Russian Presence in the Caribbean

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Over the last five years, Russian interest in the Caribbean has been growing steadily; so that today Moscow’s diplomatic profile and its economic presence in a number of Caribbean nations is now stronger than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The Gleaner reports:

Russia also appears to see the region as possessing a similar world view – one in which it can demonstrate its desire to counterbalance what it regards as United States exceptionalism, where the restoration of its special relationship with a changing Cuba will be strategically significant, and where interesting numerical possibilities exist for voting at the United Nations and in other international fora.

Although Russia’s interest in the Caribbean is on a much smaller scale to that of China, its presence, for some in Washington, in particular, represents a worrying alternative in an ever, broadening spectrum of Caribbean relationships.

In part, this concern reflects Russia’s intention to have a long-term military presence in the Caribbean Basin, when its relationship with the West is deteriorating.

While there is no sense as yet that the Caribbean, given its strategic geographic position in the Americas, may again become a feature in some new version of the Cold War, it is clear that some in the US administration and Congress see Russia’s presence as an attempt by President Putin to erode US leadership, and challenge Western influence within the Western Hemisphere as a potential threat.

However, an alternative view – as General John Kelly, the officer in charge of US Southern Command suggested recently to a US Senate committee – is that a Russian military presence in the Caribbean Basin is more a ‘nuisance’ at a time of budget cuts.

From a Caribbean viewpoint, however, Russian interest in engagement and improved diplomatic and economic engagement is largely seen as enabling the diversification and rebalancing of its international relations.

[. . .] According to Russia’s ambassador to Guyana, Nikolay Smirnov, Russia has much sympathy with the Caribbean’s position on issues such as smallness and vulnerability and is prepared to use its influence internationally to support the region.

Moscow, he has said, is also willing to help the Caribbean understand what lies offshore in the region by providing state support with specific projects involving the study of the Caribbean Sea.

Speaking more recently in Trinidad, he noted that Russia hopes to expand its trade there and with other nations in CARICOM, see tourism grow, and RT, the state-funded television and Internet service, become more widely available in the Caribbean region.

At its most visible, Russian engagement has come in the form of rapidly increasing tourist arrivals. [. . .]

For full article, see http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20150329/column-russian-presence-caribbean

[The photo above is from a November 2014 BBC article that explains why Russia decided to conduct regular air patrols from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30028371]

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