There weren’t many bipartisan moments in last week’s State of the Union address. Most Democratic legislators sat on their hands as President Trump hailed overall rising wages as well as record low unemployment for African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics. But in a move that testifies to the humanitarian and geopolitical concerns Venezuela presents, Democrats and Republicans rose together to applaud Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who is recognized as the country’s legitimate ruler by nearly 60 nations including the U.S.
Days after U.S. legislators applauded Mr. Guaidó, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Caracas, offering aid and comfort to the beleaguered government of Nicolás Maduro. The message seemed clear: Russia is prepared to stand up to the U.S., even in the Western Hemisphere, to protect its Venezuelan allies.
For the Trump administration’s foreign policy, the tangle with Russia over Venezuela is a local problem with global consequences. When I interviewed him recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo identified a short list of administration priorities for 2020. Real progress toward change in Venezuela and an improved relationship with Russia are both high on the list. With both Russiagate and Ukrainegate in the rearview mirror, it would appear that the administration has a new freedom to reach out diplomatically to the Kremlin—but that hardly comports with the rock-star treatment given to Mr. Guaidó in Washington last week.
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