It has become evident that whenever the U.S. physically leaves a country like Afghanistan and Iraq, a huge vacuum is created and the usual adversarial suspects move into fill the void—China, Russia, and Iran.
Recently, the hasty evacuation of the U.S. military, American citizens, and its allies out of Afghanistan, showed that China, Russia, and Iran were just waiting in the wings for the U.S. to depart.
But while Afghanistan was the country du jour where China and Russia were making a big play as the U.S. pulled back, it’s not the only country that these U.S. detractors are vying to control.
According to Neil Herrington, Senior Vice President for the Americas at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the “record” is clear, “when Western companies depart, it is often U.S. adversaries that fill the vacuum.”
Herrington recently penned his assessment —and concern— for the potential of increased influence or “footholds” of nefarious actors closer to home: in Venezuela.
Herrington argues that, although elements of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions strategies, such as “targeted seizure and/or freezing of personal assets of Maduro and his inner circle…had an impact in getting the regime to the table,” economic sanctions, particularly those imposed on the energy sector “while well-intentioned in their aim to rid the longsuffering Venezuelan people of Maduro,” have “unleashed a cascade of negative unintended consequences that endure to this day.” Among them, Herrington adds, that they have “helped strengthen Maduro, deepened Venezuela’s dire economic and humanitarian crisis, brought harm to U.S. workers and businesses, and undermined our national security.”
Herrington sees that current U.S. policy for Venezuela, most prominently in the energy sector, “perversely rewards PDVSA/Maduro while punishing U.S. and allied companies.” As an example, Herrington points to the recent exit by French and Norwegian energy firms Total and Equinor from their joint venture partnership with Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA where now, “Total’s $1.4 billion loss instantly became the cash-strapped Maduro regime’s gain when PDVSA absorbed the French company’s portion of the JV.” Additionally, that current sanctions under General License 8, “prohibit U.S. companies from laying claim to their petroleum extractions in Venezuela,” so now, PDVSA “retains and sells oil previously the property of American firms, further enriching the Maduro regime at the companies’ expense.”
Furthermore, as Maduro has been able to skirt around the “maximum pressure” economic sanctions with the help of the aforementioned “Axis of Evil”, they have not yielded the intended effect.
Venezuela’s allies have invested heavily in its energy sector with Russia recently announcing “its broad commitment to enhance Venezuela’s “energy infrastructure security” as Western companies depart, “and China has begun to lay the groundwork to revive oil output,” stated Herrington.
Herrington’s national security warnings have been echoed by many individuals, including American elected officials like Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Greg Steube.
“Russia and China want to weaken America and spread their malicious influence across the globe,” said Senator Rubio in a statement to The Floridian. “We see them exploiting President Biden’s chaotic withdraw from Afghanistan. And we see how they try to subvert the U.S. by propping up Marxist dictators in Venezuela, Cuba, and beyond. The Biden Administration should not turn a blind eye to the Marxist threat growing in our own backyard.”
Rep.Greg Steube focused on the Chinese threat to America, and the communist regime’s active effort to ‘destabilize’ countries like Venezuela, for selfish gain.
“The CCP is hungry to expand their influence, and we've seen them do so in destabilized countries like Venezuela. The CCP considers our enemies their allies,” said Rep. Steube in a statement to The Floridian, while making a parallel between Venezuela and “their growing presence in Afghanistan,” which “falls entirely in the lap of Joe Biden.”
That’s why Herrington is calling on the Biden administration to overhaul “a counterproductive U.S. sanctions policy toward Venezuela,” with “an alternative targeted, multilateral sanctions approach,” adding that “the U.S. business community stands ready to provide the administration recommendations on a revised policy designed to simultaneously eliminate both reward to Maduro and punishment of western companies and the Venezuelan people.”