Small nations matter a lot in an era of great power rivalry. A tiny state in an advantageous location can be immensely valuable to a major power. A country’s geographical coordinates, as opposed to its arsenal or financial account, may be its most valuable asset to a large power.
Minor powers are important to the United States of America. Smaller states are routinely used as pawns by Washington to advance its geopolitical ambitions. The United States’ recent announcement that it will allow Trinidad and Tobago to develop a gas resource in Venezuelan territorial waters is no exception. It’s an attempt to sever ties between the two oil-rich countries and thereby negate any attempts of integration between Venezuela and Trinidad.
The license, issued by the U.S. Treasury Department at Trinidad’s request and intended to enhance Caribbean regional energy security, means the island nation can do business related to the Dragon gas field with Venezuela’s heavily sanctioned state-run oil company PDVSA.
While the planned agreement will improve Caribbean energy supply, the actual objective of the agreement is to benefit America.
The US has indicated that no financial payments will be given to President Nicolás Maduro’s government as part of Trinidad and Tobago’s arrangement with Venezuela’s state-run oil giant PDVSA.
Washington is using Trinidad and Tobago to improve connections with Venezuelan businesses while keeping Maduro at distance by requiring no cash transfers to the Maduro regime as part of the Dragon gas field development.
However, while the Washington consolidates its interests, Trinidad comes off as a sacrificial lamb in this recent arrangement. Bilateral relations between Trinidad and Venezuela could be hampered and there are already signs of it.
According to recent reports, Trinidad and Tobago has to date received no communication from Venezuela more than a week after the United States decision to grant licenses to countries and companies to resume taking crude oil from Caracas on the condition no funds be paid to Venezuela.
When asked to indicate whether Venezuela has agreed to the terms and conditions outlined by Washington for granting the license, Prime Minister Rowley told legislators “This matter is one that requires state to state communication, the first hurdle has been crossed, the government of Venezuela has made no public statement with specific to Trinidad and Tobago’s use of the OFAC license.”
Trinidad and Venezuela, you see, are both resource-rich countries. Trinidad and Tobago has proven oil reserves that are 35.0 times the country’s yearly consumption. This means that without imports, there would be approximately 35 years of oil remaining.
Similarly, Venezuela’s known oil reserves are acknowledged as the world’s greatest, totalling almost 300 billion barrels.
Integration between the two nations thus can prove to be extremely beneficially, especially in today’s geopolitical climate where nations are starving for oil resources. An OPEC like arrangement could have been made in the Western Hemisphere. To be clear, attempts were made to work on such an arrangement. During a visit in 2016, Prime Minister Rowley signed an agreement between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela for the implementation of the natural gas supply project from Venezuela to Trinidad and Tobago. The signing of this agreement signalled the mutual commitment of both countries to monetize hydrocarbon resources from key areas. Besides, engagement in other issues of strategic importance, which include, inter alia, security and trade cooperation could prove beneficial for both the nations.
This is precisely what frightens Americans. If both countries banded together, America would be unable to exploit these countries’ oil resources as it already does. A prosperous Trinidad and a stable Venezuela would reduce their reliance on America, creating a dent on America’s clout and ability to intervene in their domestic affairs. Thus, America attempted to destabilize any attempts of congruence between Trinidad and Tobago & Venezuela, and based on current events, it appears that the American plot was successful.
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