Is a Venezuelan-Colombian War on the Horizon? A Brazilian Perspective

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By the author of Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City and The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.

With the escalation of events surrounding the war in Ukraine sucking all the oxygen in the room at the moment, it’s easy to forget about the disputes and conflicts flaring up in various other places around the world. One of these quarrels is heating up at the border between Colombia and Venezuela and involves both the US/NATO and Russia, with the real possibility of a Venezuela-Colombian war.

NATO? In South America?

Yes, it’s a mess of a situation with hints of a throwback to the post-WW2 Cold War period, plot twists, and a coat of modern, multifaceted unconventional warfare. But it has the potential to destabilize South America and even connect with the contention going on in Ukraine and Eastern Europe at some point in the future. Not to mention the possibility of a Cuban Missile Crisis 2.0, which would directly affect the US. 

A brief history of the Russia-Venezuela alliance

Russia has supported the leftist Bolivarian government of Venezuela since 1999 when former president Hugo Chavez took office and took the once-richest South American country on a communist trip. 

Colombian War
Hugo Chavez on right.

Just like the deals with Cuba and Nicaragua decades prior, the alliance includes financial, political, diplomatic, and commercial agreements. From the very beginning, the goal of the Kremlin was to establish another pro-Russian ally in the western hemisphere, and specifically, in South America.

Beyond direct financial support, these agreements include the trading of commodities, weapons, and even nuclear technology for non-military uses (i.e., energy). And, of course, there was oil. Rosneft has helped Venezuela circumvent the restrictions levied by the US and its allies on the communist dictatorship.

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The propaganda machine

Russia uses its RT (Russia Today) channel and local Sputnik news agencies (among a host of underground organizations) for their targeted-for-Latin America pro-Kremlin propaganda. 

That’s no different from tactics used by western media and the US government, really. The bottom line is that both sides are trying to spread their messages and impose their agendas, with the ultimate goal of increasing political, ideological, strategic, and commercial influence. 

This Cold War warfare never really ceased to exist. 

It just went somewhat dormant with the fall of the USRR and the advent of globalization in the early 1990s. With the issues brought by the plandemic and the swelling of western-eastern disputes, the Cold War is seemingly back en vogue and in full force again. 

It’s impossible to know for sure what is information, misinformation, and disinformation in this nuclear exchange of narratives and ideological propaganda. So, before we dive in, try to read beyond the words and news. Take declarations from both parts (official or otherwise) by both sides with not just a grain but an entire bag of salt.

And remember: what matters is that history shows that’s how nations prepare and build up for actual wars. This is usually the first stage. The second is commercial and financial war – which we’re already deep into as well. Time will tell if we’re headed for another global conflict.

Latin America geopolitics: always a very complex (and oftentimes crazy) game.

In February, Nicolás Maduro declared that “Russia has the entire support of the Bolivarian Republic for its military intervention in Ukraine.” He also endorsed “the path for a powerful military cooperation between Russia and Venezuela” (his own words), showing the intentions of Russia to help arm the country.

Colombian war
Nicolas Maduro

These declarations were given during a visit of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov to Caracas, Havana (Cuba), and Managua (Nicaragua). 

In March, after a visit of US officials to Venezuela, Maduro changed his position quite radically, coming to the point of declaring being “united with the US.”

 After US officials flew to Venezuela to hold rare talks about breaking the country’s longstanding Russian influence, Nicolas Maduro changed his tone on the Ukraine war (SOURCE)

Now that’s an odd twist right there. Sudden shifts in mood and position are common to banana republic regimes and dictatorships caught between superpower disputes. But one can only wonder what transpired during this “rare” encounter. 

As telling as these swings may be, they shouldn’t be a surprise or concerning. 

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It’s other recent events and initiatives involving US and Russia in Latin America that deserve attention.

In April, Sputnik Brazil agency published an article highlighting the US efforts to co-opt Colombia into NATO. As odd as this may sound, the Biden administration actually announced Colombia as a “major non-member ally” of NATO in early March 2022.

The article goes on to call Colombia the “Ukraine of Latin America,” speculating the country would be militarized and used to defend American interests in the region. The Venezuelan Defense Minister then called Colombia a “NATO and US puppet,” citing it could be turned into a springboard to invade Venezuela.

This promptly led local and foreign analysts to question: Is this a Cold War reboot, with US and Russia exerting diplomatic, commercial, and economic courtship (or more direct pressures) to shift associations and fetch support? Or are both powers actually setting up the stage to wage another proxy war, this time in Latin America?

The situation on the Venezuela-Colombia border

Early this year, both countries increased their military presence at the border between the states of Arauca and Apure, where a dispute between two previously allied groups broke out over control of territory and illegal activities in the region. 

According to Human Rights Watch, thousands have been displaced due to fighting between the Joint Eastern Command (a coalition of dissident groups that emerged from the demobilized FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Members from both sides have been committing abuses and acts against the civilian population. Killings, compulsory recruitment, kidnappings, and forced displacement have become frequent and keep increasing in number and brutality. Venezuelan security forces have conducted joint operations with ELN fighters and been complicit in their actions.

Colombian president Iván Duque accuses the Venezuelan government of being conniving with the action of the guerrillas, while the Bolivarian regime of Nicolas Maduro blames the Colombian armed groups of invading the Venezuelan territory. Hmmm…

Colombian War
Ivan Duque

Where the rubber meets the road

So, is it possible that this situation in the Arauca-Apure region is being strategically manipulated and provoked? Are the paramilitary and guerrilla groups being used to spark a national conflict between the US and Russian allies?

It’s certainly possible, so maybe the question is how likely. I’m no expert in geopolitics, but it’s hard not to see a connection between the declarations, events, manipulations, and interferences narrated above and the on-the-ground developments at the border of Venezuela and Colombia. 

The upcoming presidential election in Colombia is also set to make things even more volatile. Especially with the rumors of Russia trying to interfere and manipulate the process. Nothing has been proved, but the American audience might have an opinion or two about this aspect, so I’ll leave it at that.

Crises lead to insanity. Insanity leads to SHTF.

Western democracy is in a deep crisis of its own making. Eastern powers (i.e., Russia and China) are also in their own hell. Heck, the entire world is up to the eyeballs with problems of all sorts. Everywhere is volatile. 

But that won’t stop ideological warfare from raging on. In fact, it’s during these times that the efforts to win hearts, minds, and actual support get intensified. We’ve entered the age of widespread conflict. Expect more of it to pop up in all corners of the globe. 

This whole mess makes one wonder: if the situation in eastern Europe prolongs or comes to an impasse, what are the odds of Russia turning to Latin America and opening another hot stage with Venezuela and Colombia? What would be the response of the US and NATO? This sure gives some food for thought.

I’ve been following the development of this situation for two reasons. 

One, because both Venezuela and Colombia have borders with Brazil (my home). A larger or more serious conflict has the potential to destabilize the region and, in some way, shape, or form, my country as well.

The second reason is that this can lead to even more complex developments in Europe, but also with the US. 

For instance, if Colombia gets armed and militarized by the US and NATO, Russia could do the same with Venezuela. Given the recent change of tone, it’s not yet clear what’s the position of the Bolivarian government in the matter of Russia and Ukraine. It could change again at any moment, so this is sort of a question mark for the time being.

The possibility of nuclear weapons being installed in the northern part of South America by a US enemy, close to US territory, could lead to another Missile Crisis (the distance between Venezuela and Florida is a mere 2.837 km (1762 miles). 

This would be an extreme scenario, admittedly. But crazy seems to be the new normal, so there’s that.

One thing is for sure: beyond the barrage of declarations, narratives, and propaganda, there’s something tangible happening between Colombia and Venezuela. And it’s not good. 

It has crossed the sphere of ideological manipulation and political interference and taken physical form in the conflicts at the border. These are already affecting large swaths of the population through the action of violent paramilitary and guerrilla groups. And it clearly involves both Russia and the US. 

I’ve recently come across a very interesting and thought-provoking piece by Guido Torres in the Small Wars Journal about non-linear warfare. The author asks if Russia is waging a silent war in Latin America and goes at length to dissect the new approach of the once-URSS to regain its superiority after the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991. 

The quote at the opening, a declaration by Chief of the General Staff of Russia Gal. Valero Gerasimov gives the tone of the article: “The very ‘rules of war’ have changed. The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.”

I highly suggest the read to anyone interested in an insightful perspective on modern warfare, military strategy, and geopolitics in general. While everyone expects China to take prominence on the post-pandemic global stage, it’s the invasion of Ukraine and the military advances of Russia that are currently taking the spotlight and posing more critical questions.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Let us know in the comments below.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City , is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. He’s also the author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor 

Fabian Ommar

Fabian Ommar

Leave a Reply

  • Weakness draws aggression. Stolen elections of a failing superpower has consequences.

    One might pray for the health and long life of Putin as he has been the moderate in Russian politics, restraining the Warhawks of his government from rash actions. Clearly the “leadership” of the USA isn’t providing any sort of exit ramp in the proxy war between the USA and Russia.

    How will the fall of the US dollar affect your country, Fabian? Our petrodollar once the required currency to buy OPEC oil is being replaced with Euros, Rubles, Grams of gold, Chinese Yaun and I suspect other “monies”.

    Long trusted friends and storable foodstuffs as the Famine Wars heat up. Short fiat money even the once mighty US Dollar.

  • I ordered your book, The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook, Order #16856, but never received it. Can you help me? Thanks, LC

  • Colombia allowed 8million penniless Venezuelans to walk across the border, 1. To point the finger at the failure of Socialism; 2. To lower the cost of labor in Colombia. What’s the chance that some of these are undercover operatives? Or that many of them might act as a ‘5th Column’ if war breaks out?

    • Hi. Sorry, your numbers are a little bit off. 8 millions is the total number of refugees. Colombia received 2 millions, give or take. You´re right on the spot that many of them are undercover personnel. Mind you, the Castros are behind all this.

      • I readily admit I could be wrong.
        Just here in the medium size city of Pereira, it seems like there are families at every intersection, begging. “We are Venezuelans, please help”.

        • I know. Many Venezuelans can´t get jobs because of papers. I myself tried to legalize to work as an engineer in the state companies in Peru but the one year license was 1200$. Argentina issued a special law to legalize professional degrees of people, from the major universities (mine included) but I won´t leave Venezuela again unless things get really dangerous. So far so good. I had the advantage of two languages and a degree; but many people left without any professional competence, much less money nor a preparedness and self-sufficiency mind setup and that´s the people you see in every corner.
          Lesson learned the hard way for every prepper!

          • Venezuelans with education and professions left far in advance of the mass emigration. Those that walked across the border were beggars and trash scavengers, going to a region of better prosperity. They are doing the same things in Colombia. Not to disparage Venezuelans, all countries have their bottom strata.

    • Socialism is almost the national religion in South America. Part of that is the US’s fault. In our need to nation build, we also severely wrecked many countries along the way. That allowed socialism is come in. Sort of “we tried your way and all we got was dictators so now we will try socialism”. You see it both Central and South America. The US didn’t make a lot of friends down there. We are almost at the damned if we do and damned if we don’t stage.

      • Dear James, you´re right but the USA had not exactly most of the fault. The Cuban influence does. Since middle 50s they were trying to get rid of the image the American Dream, the self-made man, the hard-working class that could buy their own home and a new car, replacing it for those social-democRats that slowly undermined our society the last 60 years, muting into a weak, parasitic and unable crowd that fears their own temporary employees. US fault, if any, was to give room to those banana dictators, and their pleasant position with Cuba. Destroying the Castros´ ruling and freeing Cuba is a need, nor an option if we want to kick communists out of the entire American continent. By doing so, automatically hard working people who believes in justice and freedom will keep the parasitic USA haters at bay. I have been to 5 different countries already and I know it. The USA is still the best example to follow in the entire world in many basic principles. Our national hero Francisco de Miranda fought there, and his freedom ideas came from Washington and friends. That should ring a bell.
        Stay safe!

  • Former Marine told me:
    Like I told a while back to Gohmert’s assistant. Putin its a pimp selling weapons at the US’s Backyard.
    the problem its not the Russians, its the Iranians.
    they are building drones and missile facilities in Venezuela for a while now. If Nato Keeps poking the bear. Russians are going to cut them loose in South America.
    hesbollah has ground in Colombia but the nuckleheads at the embassy look the other way. China is building a hwy to the pacific.

    • I don´t really know about drone or missile factories but I am deeply concerned about the existence of nucs in Venezuela. The USA seems to have dismissed this very real possibility and taking it too lightly.

  • Russia might give military aid to various countries, including Venezuela.
    However Russia’s main concern right now is Eastern Europe. Committing troops to S, America is another matter, not a very likely one.
    Part of the equation will depend upon American politics and Russia’s view of them. With the 2022 midterms just around the corner, the outcome will tend to influence Russia’s actions.
    Somewhat surprisingly, Russia prefers a strong American President, like Trump.
    A strong Republican Congress might also reign in the failed foreign policies of the Biden administration. So there is that point also.
    (I think it is because they better understand strength of conviction and action, rather than “stab you in the back, politics” and weak political policies.)

    An unlikely possibility is that Russia might get involved in S. America (once the Ukraine conflict is resolved), if they believed it would influence the 2024 election to put a strong American Presidential candidate in office. But it would probably be a limited one, as they would know they would have to abandon that assistance, if a strong president was elected.

    Many people do not realize how much American policies and politics affects the World. There has been a movement by Europe and various others to discredit this fact; but it remains the truth, no matter how much they hate it or try to disclaim it.

  • Fabian,
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    Dunno about you all, seems to me there are so many different issues going on in the world right now, even a minor incident half way across the world could have significant ripple effects that would impact us here at home.

  • There are so many small (from a global perspective) conflicts raging or simmering across the globe. Its hard to care tbh, at least from here.

    Could a hot war in South America affect me here? I don’t know. Maybe?

    Many of these small wars have been ongoing over centuries in some form or another, with names and political alliances changing, but the seemingly same cycle of suffering and impoverishment happening over and over to the local populations, who probably just want to go buy a sandwich without having to jump out of the way of a pickup truck full of AK toting goons along the way.

    Do you just want me to be aware? Research, do some digging, learn what I can? Take direct action?

    We all suffer. To a greater or lesser degree.

    Where I live, there is a heroin and methamphetamine crisis, and the Public Schools are churning out thugs and future prison inmates and unwed mothers.

    What are the global implications of that?

    Probably none.

    Fabian, people who might actually know things (what units of the AFEUR are training in the US, who is training them, what specific weapons are being supplied or purchased to compliment that training, which branches or departments of which US agencies are more directly and proactively involved), can’t talk about it to you or me. National Security. We aren’t read in. So we can’t know.

    The guys over at Small Wars Journal (maybe a couple still on the council know a little) don’t know anything either.

    Will there be war? We can only guess.

    If you can seek out folks with National Security level clearances, who are reading the cables and white papers, and they trust you, maybe you can pick up some interesting tidbits here and there. It won’t be enough enough for a full picture, because no one has that picture.

    Regardless, good article, thought provoking.

    Stay safe. Looks like its going to be an interesting year.

    • Misreading, if that war suddenly happens in Venezuela using a nuc over the Colombian NATO base, the US WILL BE AFFECTED. It can happen. That gang has nothing to lose and they have price on their heads.

  • At this point, I’d worry more about China’s influence in Venezuela and other developing and former colonies of western powers. I’ve lived in Colombia, spent time in Venezuela, and have/had close family and friends in Venezuela (got most of them out 5 plus years ago, tg). The stories they tell are almost unbelievable, until you remember how greedy, selfish, and cruel people can be towards each other in clinging to power at any cost.

    China has been playing a long game. They’re patient and smart, and strategic on where they’re spending their money. They’re locking up ownership and rights to strategic minerals around the world, mines, energy, anything they need or want us to not have. They go into some struggling country in Central/South America, Africa, Asia, etc. and buy them a fancy hospital, build a port and some highways, and suddenly they have the keys to the country. It doesn’t help that these countries largely are deeply suspicious of and hostile to (usually with good reason) the traditional western colonial powers. It’s almost too easy. I have firsthand knowledge of the many ways they’re buying goodwill in Central and South America, and the access and ownership they’re getting in return.

    Russia has its hands full and will for some time. Just today Finland and
    Sweden formally announced their intention to apply for membership to NATO. The Ukraine is turning out to be a quagmire. The Russian army is crap, their economy is freefalling and will continue to fall at a precipitous pace. Putin is an old, sick, frustrated man, ill-served by the yes-men serving him. He is extremely dangerous, yes, but I’m sure he has bigger things on his mind right now than tweaking our nose in Venezuela.

    As for Maduro, he’ll say anything or do anything that he thinks will keep he and Cilia from being strung up on a lamp post. As much of the developed world looks to wean itself from Russian oil, Venezuela’s in a better position to gain back some ground than it was just a few months ago.

    And Venezuela-Colombia at war? IDK. Some might point out that there’s already been a proxy war for a long time going on, what with FARC and it being funded and supported by Venezuela at different points, along with other drug cartels defending their coca fields and businesses, while we’ve armed and trained and spent a fortune on Colombians fighting FARC and the cartels. So, nothing new, just maybe on a larger scale.

    • Dear Lorraine,
      You would be surprised of the integration level between regular Army and guerrilla these days…

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