Why didn't Japan trade for oil with Venenzula or the USSR?

As far my knowledge of oil goes, the US had the most, followed by the USSR and then Venenzula ? So after US puts sanctions on Japan for Oil after they occupy IndoChina. Couldn’t they have just got the oil from Venenzula? They were trading with Dutch East Indies for Oil, which can’t be much and certainly Venenzula sees like the better option.

Here is my guess, US would intercept convoys and ask them turn back and they don’t they would be fired upon? But that would be an act of war, something isolationist US would not do.


Great question, I wll start with Venuzuela which is REALLY close to the Dutch ABC islands in the Gulf of Mexico E.g. Aruba which is just above Maracaibo. This area was attacked by German subs and Dutch and American forces occupied the Island.

Any Japanese ship sailing around South Africa or South America would have become a tourist attraction for divers like the German SS Antila sunk in 1940 by its own crew to avoid capture! Even better from Aruba artillery could just take out the Japanese tankers! Aruba and the other Islands were taken by the Dutch to bag Spanish ships on the way home in the 1600s after all.

The Soviet /Russian- Japanese relations had been miserable since the war of 1905/intervention by the Japanese in the Civil War and the 1939 short war.

Also there was an unwritten understanding between Stalin. Japan would leave US Lend Lease ships alone and the USSR would not let the USA/Allies base bombers on the East coast very close to Japan. The other issue is that Japan didn’t have a lot to offer for any oil. The USSR didn’t need Carriers, needed the oil itself because all these T-34 and Lend Lease trucks did put a massive strain on its fuel supply. E.g. Bagration wasn’t stopped by the Germans but by lack of supplies. Anyway the Allies would probably had stopped the Lend-Lease if the USSR would go on selling oil to Japan in any meaningful quantity. It was much smarter to let the Japanese lose their Navy and then take back Kamtschaka, Manchuria and the Japanese Navy atomic program in Korea.


I only have the site in Dutch but if you zoom out you can see how close Venezuela is. Aruba probably would have loved to target some japanese tankers as revenge:-) (we don’t need no wat let the …)

Waar ligt Scheepswrak “SS Antilla” - Malmok - TracesOfWar.nl


aah… so that is why they didn’t trade with the soviets or the Venezuelans in the case of war.

But my question was, if they wanted oil and they did try to convince the US to lift the embargo before pearl harbour. So why not then get it from Venenzula because the Japanese were at war only with China at that point and the embargo is what caused them to consider the Strike South Doctrine.


One thing to consider is that US-Venezuela relations back in WWII was a lot different than it is now. No that it was super tight, but it was not adversarial.

This history is coming from a wiki page, so take it as you will…

Up to the war, Venezuela was trading oil with Japan- and that trade peaked in 1939. They were also trading with Italy. Once the war started in September, President Contreras declared neutrality, and the trade with Italy and Japan ended within a year.

And Venezuela didn’t exactly suffer from this, as they were a key part of the Lend Lease program via the US.

Given a desire to modernize, it was apparently in their best interest to stay close to the US. Which did lead to threats, and those got as close as the ABC islands just off their coast.


Great question!
I believe the Soviets were being conceived by the Japanese as archenemy number one, after the multiple conflicts both countries were involved in (you could check out my topic on how Japan did not surrender because of the a-bomb but because of their fear for Soviet invasion). Furthermore, through the Tripartite Act, Japan committed itself to join the Axis powers and they had already set their minds on “freeing” the Dutch East Indies, which would provide them with enough oil and rubber to even help the German army, I suspect…
Venezuela was very far away and also in treacherous waters to go and get your oil…


Ok, if Venezuela was neutral why did the trade end in a year? It was going to make lots of money because the countries at war will buy resources (oil in the case of Italy and Japan). Wait, didn’t Italy get its Oil from Romania?

I am also confused as to what you mean by the Lend Lease program via the US?


Well… the waters were not treacherous (this all changes after 7th Dec 1941), so Japan who is only fighting with China could easily get it’s oil from Venezuela. It is a little far but Japan is Desperate for Oil and Desperate time require for Desperate measures.


Remember though that the USA were adamant on isolating and boycotting Japan because, in my humble opinion, FDR was deliberately on a collision course with Japan to finally openly support the UK, and end isolationism


So to preface this- I’m not a historian, just thought your question was very good, so I googled it, LOL, and this wiki page came up- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuela_during_World_War_II#:~:text=Although%20Venezuela%20was%20officially%20neutral,the%20end%20of%20the%20conflict.

So the details you are asking are not exactly clear- but my interpretation would be the US would buy the oil via their companies working in Venezuela, and send it to Russia or England. The wiki does point out that the US companies split the profits with Venezuela. Which is also to point out that US and British companies were the ones getting the oil and paying Venezuela for that.

I would surmise that boemboemtsjak’s point about the oil embargo to Japan was easy to put onto Standard Oil and Shell Oil…

Given it’s location, it would be pretty straight forward to police who is coming to get the oil.


Appreciate your addition on the topic, Alfa! :+1:
Also nice of you to mention me in your comment :wink:
It sure was a big issue within the USA wether or not to go forward with an oilboycot. Eventually FDR got what he wished for and the need for oil to wage war on the Chinese was, imho, a main reason to start up the second world war by Japan.
Greetings from the Netherlands


Ahh… So since most companies taking the Oil out of Venezuela were American, they were forced to choose a side due to the American Lend Lease to Britain. And if they continue to give oil to both sides, America would force them to choose the Allies or they had to risk war (after Pearl Harbour obviously). Hence, they sold Oil to both Allies And the Axis powers till 1940 and then stopped. So all in all, japan had no option other than war.

But what I don’t get in the Wiki page is how nationalising the Oil Industry would risk Military Intervention by US (they were basically a disarmed nation). Sure, 50-50 profit split is nice, but 100% of profits is far better, so why didn’t Venezuela tell the American corporations to “get the heck off it’s property” ?


The way I see the lack of nationalization is that if they did, there would be a huge chance that both England and the US would invade to secure the oil fields. Which would have been reasonably easy given the state of the military at the time (as well as how the US had been doing the same thing all over Central America just for food stuffs).

Better to share the profits than lose them.