If Russia refuses to withdraw its military delegation in Venezuela, the United States is prepared to use military force to send them home, President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday.
According to Newsweek, Russian troops and aircraft were spotted in Venezuela for a second time over the weekend, conducting “bilateral consultations,” as characterized by Russia’s state-run Sputnik News.
Earlier this year, the White House recognized opposition-controlled National Assembly head Juan Guaidó as the acting leader of Venezuela, cutting ties with President Nicolás Maduro.
In response to Russia’s recent military action in the country, Trump told reporters that “Russia has to get out,” adding that “All options are on the table” if they refuse to leave Venezuela.
In a similar vein, National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Monday that the Trump administration "will not tolerate hostile foreign military powers meddling" in the Western Hemisphere; and according to the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the U.S. "will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded saying while “"continuing its aggressive rhetoric against Venezuela and openly trying to stage a coup in that country, the United States is simultaneously accusing those who are cooperating with its legal authorities, including Russia."
Zakharova further stated that "the stay of Russian specialists on Venezuelan territory is regulated by the agreement on military technical cooperation between the governments of Russia and Venezuela that was signed in May 2001 and ratified by both states."
China appears to lean toward Russia’s stance on the issue, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang telling reporters who had inquired on the issue that “all countries in the Western Hemisphere, including Latin American countries, are all sovereign states," so "they have the right to determine their own foreign policy and their way to engage in mutually beneficial cooperation with countries of their own choosing."
With a not-so-subtle barb at the U.S., Geng added that "Latin American affairs are not a certain country's exclusive business, nor is Latin America a certain country's backyard."