Baltic states: forced move against Venezuela / News / News agency Inforos
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Baltic states: forced move against Venezuela

Baltic politicians have to maneuver between the US and the European Union

06.02.2019 17:29 Vladimir Olenchenko, senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Baltic states: forced move against Venezuela
Context:

Foreign Ministries of the Baltic states have reported on their websites that their countries recognize President of the National Assembly (Venezuela's parliament) Juan Guaidó as the new interim President of Venezuela and hold that he will organize and conduct a presidential election.

The information is dated February 4. The first one was Lithuania, then Latvia and two hours later – Estonia. One might make light of northern impromptness, referring to Estonia, but this time it appears to be all about forethought.

The Estonian statement was made on behalf of Foreign Minister Sven Mikser. It is sustained in the style of diplomatic documents. It uses specifications from Federica Mogherini's speech on Venezuela. It accurately indicates the current position of Guaidó as Chairman of the National Assembly. It specifies his status as the interim President. It expects Guaidó to organize a repeat presidential election. It claims that the proposed re-election is aimed at finding a way out of Venezuela's internal political crisis. To make it more convincing, Mikser's statement is followed by a link to Mogherini's one.

But what is the reason behind Estonia's restraint and desire to implicitly demonstrate that in this very case the country acts strictly at the European Union level and seeks to stay fair-minded? You can easily find enough examples when Mikser speaks out in a peremptory and even reckless manner, especially towards Russia. The answer lies in the fact that Estonia is promoting its candidacy for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council for the 2020-2021 period and needs support. In this regard, Estonian diplomacy demonstrates maximum courtesy and objectivism.

As compared to the Estonian statement, the one by Latvia's Foreign Ministry was made on behalf of the entire establishment, not its head alone. It's less formal, but extensive. It offers a strategy-representing specification stipulating that a contact group formed by the EU should work together with Guaidó to pave the way for holding a repeat presidential election, e. g. the presidential election is labeled as an uncertain prospect.

The statement by the Foreign Ministry of Lithuania was the briefest of all. A three-sentence tongue twister mentions the recognition of Guaidó as interim President, the desirability of holding a repeated presidential election, and the creation of a EU contact group on Venezuela. A wish is also expressed that the outcome of re-elections will determine the future of Venezuelans.

Of course, there is an obviously controversial thing in the statements of the Baltic states, and this is a message about the inadequacy of the 2018 presidential elections in Venezuela. The only issue unattended is where the border can be found between the parliamentary and the presidential elections, since in both cases those were held involving the usual Venezuelan scheme and the same voter base. Why Guaidó, who made it into the parliament after the parliamentary elections, is recognized legally elected, and Maduro, who won the presidential election, is declared illegitimate? To give a reasoned and unbiased answer it is necessary to deal with this topic consistently. It does not refer to foreign policy priorities of the Baltic states that just agree with the American propaganda and its thesis on the inadequacy of Venezuelan presidential elections. In other words, the issue of "democracy" in Venezuela has no prehistory in the Baltic states.

The weakness of the Baltic countries in the Venezuelan internal confrontation is apparently obvious to their own Foreign Ministries as well. The most sophisticated politician here is Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius who limited the country's demarche to several observations and secured himself room for maneuver, no matter how things unfold. The most vulnerable stance is the one of Latvia which has identified itself with a certain action plan for Venezuela. The neutral position has been taken by Estonia which would like to make it clear that it only follows the European Union's will. To some extent, this comparison may serve as an indicator of each of the Baltic countries' art of diplomacy, as well as their independent thinking, and the level of their national maturity.

Nevertheless, the consequences for the Baltic states are considered to be the same. First of all, they should be prepared for a possible increase in hydrocarbon market prices due to American sanctions, which will therefore force the Baltic states to buy oil at higher prices. What is special about the Baltic economies is the inflation's dependence on hydrocarbon prices, because these countries' transport and logistics complex provides a significant contribution to the formation of local GDPs. Inflation, as noted by Baltic experts, induces the growth of wages, which are not based on gross rate of productivity. Consequently, this prompts a state that is qualified as economic overheating.

Another consequence is the possibility of attracting Baltic troops in case the US initiates some military actions in Venezuela or around it. The Iraqi and Afghan precedents are here to stay. It can't hurt the Baltic politicians to ask in advance whether John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, included the Baltic military among the 5 000 soldiers whom the United States can send to Venezuela's neighbor Colombia.

In general, the behavior of the Baltic states in a demarche against the legitimate government of Venezuela has once again demonstrated the way Baltic politicians have to maneuver between the US and the European Union. The Baltic states have accepted American propaganda statements about Venezuela but are forced to look back at the EU. First, they need to try to fit into the complex nature of the current confrontation between the United States and the EU. Second, they need to take into account the fact that the EU is preparing a long-term financial plan (2021-2027), the working drafts of which provide for a reduced payment of subsidies to the Baltic States.

Apparently, the Baltic countries as a whole and each of them separately should start gradually developing their own survival strategy.

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