OUR CARIBBEAN: Caricom’s divide over Russia’s move
POLITICS, THEY say, could be “one a hell of a thing”, with a myriad of somersaults, contradictions and more.
Well, last month, which marked the 11th anniversary of America’s military invasion of Iraq – without even a prior notification to the United Nations – was chosen by the administration of President Barack Obama as the time to engineer a winning vote in the UN General Assembly to condemn Moscow’s involvement in Crimea’s secession from Ukraine in favour of returning to the geographic and political fold of Russia.
While a General Assembly vote is non-binding – in contrast to the UN Security Council, where Russia, like the United States and three other countries (China, Britain and France) each have veto powers – the 14 member states of our Caribbean Community broke ranks on the vital issue of foreign policy coordination when the General Assembly’s vote was taken last Thursday.
Some 100 of the UN’s 193 member states voted “yes” in favour of the resolution, while 58 opted to abstain; 11 voted “no” and there were those who failed to show up.
In this hemisphere, CARICOM’s quartet of “yes” votes came from Barbados, The Bahamas, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. The “nos” included Cuba, Nicaragua and, not surprisingly, Venezuela.
The 11 abstentions included Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Guyana, Suriname, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines and, at the wider international level, Brazil, South Africa, India and Pakistan as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the latter two have had more troubles than they originally bargained for, with America’s devastating “war politics”, the most surprising “absentee” country for the crucial period of voting was undoubtedly Israel. For CARICOM, the “no shows” were Grenada – invaded by the United States on October 25, 1983 – and Belize, still locked in territolrial conflict with neighbouring Guatemala.
I cannot recall any CARICOM leader or foreign minister taking time to explain anything of relevance to the people of his/her national jurisdiction in relation to the implications for territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
In this context, the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, whose Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is the current chairman of CARICOM, did well in the release of a statement which noted that “one of the essential contributions to be made by small states like ours is the tireless advocacy for timeless principles enshrined in international law . . . .
“We consider it our solemn obligation not only to articulate these principles, but to ensure that they are applied consistently and upheld in the international community as universal truths . . .”.
I am aware of strenuous private initiatives among governments to ensure a CARICOM consensus for last Thursday’s UN vote consistent with a shared commitment on foreign policy coordination.
Also known was the intensive lobbying efforts by diplomatic envoys of the United States to garner support in favour of the resolution.
No need to dwell now on why and how America and Britain had played key roles to achieve Kosovo’s secession from Serbia. But surely the people of CARICOM, irrespective of nationality, geographical location, cultural and economic variations, deserve to be treated with respect by their governments with at least a statement providing the rationale for voting at the UN on vital issues such as pertaining to political sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Now the United States and its major European partners are busy pointing to “threats” posed by Russia to Ukraine because of Moscow’s success for Crimea’s peaceful return to a historical fold before the disappearance of the Soviet Union. The bottom line, as viewed by some informed international observers, is the careful orchestration of unmiskable designs to preserve dominance in prevailing spheres of influence.
It should, however, be evident that small states like those comprising CARICOM owe it to themselves to be ever vigilant against being disadvantaged in the quest to secure and preserve the political and economic space they need for survival with dignity and freedom. They should not be expected to surrender their own fundamental rights in order to win favours from the big, rich and powerful. That’s not what “friends” are for.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.