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Russian President Vladimir Putin talks Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during their meeting at the Kremlin on October 4, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Maduro Is Putin’s Man in Caracas

Walter Russell Mead

During the Cold War, Moscow supported the Latin American left because it naively thought communism was the wave of the future. These days, a more cynical Kremlin supports the Latin left because it knows it will fail. The dramatic confrontation taking shape in Venezuela—where dictator Nicolás Maduro clings to power with Russia’s help as the West declares opposition leader Juan Guaidó the legitimate president—is the first major crisis of this new era of great-power competition.

Why has Russia propped up Mr. Maduro? Because of the region’s importance in global energy markets. From Russia’s point of view, Mr. Maduro and his failed socialist regime are the gift that keeps on giving. Venezuela has larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, but in December it produced only 1.15 million barrels a day—a third of what it pumped at its peak—and production continues to fall. That decline represents a massive windfall for Russia. It slashes the global oil supply and supports the higher energy prices on which Vladimir Putin’s power depends.

Read the full article on the Wall Street Journal’s website here

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