Russia and China have thrown its backing behind beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, warning the United States not to intervene in the turmoil in the Latin American country.
On Wednesday, the speaker of Venezuela's opposition-held National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, proclaimed himself the interim leader of his crisis-wracked country, in a direct challenge to President Nicolás Maduro.
Illustrating global tensions and geopolitical rivalries, Russia described Guaidó's move today as an "attempted usurpation of power" and a breach of international law, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The Russian Foreign Ministry warned those backing the National Assembly chief that support for the self-declaration was "direct path to lawlessness and bloodshed."
Meanwhile, China, Venezuela's main creditor, "opposes interference in Venezuelan affairs by external forces," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference.
She said Beijing urged calm pending a "political resolution to Venezuela's problem through peaceful dialogue within Venezuela's constitutional framework."
US report issues warning
Increasing tensions further, a US intelligence report warned today that Russia's efforts to expand its influence and China's modernising military are among the "ever more diverse" threats facing Washington.
The US National Intelligence Strategy report, issued every four years, also singles out such potential threats such as North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, the growing cyber capabilities of US adversaries and global political instability.
The report, which sets out the priorities for the various agencies that make up the US intelligence community, notes that the United States "faces an increasingly complex and uncertain world in which threats are becoming ever more diverse and interconnected."
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a letter accompanying the report that the US agencies must adapt to respond to what he calls a "turbulent and complex" environment.
"We face significant changes in the domestic and global environment," Coats said. "We must be ready to meet the 21st century challenges and to recognize emerging threats and opportunities."
This morning, UN chief Antonio Guterres said the relationship between the United States, Russia and China was worryingly out of kilter.
"The relationship between the three most important powers, Russia, the United States and China, has never been as dysfunctional as it is today," the UN secretary-general told the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Guterres said the ongoing shift away from a world dominated previously by two Cold War superpowers was creating "a bit of a chaotic situation".
The dysfunction is evident "in the economy, but it is also true in the Security Council," Guterres said, lamenting the recurring "paralysis" of the UN's top body.
"If this is not reversed, it is a recipe for disaster," he said.