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A slew of nexuses has been drawn between Guyana’s border controversy with Venezuela and the Russia/Ukraine war. As someone who pays keen attention to the matter, I have been particularly struck by the suggestion that maybe we should start massive militarization and prepare to defend the homeland in the event of an invasion of Venezuela. At the risk of sounding pessimistic and inadvertently unpatriotic, I shall caution against the aforesaid posture. It is naïve, if not downright crazy. Insofar as my knowledge serves and what is available to me, the military option should never be considered, save and except where we invite a big brother nation such as the US or Brazil to protect, nay, save us. In the absence of the aforesaid strategy, the military option, vis-à-vis the border dispute, should not be the main premise on which all approaches are based.
THE MILITARY OPTION IS A MARCH OF FOLLY
I doubt that one needs to attend a war college or needs to be decorated with military epaulettes to be cognizant of the fact: an army with one helicopter and a battle-ready force of 5000, cannot even dull the shiny boots of an army of 150, 000; Army, Air Force and National Guard. As well as this state of affairs, those numbers must be analyzed in the context of the militarization of Venezuelan society. Since February 1999, with the establishment of the Bolivarian Republic, the model of civil-military relations was implemented. As a consequence, the military has virtually colonized the society and this constitutes Burnham’s ‘every citizen a soldier’ on steroids due to Venezuela’s 28.44 million population. Strønen (2016) noted that since 1982, the group that bears the title, ‘MovimientoBolivariano Revolucionario-200 (MBR-200/Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200’ has been driving the militarization and ideological underpinnings of the Bolivarian Republic. The highly secretive group is organized and importantly, they are of the view that it is Venezuela’s destiny to regain the Essequibo. Venezuela’s military strength ought to suggest, to a mind that is compos mentis, that it makes no sense to consider the military option for Guyana vis-à-vis the border controversy. Furthermore, I am supremely aware of the school of thought which suggests that in the event of a military assault on Guyana by Venezuela, the United States and Brazil will come to our defense. I am not too sure about that calculation because as Russia’s war on Ukraine has demonstrated: in the end, you are on your own.
OUR DIPLOMATS ARE OUR SOLDIERS
In my estimation, Guyana needs to reimagine its foreign policy with the border controversy being central to all that we do. Now, I know that technical personnel at the Foreign Ministry may be tempted to say; that is what we have been doing for decades. This is true but this intervention calls for an unprecedented multilateral push that is buttressed by our new oil wealth. This should include massive financial contributions within the regional system, conspicuous advocacy on global issues in the multilateral system, strategic alliances with states that can come to our defense in times of a major border crisis and being vocal on global issues that affect small states. The ultimate goal should be to emblazon the Venezuelans to the world and cultivate a multilateral narrative that projects Guyana as the victim under the crushing thumb of the bully next door. As a result, we may reach the threshold of being parallel to the Palestinian issue or the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara. In this regard, our diplomats are our soldiers and the passions that would be mustered for a military option, should be channeled to the diplomatic effort.
THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES
In 1972, between February 21-28, the President of the United States. Richard Nixon, spent one week in the People’s Republic of China. He was on a quest to conduct significant negotiations to open new political relationships with the leaders of this global power. During that trip, he held daily meetings with Premier Zhou Enlai. The statesmen discussed a myriad of historical and global issues. It has been reported that Nixon enquired about the French Revolution, he solicited the thoughts of the Premier. He replied: ‘It is too early to assess the impact of the French Revolution’. This reference to a revolution that occurred about 200 years ago, speaks to the Chinese penchant for the long game. Perhaps, this view of things should be adopted when we look at the discovery of black gold in the context of the border dispute with Venezuela. Concerning the aforesaid issue, it can be a blessing and a curse. A definite curse because it will invariably raise the anxieties over the fallacious claims by the Venezuelans and a blessing because there are some security guarantees with Exxon, an American company, having a large investment within the EEZ. Even if the latter proves true, it is still folly to do any form of saber-rattling or spew jingoistic language in the direction of our greedy neighbors to the west because the hackneyed axiom remains true and relevant: ‘Nations have no friends, only interests’. Just as President Zellenskyy, there is never any guarantee of support in times of military hostilities. We should never get too excited; it is folly to think of the military option as the sole premise on which we resolve this issue, diplomacy is our only hope.