The White House has dramatically stepped up its rhetoric threatening action against Russia's military presence in Venezuela after the Kremlin deployed a troop contingency to Caracas last Saturday.
Trump's national security adviser John Bolton took tensions to a new level, on Friday issuing a new Monroe doctrine of sorts, telling Moscow any attempt to establish or expand military operationsin the western hemisphere constitutes a "provocative" and "direct threat" to international peace and security in the region.
"We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations," Bolton said in a statement.
"We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region," he added. This follows the president's own warning on Wednesday that "all options" are on the table regarding potential expanding Russian presence in Venezuela.
Two Russian aircraft carrying about 100 servicemen and 35 tons of cargo arrived in Caracas last Saturday, led by Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, identified as chief of the Main Staff of the Ground Forces and First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces of Russia.
This prompted Trump's Wednesday warning to Russia against involvement in the Latin American nation; he told reporters in the Oval Office that:
"Russia has to get out."
Kremlin officials responded by explaining that it deployed military specialists merely to service preexisting arms contracts with Venezuela, and that Russia is not interfering in the Latin American country's internal affairs.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing on Thursday when asked how long the Russian troop contingency led by a high ranking general will stay:
"How long? As long as they need to, and as long as the Venezuelan government needs them. It all is being done based on bilateral agreements."
Russia's position is that it is not interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs by merely cooperating on legal and existing service contracts, and that no other country should do so either. It said that only "specialists"had entered Venezuela under a pre-existing agreed upon military cooperation deal.
However, the White House isn't buying it, as Bolton's Friday statement further condemned Maduro's "use of foreign military personnel in his attempt to remain in power, including the introduction of Russian military personnel and equipment into Venezuela."
"Maduro will only use this military support to further repress the people of Venezuela; perpetuate the economic crisis that has destroyed Venezuela's economy; and endanger regional stability," Bolton said.
All of this also comes as the Maduro government stripped US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido of his position in the National Assembly, further barring him from holding public office for 15 years.