In Washington over the weekend, we got the final verdict from Robert Mueller: No evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Down in Venezuela, on the same day Attorney General William Barr delivered his summary of the Mueller report to Congress, Russia was saying — in its own forceful way — that it wasn’t colluding with the Trump administration, either.
Now, granted, the Russians didn’t say it through a media release or a news conference, or anything like that. And even if they did, there’d be no reason to believe them.
Instead, they did it via their actions — backing up the government of Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro even as America tries to return democracy to the troubled nation. And actions speak louder than words.
“Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow,” Reuters reported Monday.
“That comes three months after the two nations held military exercises on Venezuelan soil that President Nicolas Maduro called a sign of strengthening relations, but which Washington criticized as Russian encroachment in the region.”
The two planes — an Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane — carried Russia’s chief of staff of the ground forces and 35 tons of military equipment, respectively.
The Associated Press quoted a Venezuelan government source who said the Russians were in Venezuela for discussions on training, strategy and equipment maintenance. And, well, they certainly brought a lot of equipment with them.
The demonstration of support for the Maduro regime was one of two arguments against Russian collusion that were being made on Saturday.
The first was an obvious one — the Mueller report. However, the second one was shown by Russia’s actions. If the Kremlin had colluded with the Trump campaign to get the president elected, surely they’d have told the world about it by now.
To the left, the only thing that matters is the nice things they think Trump has said about Putin or the fact that he wasn’t tough enough on the Russian leader at the Helsinki summit.
Neither of these represent the president’s best qualities, but Trump has always been willing to use the carrot of flattery with other world leaders.
However, that’s been backed up by a considerable stick of action. When it comes to Russia, that stick has been fairly large.
On Venezuela, the two sides clearly don’t see eye-to-eye. When American and Russian officials met in Rome last week to discuss how to handle the collapsing South American nation, the AP reported they “remained split on how to resolve the crisis.”
Russia has expressed worries that America might intervene militarily in support of opposition leader Juan Guiadó, recognized by the United States and a fair proportion of the West as the rightful leader of Venezuela.
In terms of the sanctions levied against Venezuela by the United States, Russia has been one of Maduro’s most steadfast diplomatic supporters.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has indicated its displeasure with Russia’s support of Maduro — including a stunt in December where two nuclear-capable bombers landed in Venezuela as a sign of support — and has said, when it comes to military intervention to oust the strongman, that “all options are on the table.”
(He has made it clear he would prefer economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to dislodge Maduro.)
In terms of kowtowing to Russia, it’s again worth noting that Trump has conducted airstrikes against Syrian bases against Russian wishes, armed the Ukrainians and engaged with Russian mercenaries in Syria.
These aren’t the actions of a colluder, and they’re also much further than the Obama administration was willing to go on each of these accounts.
The ironic thing is that Russia’s latest move could backfire severely now that the Mueller report is out.
The Russians could have figured we would have been wracked by enough internal problems by Mueller that our attention wouldn’t be on their power move in Venezuela.
Now, all they’ve done is proven — for the second time in a weekend — that Donald Trump isn’t working with the Russians after all.
Actions speak louder than words.
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