Russia has a strategy for reclaiming key territories that it wants, even without formal annexation. Part of that strategy is passport distribution. This has a number of advantages. First, it gives you a plausible pretext to intervene: hey, it isn’t a 19th-century-style land grab, you’re just protecting your citizens! Second, it makes it easy to run a detached territory without formal annexation. Just erase the border without incorporation; with your citizens on both sides formal territorial sovereignty becomes a distinction without a difference. Third, the mere distribution gives you a propaganda windfall: they residents of the place-in-question prefer being part of us to being part of them!
It is so obviously successful a formula that now Venezuela is trying it in Guyana. Colonel Pompeyo Torrealba is now the man in charge of the Special Essequibo Unit inside the Essequibo Reclamation Office. According to the Venezuelan press, “He proposed to start granting identity cards to the 200,000 estimated residents of the Essequibo, in addition to an educational campaign intended to make the population of Guyana understand that this territory is Venezuelan.”
Except here’s the rub: the residents of the territory in question need to want your citizenship for the strategy to work. Five years ago, the Bolivarian Republic might have been able to pull this off. Right now, not so much.