U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo challenged world leaders to choose democracy over tyranny when political crisis broke out in Venezuela in late January. “Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side,” said America’s senior diplomat during an address to the United Nations Security Council. “Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in a league with Maduro and his mayhem.”
Ukraine is clearly standing with the
forces of freedom and we have unreservedly backed the United States on Venezuela. Previous presidential administrations in Kyiv would have sided with Moscow or remained neutral throughout t
he ongoing Venezuela political crisis. During my presidency, Ukraine’s strategic partnership with America has become stronger and Kyiv can now be counted on to side with Washington on important international issues and crises.
Ukraine’s support for Venezuelan democracy is a reflection of our own struggle against authoritarian kleptocracy following the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution when over 100 protestors were shot dead. Nearly 300 have been killed during protests in Venezuela over the past five years.
Russia, Iran and China continue to back Maduro’s authoritarian kleptocracy whose economic policies have brought starvation and third-world living standards to the Venezuelan people, once the wealthiest nation in Latin America with vast reserves of oil and gas. In the U.N. Security Council, the Maduro regime receives the support of Russia proxy states of Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Syria and others. As Moscow expert Pavel Felgenhauer writes, “Knee-jerk anti-Americanism drives Russian decision-making on Venezuela”.
Ukraine’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) has long criticized the Maduro regime, decrying its “disrespect for democratic norms and principles of international law”. Ukraine’s MFA condemned “the attempts by the Venezuelan government to usurp power by violating the basic democratic rights and freedoms of its citizens, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom expression of will”.
On January 25, Ukraine’s MFA added “We support the Venezuelan people in its quest for the restoration of democracy and constitutional order in the country. Ukraine, together with other democratic countries will support steps aimed at the restoration of democracy through the legitimately elected National Assembly”.
Moscow’s and Beijing’s response to the Venezuela crisis surprised nobody in Ukraine and the international community. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin warned against Washington’s “destructive meddling” in Venezuela, while China refused to support recognizing Guaido as “interim president” and cited China’s often-stated stance on countries not interfering in the affairs of other states.
Russia is being typically hypocritical in calling upon the United States and other countries to not interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Russia has established a track record of doing just that, whether annexing the Crimea, invading eastern Ukraine, hacking European governments, launching assassinations of defectors and chemical attacks in the UK or intervening in U.S. elections. Wagner mercenaries, with links to Russia’s military intelligence GRU and now defending Maduro, honed their brutal methods in Ukraine and Syria. Nearly 15,000 dead in Ukraine are testament to Russia’s interference in our internal affairs.
Venezuela is Russia and China’s reliable pawn at the UN. where it has always sided with Moscow in votes to condemn Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and on-going Russian military aggression against Ukraine. Venezuela’s Maduro does not support the core U.N. principle of upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nation-states.
Ukraine, together with over 40 important countries, views Venezuela’s opposition leader and “interim president” and head of the Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. We unreservedly support free and fair elections for Venezuela.
The US is no doubt also closely following Ukraine’s March presidential elections in Ukraine as the outcome will have an impact on the future of our relations. My main challenger, populist Yulia Tymoshenko bodes uncertainty and confused domestic and foreign policies.
During my presidency, Ukraine has moved forward on reforms and increased the country’s integration into Western institutions. Poroshenko has led the way for parliament to amend the constitution to include the goals of NATO and EU membership to ensure the irreversibility of Ukraine leaving Moscow’s orbit. Ms. Tymoshenko is blocking the changing of Ukraine’s constitution to add the goals NATO and EU membership.
Tymoshenko’s populism on domestic issues would likely result in reduced support for key economic and energy reforms and thereby curtail IMF assistance. Her proposals for constitutional reforms have an uncanny resemblance to the undemocratic steps made by Maduro that sidelined the Venezuelan National Assembly. Meanwhile, her willingness to include China in negotiations with President Putin for negotiating a peace deal in Ukraine would have major repercussions upon Ukraine’s political stability and harm Kyiv’s relations with Washington.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other U.S. leaders have given strong support to Ukraine which faces continued Russian military aggression, as recently witnessed in Russia’s naval piracy in the Black and Azov seas. We appreciate the U.S. spending over $1 billion in economic, military, and political support for Ukraine since 2014 and providing military training to upgrade Ukrainian forces to NATO standards.
International crises such as those in Venezuela are when Washington can clearly see who its strategic allies are. The US can rely on Ukraine in this crisis and other international issues. Throughout the current crisis, and over the last five years, Ukraine has always sided with the Venezuelan people, the “forces for freedom” and demands for the restitution of democracy. Through their support for Maduro, Russia and China have shown they are on the side of authoritarian kleptocracy in Venezuela.
Author : Taras Kuzio