Lavrov set to meet with Venezuelan FM after failed coup attempt in Caracas
The talks between Jorge Arreaza and Sergey Lavrov are expected to begin on Sunday after the Venezuelan minister arrives in Moscow. During the rare face-to-face discussion, they will seek a solution to the bitter political crisis that is crippling the Latin American nation, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Arreaza and Lavrov will also discuss “options for international mediation efforts to facilitate dialogue between the government and the opposition.” Finally, their meeting will touch upon trade, investment and military cooperation.
The meeting comes at a troubled time for Venezuela, which recently saw a massive effort by US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power. During violent clashes in and around Caracas, Guaido called for an uprising against the government, but the army and security forces remained loyal to President Maduro.
Trump, Putin Speak on Phone for Over an Hour
White House: Primary focus of talks was Venezuela
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone for over an hour on Friday, a significant occurrence for an administration that has been very reticent to engage in dialogues with Russia.
According to White House officials, the focus of the talks was on Venezuela, with Trump making it clear that the “United States stands with the people of Venezuela,” which of course means regime change.
Russia obviously would’ve been aware of that position already, since we’re just days out from a failed US-backed coup in Venezuela. It’s not clear what specifics would have been focused on, but some US officials were blaming Russia for the coup’s failure, which may have been a topic of discussion.
Russia has been backing the Maduro government in Venezuela, while the US has long sought regime change, and since January has recognized the nation’s opposition leader as the rightful president.
Trump also indicated that the talks included Ukraine, North Korea, arms control, and election interference. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders says Trump made clear that he wouldn’t allow election interference.
There was no elaborating on Ukraine, but the North Korea topic focused on both nations wanting denuclearization, with Trump urging Russia to “put pressure on North Korea” after a recent Putin-Kim summit. Putin had urged the US to show flexibility in such a deal, but so far the US has just thanked them for helping and shown no signs of policy change.
Pentagon Setting Military Options for Attacking Venezuela
Top officials hold closed-door meeting on potential attack
Having cancelled his Europe trip because of ongoing planning on Venezuela, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan held closed-door meetings at the Pentagon on Friday with John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Exact details of the meeting are not being made public, and the State Department didn’t even list the meeting as having taken place. Administration officials, however, said the focus was on discussing various military options for a US invasion of Venezuela.
Perennial hawk John Bolton seems to be salivating at the possibility of the US invading the major South American country, while Pompeo has been telling the press at every opportunity that if the US decides an attack is required “that’s what the United States will do.”
Shanahan continues to brag about the good intelligence the US has on the situation in Venezuela, a claim which must be questioned after this week’s failed coup. The administration’s leadership seems determined to portray themselves as ready to start this war, and after months of saying that not having imposed regime change through sheer force of will, there is a growing risk they will attack outright.