Why is Colombia Concerned about Russian Military Personnel in Venezuela?

Misión Verdad
https://i1.wp.com/misionverdad.com/sites/default/files/styles/mv2_820x460/public/media/photos/rusia_2.jpgVenezuelan pilots will be trained in the handling of Russian helicopters Mi17V-5, Mi-35M and Mi-26T (Photo: Sergey Pivovarov / Sputnik).

Suspicions from Colombia regarding the presence of Russian military personnel in Venezuela are in clear harmony with Washington’s spokespersons who have criticized the oil nation’s technical-military cooperation with the Russian Federation.

In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed three bills requiring the State Department study measures against what they have called the “Russian-Venezuelan threat”.

This series of legislative actions confirms the Russian seasoning in the Venezuelan dossier. But this does not mean that there are no paradoxes in these legislations. Among them, a Venezuelan Arms Restriction Law was enacted that ratifies a U.S. arms embargo against Venezuela, a situation which originated from the beginning of the first government of Hugo Chávez, and Venezuela’s cooperation with the second largest arms manufacturer in the world, Russia.

Hostilities from Colombia

Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Foreign Minister of Colombia, recently responded to a communication from the Embassy of the Federation in that country and opened the door to an unusual cycle of tensions between those nations.

In response to Russia’s request that Colombia stay away from the possibilities of a conflict in Venezuela, because this violates international law, the foreign minister replied that “Colombia reiterates that any military deployment or incursion in support of Nicolás Maduro’s regime jeopardizes the democratic transition and constitutional normalization in Venezuela, and constitutes a threat to peace, security and stability in the region”.

This new devious and intemperate declaration by Colombia suggests the development of openly hostile rhetoric, as a third-party act, but commissioned by the United States against Russia, as last week Holmes Trujillo described as “a military incursion” the arrival of Russian soldiers in Venezuela aboard two aircraft that landed at Maiquetía airport.

The declarations of the Neo-Granadine Chancellor are completely incongruous and enormously disproportionate, if we consider that the U.S. presence in eight military bases in Colombia can be qualified as a military incursion with a projection to Venezuela.

Military Cooperation Russia-Venezuela

According to the Russian TASS agenda, a training center for helicopter pilots, created with the help of Russian specialists, was opened in Venezuela.

The Joint Simulated Instruction and Training Center “Brigadier General Oscar José Martínez Mora” is located in the “Coronel Joaquín Veroes” National Army Air Field, in San Felipe, Yaracuy State.

Rosoboronexport’s press service reported that “a modern helicopter training center was built under the Rosoboronexport contract with the Venezuelan state defense manufacturer (CAVIM). Its opening ceremony took place on March 29.

Rosoboronexport is the main state-owned company for the marketing and export of Russian defence products, which has had several cooperation agreements and sales of military supplies in Venezuela for years.

This facility, according to the state-run defense agency, “will provide Venezuelan pilots with the opportunity to train the use of the Mi17V-5, Mi-35M and Mi-26T helicopters,” with which, according to a Venezuelan aviation source cited by TASS, it will increase “the active role in the fight against drug trafficking in the states of Barinas, Apure and Amazonas,” given that, as a general rule, they are used to detect and destroy drug trafficking convoys travelling over land and rivers.

This detailed information, on the one hand, clarifies the unfounded doubts raised by the U.S. government and Western media about the presence of Russian military personnel who recently arrived in Venezuela. As asserted by the Russian government and Venezuela, the arrival of these personnel was intended to reinforce technical cooperation on a military scale between the two countries, as evidenced by the installation of this training center for Venezuelan pilots.

Suspicions and risks

These military agreements undoubtedly increase FANB’s capabilities in a comprehensive manner. In other words, they promote the development of a cohesive strategic defensive and offensive approach in the face of the open and deliberate specific military threats that have been made by the Trump administration.

This element concerns Colombia because of its logistically practical and operationally servile position to the U.S. government in the event of a conflict with Venezuela. The inference that in the event of a possible intervention from Colombia to Venezuela would indeed be a threat to Colombian troops would be a rise in Venezuela’s tactical and strategic capabilities.

But beyond the possibility of a military conflict, Venezuela continues to increase its operational readiness for routine tasks that are of concern to Colombia.

The helicopters and airplanes that Venezuela has acquired from Russia have served to neutralize the activities of Colombian drug trafficking because it is a matter of national security, due to the paramilitary component that it carries with it and the financing that Colombian drug trafficking provides for the destabilization of Venezuela, which has been successively denounced by the Venezuelan government.

FANB’s concept of integral strategic security implies the protection of Venezuelan soil and airspace from illegitimate and criminal activities by elements of transnational organized crime.

The Air Space Control Law that was enacted in May 2012 by President Hugo Chávez has authorized the use of force against any aircraft that, according to the protocols of the law, is considered hostile or is presumed to be carrying out illegal activities in national airspace.

In 2015 the immobilization of more than 100 aircraft was announced and the number has not ceased to increase, reaching 200 units which have been immobilized, disabled and detained up to 2019.

The protocols announced by the Venezuelan authorities indicated that aircraft have been detected by the new radar systems supplied by Russia and China in cooperation with Venezuela. These aircraft are then boarded in the air by Venezuelan aviation and are required to land.

In most cases, they land and their occupants are ordered to leave the unit so that it can be immobilized and disabled from the air by armed action. On many occasions these operations are supported from the air by Russian helicopters in the hands of Venezuelan aviation.

The losses to drug trafficking due to these surveillance activities in Venezuelan airspace could total an estimated 300 tons of drugs that failed to reach their destination due to the intervention of Venezuelan forces.

For Venezuela, increasing its operational capabilities is indispensable. In 2015, a Sukhoi-30 fighter plane of the Venezuelan Air Force crashed, according to the Ministry of Defense in a statement published on its website. The aircraft would have fallen while carrying out interception of an illegal aircraft that would have entered Venezuelan airspace from the northwestern region of the country heading south toward the border with the Republic of Colombia.

The concerns from Colombia to the increase in the operational capabilities of the Venezuelan forces are perfectly clear if we understand that the Colombian government is an established franchise of drug trafficking. This activity does not cease to expand in that country, as Donald Trump himself pointed out a few days ago.

Last Friday, Trump accused his Colombian counterpart, Ivan Duque, of not having “done anything” to stop the flow of drugs from Colombia. “There are more drugs coming out of Colombia right now,” than before Duque was president, Trump said.

Indeed, in June 2018, Colombia reached record levels in coca plant cultivation and cocaine production potential, according to a report by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy ( ONDCP).

According to this report, the country went from 188,000 hectares under coca cultivation in 2016 to 209,000 hectares in 2017. And regarding the potential for cocaine production, Colombia went from 772 metric tons in 2016 to 921 in 2017, according to the 2018 ONDCP report.

Translation by Internationalist 360°