When it comes to assessing the current events on the Colombia-Venezuela border, the expression ‘what a difference five years makes’ appears to be the most apropos. Reports continue to pour in, regarding a tense stand-off between patriotic Venezuelans and foreigners attempting to drive large lorries into Venezuela. According to the US, the convoy contains “aid” destined for the “Venezuelan people”. Caracas has rejected the “aid convoy” due to the fact that it was not invited, not given customs clearance and because it almost certainly contains shipments of weapons – weapons intended to be used in order to help stage a violent and lawless provocation against the legitimate government of Venezuela.
But when it comes to expressing concerns about “aid convoys” being exploited for the purposes of weapons smuggling, one only needs to cite statements from the US, its allies and western mainstream media to realise that they once shared the exact same view as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, when it comes to suspecting “aid convoys” of being more than what they appear to be.
Beginning in 2014, Russia began sending lorries into the Donbass Republics (Donetsk and Lugansk) for the self-professed desire to provide basic necessities to the people. However, at the time of the first convoy, Russia’s action was vocally condemned by the United States. During August of 2014, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council stated that the convoy was nothing more than “Russian military vehicles painted to look like civilian trucks”.
At the same time, Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that the US was concerned about the Russian aid convoy. Meanwhile, the then US State Department Spokesman John Kirby warned that Russia must withdraw its convoy or else face “additional costs and isolation”.
When the UN Security Council held a specific meeting about the convoy, the then British Ambassador to the United Nations referred to the convoy as “an illegal and unilateral action by the Russian federation”. The convoy was subsequently condemned by NATO and even criticised by the office of then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Like clockwork, the BBC subsequently reported the alleged dangers of the convoy – the dangers being that the entire exercise was allegedly an attempt to smuggle huge arsenals of weapons into Donbass.
In summary, everything that Nicolas Maduro is saying today about the US organised “aid convoy” seeking to enter Venezuela, was said almost verbatim by American, British and NATO officials about Russia’s 2014 aid convoy into Donbass.
Of course there are some material differences. The Russian Federation is literally located on the border of Donbass and for the last several years, any semblance of a border between the two countries has disappeared. Secondly, in the years subsequent to the first Russian convoy entering Donbass, the war has gradually de-escalated to the point that while there are still occasional shellings and firefights on the contact line, the conflict is for all intents and purposes, a frozen conflict. Finally, the Russian government has never stated that it intends to overthrow the regime in Kiev. In fact, Moscow still has relations with the Kiev regime, just very poor relations. Beyond this, Russia does not recognise the Donbass Republics, even though many ordinary Russians disagree with their government regarding the status of self-determination in the region.
By contrast, the US has broken off relations with the UN recognised Venezuelan government of Nicholas Maduro. Beyond this, Washington has recognised a self-appointed “president” as Venezuela’s “head of state” and US officials have for weeks been openly encouraging the military to overthrow Maduro and install the self-appointed “leader”.
And yet when it comes to the basic concept of worrying that a self-declared “aid convoy” could be used to smuggle military supplies across a border, Washington was once not only familiar with the concept, but America and its allies actively promoted this narrative at the UN, across western media and in major international circles when it came to Russia’s first Donbass convoy in 2014.
Today, Nicolas Maduro is saying the same things about the “aid convoy” attempting to enter his own country that the US said about Russia beginning in 2014. In spite of this, President Maduro has been casually dismissed and even derided by the very same people who just a few short years ago were experts on the dangerous of smuggling weapons via “aid convoys”.