This should certainly prove interesting. There’s been a lot of explosive rhetoric erupting from both sides when it comes to the future of the now-failed state of Venezuela and their socialist dictator, Nicolas Maduro. Much of the world is lined up shoulder-to-shoulder against Maduro and behind opposition leader Juan Guaido. But not all of the world. Maduro still has the backing of a few countries, including Turkey, China and, perhaps most significantly, Russia. And now the United States is preparing to sit down with the Russians in Rome to discuss the situation. (Associated Press)

U.S. and Russian officials are meeting in Rome this week to discuss the crisis in Venezuela.

The U.S. State Department says Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, will hold talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and other Russian officials on Monday and Tuesday.

Ryabkov said in comments carried by Russian wires ahead of the meeting in the Italian capital that “we will do everything to protect our cooperation with Caracas.”

I would hope that the last thing both sides want in this situation is to end up in a proxy war over the future of Venezuela. (And frankly, if it comes down to that being the only option, the Russians can have the place as far as I’m concerned.) But is there any middle ground to be found here?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s certainly better to be talking with the Russians than have the two sides shooting at each other. But they’ve already invested a lot in Maduro’s criminal syndicate, both in terms of political capital and actual money and personnel. Russian military assets are on the ground in Venezuela and have been for some time now, and they’re not there to support the protesters. Russia has bought what appears to be a controlling interest in the national oil company. And before these talks even begin, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister announced that they would be doing what they had to do to protect their “cooperation with Caracas.”

Granted, when you phrase it that way it could be interpreted as whoever winds up being in charge. But Maduro has been taking meetings with Vladimir Put since he took office. I just don’t see where we have a partner on the other side of the table here who shares any mutual interest with us. Perhaps this will pan out, leaving me pleasantly surprised, but I’m not holding my breath.