(Oilprice.com, Tsvetana Paraskova, 14.May.2019) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting on Tuesday to discuss various issues, including the fate of Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro—a hot topic for the oil market as geopolitical tensions have mounted in recent weeks.
Secretary Pompeo will be meeting with Putin knowing that the Russian president is not committed to supporting Maduro at all costs and could be inclined to give up on the player on whom he is betting in Venezuela’s political chaos, the UK’s The Telegraph reports, quoting sources with knowledge of Putin’s attitude toward Maduro.
Russia has been the staunchest supporter and ally of Maduro’s regime in the political power struggle in the Latin American country sitting on top of the world’s largest oil reserves, while the U.S. and many European nations have recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president.
Russia has stood by Maduro for years and has poured billions of U.S. dollars in Venezuela in the form of loans and oil investments. Russia’s state-controlled oil giant Rosneft has extended US$6 billion of loans to Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA. As of December 31, 2018, Venezuela still owed Rosneft US$2.3 billion.
According to The Telegraph, Putin reportedly told U.S. President Donald Trump during their long phone call earlier this month that he wasn’t fond of Maduro and was ready to negotiate his departure.
“Vladimir Putin detests Nicolas Maduro,” a Venezuelan source who has been dealing with Russia for decades told The Telegraph.
Venezuela was one of the topics that the U.S. and Russian presidents discussed over the phone on May 3, President Trump said, adding, referring to Putin:
he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to
see something positive happen for Venezuela.”
Last week, a senior State Department official said, discussing Secretary Pompeo’s trip to Russia: “We are concerned about Russia’s actions in Venezuela, and we think support for Maduro is a losing bet. And so our support for the Venezuelan people continues, and that will be a subject for the discussion.”
Russian analyst and journalist Vladimir Frolov wrote in The Moscow Times earlier this month that Putin “is ready to give up Venezuela for the right price” and that Putin could ask that “Withdrawing Russian military support for Maduro should also be matched by the withdrawal of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.”