Jan 25, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Is there an oil or resource war on the horizon? We would not make a joke about something like that, and have never been more serious. This was the question tabled by OilPrice.com in an article dated January 23 that was captioned, “Will Venezuela go to war over oil?” Though we hope that never comes to be, it cannot be dismissed out of hand, especially in view of recent verbal bellicosity and alarming sabre-rattling from under pressure leadership in our next-door neighbour.
The ongoing contexts are these: a longstanding and still fully unresolved border dispute (given what is at stake, it may never be, regardless of near and intermediate term political and judicial outcomes); one rich discovery after another of oil (they have been enough to make even the holy lose some piety); a leader with his back to the wall and fighting for political relevance and continuity (meaty and stirring jingoistic foreign distractions are a traditional leadership ploy to re-energize base and countrymen), and the geopolitical underpinnings at work (with the United States signalling its own current preferences and commitments). In aggregate, it is a witch’s brew dangerously perched on a bubbling, simmering cauldron that must be viewed with the greatest caution and responded to accordingly.
The editorship of the online presence in the oil sector concluded that Venezuela’s claim is rather dubious and looks unlikely to pass muster at the International Court of Justice, which is expected to hand down a decision around 2023/24. Of course, as all Guyanese should be well aware, our neighbour to the north has already made clear as to where it stands on any ruling. So, all that any court judgment that favours Guyana does is to continue the controversy and at different temperatures, which may not be limited to sensations and perceptions as interpreted from circumstances, but of hard and hostile, if not outright aggressive, developments on the ground. To be most blunt, it could mean the same thing at which Oilprice.com hinted to, which is war.
On a comparative basis, it is no secret as to the vast differences between the two countries. For starters, this includes manpower, armaments, military leadership depth, and much more. But little Guyana has a couple of things going for it, which should be given the most sensible weighing possible. Its population may be small, but the will of its people should never be underestimated. Its forests are vast and mysterious, but there is nobody that knows it like its own people. And, last, there is that fearsome eagle hovering in the middle of the unmoving positions laid out by the two countries. It is a heavyweight eagle; it is the United States of America.
At present, the U.S. is Guyana’s friend and looks upon the resistant Venezuelan leadership as an adversary best out of power and in the wilderness. There have been maritime agreements signed between the United States and Guyana, which led to widely reported coverage of joint exercises involving vessels from the American Coast Guard and those of Guyana. And yet another concrete and not to be misinterpreted signal as to America’s position is that, “in the first days of 2021, the commander of the US Southern Command arrived in Guyana for a three-day visit, to celebrate the launch” of those same joint maritime exercises mentioned earlier.
Rattling sabres and heightening the pitch of bellicosity against Guyana is one thing and relatively effortless, picking a fight with the United States is another story altogether, and playing with the worst fires. This is regardless of who occupies the White House as Chief Executive. There should be no mistake on that score, and the United States has a treasured dog in this business. In fact, when a broad and most careful of consideration is given to the sum of all related circumstances in this regional hotspot, America may have another dog that has also attracted its interest, if not longing. That would be those hundreds of billions of barrels of proven but still untapped oil, in what is touted as the world’s largest oil reserves. Those reserves are in Venezuela, and it is a fact and of interests that are not lost on either Venezuelan leadership or its citizens struggling under extremely punishing U.S. sanctions.
So, to return to the question raised: will Venezuela go to war over oil? That is, Guyana’s oil? It had better think most carefully about the mountain that could come tumbling down on its head.
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