Tensions between the Venezuelan government and Obama Administration escalated in the last week, with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordering 10 days of massive ground, naval, and air defense exercises. On March 9, the White House sanctioned seven senior Venezuelan officials and labeled the country’s current situation as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States. Five days later, the Venezuelan exercises kicked off, involving Venezuelan troops training alongside visiting Russian troops and Chinese personnel, reported Sputnik news service. In total, between 80,000 and 100,000 military and civil defense personnel are participating in “Bolivarian Shield,” which includes counterair drills and the simulated defense of the national oil infrastructure along the coast, reported Reuters. US Southern Command boss Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly told Pentagon reporters last week he was concerned with the internal situation in Venezuela, which he has tracked closely, as widespread shortages of goods and supplies now exist. The country’s opposition political figures have gone from “being the political opposition to an enemy now,” he said, as Maduro’s government has “clamped down” and continued to consolidate power.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.