Russia-Venezuela: Enhanced Cooperation with Sanctions

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The messages that Moscow and Caracas will continue to expand their cooperation in the oil sector are increasing daily. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Carlos Faria stated that they are working on a new agreement with Russia to circumvent Western sanctions in finance and logistics. Meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on July 4, 2022, Faria made the following statement:[1]

“We have an extremely negative view of the policy pursued by the United States of America (USA) for many years. We unequivocally condemn the use of these illegal sanctions against various countries and governments. I would like to thank Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government for their political support of the national processes taking place in Venezuela.”

It is seen that Venezuela and Russia are getting closer to the USA in particular and the West in general due to the pressure they experience in the international arena. Both countries look to their allies to overcome their problems instead of meeting or reconciling with other states in their relations.

Since the energy sector is of great importance for the parties, it seems likely that they will make a special effort to expand their cooperation in this field and form a block in energy in the future. This creates a driving force in the development of relations between Venezuela, which is in the first place due to having 18.2% of the world oil reserves, and Russia, which is in the eighth place with 8% of that reserves.[2] Similarly, the positions of the parties in the natural gas field are pretty strong. Russia ranks first with 24.3% of the world’s natural gas reserves, and Venezuela ranks eighth with 2.8%.[3]

After the start of the Russia-Ukraine War, the impact of the energy sector, in particular, has led to new searches on a global scale. For example, the European Union (EU) and Iran have announced that the stalled nuclear negotiations will resume “in the coming days.”[4] On the other hand, the issue of constructing the 1,900-kilometer Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) Natural Gas Pipeline to connect the gas reserves of the EU, Israel, and Cyprus to other EU members via Greece and Italy has come to the fore again.[5] In addition, Norwegian oil producer Equinor SA and Exxon Mobil took the first steps to increase oil production by $8 billion off the coast of Brazil.[6] Russia, on the other hand, is advancing with Venezuela, one of its traditional allies. While global studies in energy security are gaining momentum, Russia and Venezuela are trying not to harm their stance that “does not bow to the demands of the West” to circumvent the sanctions. It is closely related to the fact that both countries make statements defending the multipolar world order.

Venezuela allows one side of Moscow to be close to the United States. Diplomatic relations established during the Soviet Union period gained depth, especially when Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela. Relations with Venezuela have become intense since Russia’s arms sales to the country and distribution of oil reserves; Caracas’s opposition to the USA works in favor of Moscow. Venezuela, like Cuba and Nicaragua, is one of Russia’s allies in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), which can be considered its “safe.” In this respect, Russian decision-makers made many pre-and/or post-crisis visits to LAC countries, feeling the pulse of these ports and reaping the fruits of all these well-calculated visits and shared common points. For example, it was seen that Venezuela took a stance in favor of Moscow regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In the last crisis, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro stated that Putin defended his people and that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took provocative actions. In addition, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that he cannot rule out the possibility of deploying troops to Venezuela and Cuba, which is interpreted as an indirect threat.[7]

As it will be remembered, in the “Venezuela Presidential Crisis” in 2019, while the USA, Brazil, and many EU countries supported Maduro’s rival Juan Guaido, the Moscow administration stood by Maduro. In other words, the mutual support of the parties, which was strong before the war, increased even more despite the rising pressures due to the recently negotiated cooperation.

Russia and Venezuela significantly expanded their economic, political, and military relations in the 2000s. The USA’s heavy sanctions against Venezuela and its support for regime change demands are among the most critical factors that positively affect the relations on the Moscow-Caracas line. However, when it was understood that the closer convergence of the two sanctioned states over oil would be an inevitable result, it was seen that the US began to ease its oil sanctions against Venezuela.[8] However, in terms of the Maduro administration, while his power is under threat due to the attitude of the USA and other actors, It is unlikely that friendly relations with Russia will be abandoned because of this “mitigation.” On the other hand, it can be thought that Putin aims to take over the energy sector with Venezuela. In this case, it does not seem possible for the West to prevent future partnerships between the two and even other countries.

Pointing to the development of concrete projects and deepening cooperation with Russian companies, Faria expressed his hope that Moscow and Caracas could overcome the issues related to US sanctions. “The conditions in which we find ourselves as a result of the actions of the US administration have hindered the development of the oil industry,” Faria said. He stated that investments, financing and credit opportunities, equipment, and spare parts purchases were affected. It is observed that Putin often makes statements in this direction. Therefore, there is a parallelism between the discourses of the two countries.

Pointing to the alternative financial systems developed by Russia, China, and India to circumvent the West’s “blockade,” Faria emphasized that “more and more countries are interacting with Russia and are not afraid of the consequences they are threatened with.” In addition, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister expressed his support for Russia’s stance on the crisis in Ukraine, saying that Caracas sees that the Putin administration is ready for dialogue and negotiations and hopes that an agreement will eventually be reached that takes into account the interests of both Moscow and Kyiv. Lavrov, on the other hand, welcomed the “normalization of the situation in and around Venezuela” and promised that Moscow would continue contributing in every way possible to the country’s sustainable development.

The parties share similarities in the context of exclusion from the West. Both countries oppose the “Western-centered system.” Although this objection does not have a systematic dimension yet, it is in the construction phase. In this context, perhaps Russia and Venezuela may have taken a step towards the beginning of a concrete objection to the existing system by putting energy at the center. For this, they need the participation of other leading parties in the energy sector. However, it is not possible for other countries to position themselves on such a line. Otherwise, searches in this direction will be limited to “saving the day” for both countries. Although the trump they have in encircling the West with the energy card in their hands is strong, but not enough yet, the duo can try to create an “energy triangle” by including a state from the Middle East or Africa in cooperation between them and thus become more active actors in the international arena.

[1] “Russia, Venezuela to Expand Oil Sector Cooperation”, Mehr News Agency,, (Date of Accession: 05.07.2022).

[2] “Oil Reserves by Country”, Worldometer,, (Date of Accession: 06.07.2022).

[3] “Natural Gas Reserves by Country”, Worldometer, of Accession: 06.07.2022).

[4] “EU-Iran Nuclear Talks Set to Resume in the ‘Coming Days’”, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 05.07.2022).

[5] “Construction of EastMed Gas Pipeline Becomes Topical Again”, Total Croatia News,, (Date of Accession: 05.07.2022).

[6] “Exclusive: Equinor, Exxon Agree to Expand Brazil Oil Operations”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 05.07.2022).

[7] Evan Ellis, “Russia’s Latest Return to Latin America”, Global Americans,, (Date of Accession: 22.01.2022).

[8] “U.S. to Offer Minor Sanctions Relief to Entice Venezuela to Talks”, NY Times, “, (Date of Accession: 22.01.2022).

Cemre Çağla ATAMER
2017 yılında Aydın Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olan ve 2020 yılında aynı üniversitenin Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler yüksek lisans programından “Latin Amerika’da Entegrasyon Çabaları: AB ile Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” teziyle uzmanlığını alan Cemre Çağla Atamer, 2021 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Latin Amerika Çalışmaları Anabilim Dalı’nda ikinci yüksek lisans programına başlamıştır. Halihazırda yüksek lisans eğitimine devam eden Atamer, iyi derecede İngilizce ve başlangıç seviyesinde İspanyolca bilmektedir.