“The question is, do they believe a couple billion more dollars can tide the country over? If not to preserve Maduro, to preserve some type of regime that remains loosely or closely aligned with Moscow,” said Croft.

Ironically, if Moscow lets Venezuela default on its debts, then Russia would actually be able to exercise its lien on Venezuela’s most valuable asset: U.S.-based oil giant Citgo. In 2016, Maduro secured a fresh loan by giving Rosneft a 49.9 percent stake in Citgo as collateral.

“It would not be unusual for the Russians … to try and exercise the lien they have on the Citgo collateral, just because it would be very disruptive and chaotic to the U.S.,” said Dallen of Caracas Capital.

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