The Bolivarian Republic had a “Georgia moment” in 2008. I’m referring to the Russo-Georgian War of that year, when the Russians discovered just how severe were their training and mobilization problems. The result was a sustained modernization program. The Russian armed forces are not a par with the United States, of course, but they have improved markedly. The Russian Federation will not become a peer competitor with the United States because of its long-term economic and demographic problems, not because its military institutions are irredeemably broken.
In 2008, Venezuela almost went to war with Colombia. On March 2, President Chávez ordered ten battalions to the Colombian border. 48 hours later the U.S. embassy reported that “less than 12 light tanks or armored fighting vehicles have been seen preparing for movement at Carora in the western state of Lara and at Fuerte Mara in the border state of Zulia.” The embassy went on to say, “A lack of training, rehearsal and failure to invest in unglamorous military equipment like trailers and cargo planes has slowed the Venezuelan military's mobilization. This may explain the lack of patriotic visuals, from this otherwise propaganda savvy leader, of troops marching to the front.”
Six days later, not much had happened. Five heavy equipment transports, capable of carrying five main battle tanks or two light tanks, finally made it to a military base in Valencia. There was also the first evidence of desultory helicopter movements. The military was apparently buying fuel on the spot from commercial vendors. The U.S. believed that the AK-103 assault rifles purchased from Russia had been issued to Army units, so that was something. But generally, the mobilization was a complete disaster.
Chávez was a political genius and rarely averse to recognizing reality ... so on March 9th he pivoted to peacemaker after it became clear that only a third of his troops had made it to the border. (And those were operating beyond their logistical tail.) The deterioration in capabilities was a little ironic considering that the logistical and aviation branches had remained loyal during the 2002 putsch.
How did President Chávez react to the Georgia moment? Not by modernizing. Rather, in December 2009 a new law gave the President the authority to declare military districts that could be used to undercut recalcitrant state governors; it also further pushed resources towards the militia and allowed foreigners to serve in the military. (Our 2009 post on the subject is here.) Presumably the relaxation on the citizenship requirement was made to allow Cubans to take up posts in the service.
The result has not, shall we say, been an increase in operational capabilities.
In other words, Guyana can breathe easy. So can Aruba, for that matter. Seriously, stop worrying. This stuff stopped around the same time that Caracas realized its military was useless for interstate war.