Moscow may push this narrative because destroying Ukraine shatters U.S. credibility across Europe and NATO. At the same time Russia would negotiate for itself a financial parachute if it left Venezuela. Neither would it lose much by doing so. Furthermore, trading Ukraine for Venezuela undermines both Ukraine whom we have pledged to support and European security while also explicitly recognizing Russia’s right to intervene in Latin America. That admission legitimizes further Russian-backed threats to Latin American countries from insurgents and narco-traffickers that Moscow supports.

Venezuela has long served as a base for threatening our ally, Colombia, for over a decade. Those threats would not cease if Moscow moved its base to Nicaragua, Moscow’s other Latin American client. Consequently, this trade gains little or nothing for Washington and loses an enormous amount.

Advocates of this cynical deal, like Putin, believe that the great powers can simply dispose of states like chess pawns. This belief, of course, contravenes everything the U.S. stands for. Moreover, such deals legitimize naked aggression, imperialism in the form of spheres of influence, and the untrammeled use of force. Those phenomena have mostly been conspicuously absent in our policy towards Venezuela.