President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Russia to “get out” of Venezuela following recent reports of Russian planes arriving in the country.
During an Oval Office meeting with Fabiana Rosales, the wife of Juan Guaido, the president of the country’s National Assembly, who the Trump administration recognizes as Venezuela’s acting president, Trump was asked whether Russia’s involvement complicates the situation in Venezuela.
“Russia has to get out. What’s your next question?” Trump said.
Trump was also asked whether he has communicated that Russia should leave of Venezuela through national security adviser John Bolton or through the United Nations.
“They know very well,” Trump said.
If Russia doesn’t leave Venezuela, Trump said: “We’ll see. We’ll see. All options are open … all options are open.”
Trump’s stance against Russia’s involvement in Venezuela comes against the backdrop of his repeated defense of Russia in other settings – including believing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that his government did not interfere with the 2016 US election and sticking up for Russia among world leaders at the last G7 summit.
Earlier Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence also addressed Saturday’s arrival of the Russian planes.
“The United States views Russia’s arrival of military planes this weekend as an unwelcome provocation and we call on Russia today to cease all support for the (Nicolas) Maduro regime, and stand with Guaido, stand with nations across this hemisphere and around the world until freedom is restored,” Pence said.
While the Trump administration made a bold declaration by recognizing Guaido as the acting leader of Venezuela, Russia has continued to back embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.
In December, signs pointed to Russia and Venezuela deepening ties as the Kremlin extended a lifeline to the cash-stripped country by agreeing to restructure $3.15 billion of debt payments that it owes Moscow. Venezuela also owes debts to China, oil service providers, airlines and a slew of other entities.
Russian planes arrived at Simon Bolivar International Airport near Caracas on Saturday, a diplomatic source in Caracas told Russian state-owned media RIA Novosti.
According to the source, the military came to consult with representatives of Venezuela on military-technical cooperation.
The source noted that “there is nothing mysterious” because the arrival of the planes is directly related to the implementation of contracts that were signed by the parties many years ago, RIA Novosti reported.
But the Trump administration sees things differently.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday and called on Russia “to cease its unconstructive behavior” in Venezuela, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.
The United States “will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela,” the statement said.
“The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaido,” the statement said.
CNN’s Ralph Ellis and Bianca Britton contributed to this report.