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Rachel Marsden: Will Biden stop letting charlatans manipulate foreign policy?

Tribune Content Agency logoTribune Content Agency 1/26/2021 Rachel Marsden, Tribune Content Agency
Rachel Marsden wearing a dress shirt and tie: Rachel Marsden. © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Rachel Marsden.

PARIS — The European Union made a stunning break from U.S. foreign policy this week when it stopped playing along with the charade of referring to a Venezuelan opposition politician, Juan Guaido, as “interim president” of the country.

Guaido had never won a presidential election. He was the speaker of Venezuela’s National Assembly, which had been won by the anti-Maduro opposition in 2015. Pro-Maduro factions won back the National Assembly last year. Nothing says “democracy” like foisting a politician handpicked by foreign interests on the people of another country because the guy serving as president isn’t subservient enough to your agenda.

Until now, Europe had played along with the Guaido clown show backed by the U.S. State Department. That helped enable the U.S. to allocate oil revenue from Venezuelan subsidiary Citgo to Guaido rather than to the Venezuelan state coffers controlled by actual President Nicolas Maduro, a longtime U.S. regime-change target.

Of course, it’s always about the oil. The U.S. has long wanted to get control of Venezuelan oil. When it cut Venezuelan imports entirely in 2019, it also cut off its own nose to spite its face. The U.S. was forced to replace heavy Venezuelan oil with similarly heavy oil suitable for U.S. refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. America has increased oil production in recent years but produces mostly light oil rather than heavy crudes. Cutting Venezuelan oil imports has meant an increase in U.S. oil imports from Russia, according to Reuters.

So, for those keeping score at home: While the U.S. has been sanctioning European companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that would give European countries easy access to Russian fuel — all under the guise of protecting Europe from Russian influence — America has been hypocritically guzzling Russian fuel itself. It’s quite a bit of drama behind the effort to take control of Venezuela via a puppet leader like Guaido under the ludicrous pretext of promoting democracy.

Meanwhile, in Russia, there are theatrics involving a similar figure hyped by Western nations as some kind of chief opposition figure.

Self-styled anti-corruption muckraker, Alexei Navalny was arrested in Moscow earlier this month for violating the terms of a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement from a timber company. Navalny is viewed mostly with bemusement by every Russian I’ve spoken with during multiple visits to the country. Average Russians don’t see him as a serious political contender but don’t seem to mind the sideshow either. But the consensus is that the West is using Navalny as a tool to weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership.

Navalny frequently claims to survive military-grade poisoning. (Marvel, give this man a trilogy!) He also has a knack for turning out thousands of kids via social networks to confront police in the streets of Moscow whenever he gets arrested.

But Kremlin regime-change efforts are about as likely to succeed as the Jan. 6 attempt by pro-Trump supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol to preserve the Trump presidency. Still, President Joe Biden’s new secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, has voiced support for Navalny. Does Blinken feel the same way about the Capitol rioters and their instigators? After all, they were just fighting for what they perceived to be their democratic rights.

Why is Navalny’s anti-establishment resistance viewed by the Washington establishment as a manifestation of democracy abroad that’s worthy of support and encouragement, yet the same sort of resistance is condemned when exercised at home by people who believe (rightly or not) that they’ve been disenfranchised? Biden himself has called the Capitol mob “insurrectionists” and “domestic terrorists.” Why aren’t regime-change proponents in foreign countries slapped with the same labels?

Finally, the White Helmets in Syria wasted no time reappearing on the scene as Biden took office. The group has a knack for penetrating zones controlled by al-Qaida or Islamic State fighters. Generously funded by Western governments (including the U.S. State Department until recently), the White Helmets reportedly just received $1.2 million from Humanitarian Grand Challenge — a nonprofit organization funded by the U.S., British and Dutch governments — to make personal protective equipment to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

Syria has a government capable of providing supplies to its own citizens despite sanctions by the U.S., which has been trying for years to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But hey, COVID-19 seems like as good a pretext as any to funnel cash to a group that has questionable relationships with jihadists but has interests perfectly aligned with U.S. interests in Syria.

The U.S. and its allies have aggressively promoted projects fronted by assorted jesters who are misleading them about what’s really going on in the world. Will Biden continue to perpetuate these charades? The U.S. has been played for a fool for far too long.

(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.)

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