Russia Will Deploy More Soldiers to Venezuela If Needed, Foreign Ministry Says As U.S.-Backed Opposition Flounders

A Russian foreign ministry official has said Moscow will consider sending more troops to support embattled President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela if the situation requires it, as the oil-rich nation remains mired in political turmoil.

Russia and China are among the nations backing Maduro, who the U.S.- and Europe-backed opposition claim is an illegitimate dictator. In March, two Russian military transport planes arrived in Caracas with more than 100 troops aboard, reportedly deployed to repair and help maintain Venezuelan military equipment.

But a foreign ministry official has now said the Kremlin will consider more deployments if needed, despite President Vladimir Putin's assertion that he has no plans to send more soldiers nor establish military bases in Venezuela.

According to the Tass state news agency, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Latin American department, Alexander Shchetinin, told reporters Friday, "If more [specialists] are needed, we will send them." He explained that Russia has "contracts on maintenance works for what has been supplied to Venezuela. Any works demand a certain involvement of people."

"This is an absolutely technical issue related to implementing certain contracts on a particular volume of work," the diplomat added. He also said any new deployments may be simple troop rotations. "Some of them will leave and the others will come," he told reporters.

The arrival of Russian troops in Venezuela in March raised fears that the nation could become the battleground in a proxy war between the U.S., Russia and China.

The soldiers were reportedly deployed to help protect the regime against cyber attacks, service Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems and help repair the damaged national power grid, which Maduro has claimed was a target of U.S. covert sabotage operations.

At the time, the U.S. State Department called the deployment a "reckless escalation" of the tense situation in the country. Since then, the opposition—led by self-declared Interim President Juan Guaido—have lost momentum, having failed to win the support of the country's powerful military establishment.

Proposed talks between the two sides have so far not come to fruition, leaving the crisis-stricken nation caught between Maduro and the opposition-led National Assembly.

President Donald Trump recognized Guaido as the country's legitimate leader in January, with the White House reportedly hoping the military would quickly abandon Maduro, who has overseen Venezuela's descent into economic chaos.

But this strategy proved overly optimistic. This week, The Washington Post published an article detailing a recording of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lamenting the state of the opposition in Venezuela. He said that keeping all opposition factions united was proving "devilishly difficult."

Pompeo also said that Maduro "is mostly surrounded by Cubans," and "doesn't trust Venezuelans a lick. I don't blame him. He shouldn't. They were all plotting against him. Sadly, they were all plotting for themselves."

Russia, Venezuela, troops, deployment
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino is pictured after the arrival of two Russian Tu-160 long-range bombers at Maiquetia International Airport, north of Caracas, Venezuela, on December 10, 2018. Getty/FEDERICO PARRA/AFP