After pledging full support for the embattled regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Russia is starting to show signs of doubt about his ability to survive an opposition challenge.
While Moscow hasn’t given up its public backing of Maduro, it increasingly recognizes that the disastrous state of Venezuela’s economy is inexorably draining what remains of his public support, said two people close to the Kremlin. At the same time, the army’s reluctance to crack down on its own citizens limits his ability to use force to crush the challenge to his rule, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the issue is sensitive.
“Unfortunately, time isn’t on Maduro’s side,’’ said Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament. “In a situation of worsening economic crisis, the mood in society can quickly turn against him.’’
Moscow remains wary of Maduro’s U.S.-backed opponents but is acutely aware how few levers it has to rescue a client who’s too deep in financial distress for the Kremlin to bail him out and too far away for Russia to deploy significant military force to shore him up.
For years, Russia along with China has been a major backer of Maduro, with ties dating back to 1999 when his predecessor Hugo Chavez came to power. It extended billions of dollars in loans and investments, most by state-owned oil giant Rosneft PJSC, and is scrambling to protect its interests as U.S. President Donald Trump steps up efforts to oust the Venezuelan leader, crippling the country’s economy with sanctions. Despite the history of support, Moscow has ruled out providing new money to an ally that’s had to have past debts restructured.