within NATO, the Alliance would not seek to move farther east. Instead of abiding by that bargain, the Clinton and Bush administrations successfully pushed NATO to admit multiple new members from Central and Eastern Europe, bringing that powerful military association directly to Russia’s western border.

In addition, the United States initiated “rotational” deployments of its forces to the new members so that the US military presence in those countries became permanent in all but name. Even Robert M. Gates, who served as secretary of defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was uneasy about those deployments and conceded that he should have warned Bush in 2007 that they might be unnecessarily provocative. 

As if such steps were not antagonistic enough, both Bush and Obama sought to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. The latter country is not only within what Russia regards as its legitimate sphere of influence, but within its core security zone.

Even key European members of NATO, especially France and Germany, believed that such a move was unwise and blocked Washington’s ambitions. That resistance, however, did not inhibit a Western effort to meddle in Ukraine’s internal affairs to help demonstrators unseat Ukraine’s elected, pro-Russia president and install a new, pro-NATO government in 2014.

Such provocative political steps, though, are now overshadowed by worrisome US and NATO military moves. Weeks before the formal announcement on July 29, the Trump administration touted its plan to relocate some US forces stationed in Germany. When Secretary of Defense Mike Esper finally made the announcement, the media’s focus was largely on the point that 11,900 troops would leave that country. 

However, Esper made it clear that only 6,400 would return to the United States; the other nearly 5,600 would be redeployed to other NATO members in Europe. Indeed, of the 6,400 coming back to the United States, “many of these or similar units will begin conducting rotational deployments back to Europe.”  Worse, of the 5,600 staying in Europe, it turns out that at least 1,000 are going to Poland’s eastern border with Russia. 

Another result of the redeployment will be to boost US military power in the Black Sea. Esper confirmed that various units would “begin continuous rotations farther east in the Black Sea region, giving us a more enduring presence to enhance deterrence and reassure allies along NATO’s southeastern flank.” Moscow is certain to regard that measure as another on a growing list of Black Sea provocations by the United States. 

Among other developments, there already has been a surge of alarming incidents between US and Russian military aircraft in that region. Most of the cases involve US spy planes flying near the Russian coast—supposedly in international airspace.

On July 30, a Russian Su-27 jet fighter intercepted two American surveillance aircraft; according to Russian officials, it was the fourth time in the final week of July that they caught US planes in that sector approaching the Russian coast. Yet another interception occurred on August 5, again involving two US spy planes. Still others have taken place throughout mid-August. It is a reckless practice that easily could escalate into a broader, very dangerous confrontation. 

The growing number of such incidents is a manifestation of the surging US military presence along Russia’s border, especially in the Black Sea. They are taking place on Russia’s doorstep, thousands of miles away from the American homeland. Americans should consider how the United States would react if Russia decided to establish a major naval and air presence in the Gulf of Mexico, operating out of bases in such allied countries as Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

The undeniable reality is that the United States and its NATO allies are crowding Russia; Russia is not crowding the United States. Washington’s bumptious policies already have wrecked a once-promising bilateral relationship and created a needless new cold war with Moscow. If more prudent US policies are not adopted soon, that cold war might well turn hot.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at The American Conservative, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. His latest book is NATO: The Dangerous Dinosaur (2019). – “Source”  The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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