Venezuela officially joins the Axis of Evil

AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

We’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past year examining how the ongoing realignment of relationships between adversarial nations has been congealing into a 21st-century Axis of Evil. It’s been spreading across the globe at an alarming rate. The first suspects that immediately come to mind are Russia (of course), China, North Korea, and Iran. Turkey is edging increasingly close to having its membership card stamped. But one of the other bad actors that seemed to be mostly left out of the club is Venezuela. They’ve had their fair share of interactions with Russia and China, particularly when it comes to dealing with the nation’s collapsed oil industry, but such agreements always seemed to be more like a matter of convenience than anything else. That changed this weekend, however, after Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro traveled to Tehran for a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. By the time the two-day meeting had concluded, the two had signed a 20-year cooperation agreement, cementing their fortunes together for the foreseeable future. And to sweeten the deal, Iran flagrantly violated the international sanctions on Venezuela by sending a large shipment of oil to Maduro’s nation.

enezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and Iran’s hard-line president signed a 20-year cooperation agreement Saturday, a day after Maduro praised the Islamic Republic for sending badly needed fuel to his nation despite U.S. sanctions.

In an interview with President Maduro after his arrival in Tehran for a two-day visit, Iranian state media reported late Friday that Maduro hailed Iran’s move to send fuel tankers to his energy-hungry nation.

“Tehran’s delivery of oil to Caracas was a great help to the Venezuelan people,” he said.

Russia already has troops stationed in Venezuela on a semi-permanent basis to help keep Maduro’s opposition in line. China has bought oil from them in the past, also in violation of current sanctions. And now the country is tied to Iran. I’m sure they’ll be announcing some sort of relationship with North Korea in the near future.

It really says something about how badly the Maduro regime has destroyed the once-prosperous country if they now have to ask Iran for oil. Venezuela is sitting on some of the richest proven crude oil reserves in the world. But through a combination of corruption, incompetence, and outright theft, Maduro basically bankrupted and shut down the oil industry in his country. Now he has to beg Iran for oil to keep them afloat.

It’s similar to the food situation in Venezuela. The country also boasts amazingly fertile farmland and used to provide much of the agricultural exports used by the rest of South America. But Maduro’s socialist policies made it impossible for farmers to show a profit or really even feed themselves. Now many of those fields lie fallow and his nation has to rely on relief shipments from other countries.

The one thing that Venezuela doesn’t bring to the table in terms of the Axis is military power. Venezuela’s military can barely control dissidents in their own nation. Their army claims to have roughly 100,000 troops, but many are conscripts lacking equipment and training. Their air force has fewer than 50 active military planes, the majority of which they got from the United States back when we had better relations with Maduro’s predecessor. Their navy is almost nonexistent, composed primarily of coastal patrol boats. The country has no nuclear weapons.

So why invite them to the club? Russia has already purchased control of a majority of the nation’s oil business and is slowly getting it running again. If food production can be restarted on a large scale, they could probably help feed people in the other nations that are under heavy sanctions. But more than anything else, Maduro can offer the adversaries of the United States another base of operations in the western hemisphere. That’s probably worth more than everything else combined.

It’s a shame to see what’s happened to Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro, but that’s how socialism ultimately ends nearly everywhere it’s been tried. And now Maduro has chosen sides in the growing global atmosphere of tension and he’s decided to sign on with the bad guys. So be it. Just don’t ask America to bail you out later.

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