Russian influence in Venezuela: A potential source of destabilization

WILLEMSTAD - Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren expresses concern over the potential influence of Russia in the Caribbean region and the Dutch Kingdom. "We cannot ignore the destabilizing role that Russia may play in Venezuela," she warns. 


During her recent visit to Sint Maarten, Curaçao, and Aruba, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren discussed the global dynamics and their impact on the Caribbean. "When we consider the ongoing war in Ukraine, the stance of the Russian Federation, and China's evolving position, it becomes evident that these factors affect the Caribbean," she explains. 


Venezuela, as the largest neighboring country of the Kingdom, is currently facing an economic crisis and instability, which poses risks, according to the minister. Russia, in exchange for assistance, whether financial, in terms of food or weapons, can exert more influence over Venezuela's relations with neighboring countries, including the Kingdom. 


"Venezuela is an ally of Putin, and the Russian Federation aims to expand its influence globally. We are all interconnected in this intricate geopolitical landscape," states Ollongren. "Defense must be prepared for such developments." 


While Ollongren refrains from delving into the specifics of Russia's strategy to enhance its influence in Venezuela, she emphasizes that Russia seeks allies, even if it means strengthening its position during United Nations discussions involving Russia. 


Reopening Borders with Venezuela 


Curaçao has recently reopened its sea and air borders with Venezuela, followed by Bonaire and Aruba. Ollongren acknowledges the importance of normalization and increased ties with the neighboring country. She explains that fostering relations with a significant neighbor is a prudent approach that enhances control over migration, benefiting the Caribbean countries within the Kingdom. 


Nonetheless, Ollongren emphasizes the importance of considering the regime's intentions in Venezuela. She recognizes the existing security risks associated with Venezuela, which necessitates maintaining relations with caution and sensibility. 


Curaçao's Independent Route and the Need for Consultation 


Regarding Curaçao's independent agreement with Venezuela to reopen air and sea borders on April 3, Defense Minister Ollongren refrains from commenting on whether it deviates from established protocols. However, she emphasizes the necessity of consultation between the Curaçao government, Defense, and Foreign Affairs. Kingdom affairs require coordination and cooperation, and there is no alternative, she asserts. 


Preparing for Potential Destabilization 


As the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate, there is an increased risk of Russia exerting further influence, which could have adverse consequences for the islands, warns the minister. 


In light of this, the Kingdom must proactively prepare for potential destabilization. Ollongren highlights the importance of acknowledging the potential dangers and not underestimating the ambitions and objectives of countries like the Russian Federation and, to some extent, China. 


Stability, rather than destabilization, is crucial for the Kingdom. To achieve this, Defense, the Coast Guard, and the Royal Military Police must undertake significant efforts. These include strengthening border control and addressing various forms of undermining criminal activities such as drug trafficking and human smuggling. Additionally, the region must consider the implications of climate change, as extreme weather events may require Defense intervention. Ongoing exercises in Sint Maarten to prepare for the hurricane season exemplify Defense's commitment to this endeavor.