An unlikely alliance between two competitors with different agendas, Russia and China, have converged in the Caribbean to challenge US and European historic dominance and clout. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Venezuela where the US favors regime change whilst the Sino-Russian duo supports Nicolás Maduro. China has a clear plan to make good on its economic intentions in this region. Putin -now Russian president for life- will surely double down on its efforts in order to achieve its intended political results in the Caribbean.
The FM of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Mr. Blok, finally admitted at the end of last year that Russia is a risk for the Caribbean. Unclear is what the follow-up steps are going to be.
There are some crucial points we have to take into consideration.
China and Russia are cooperating on many fronts to weaken the Western grip on the global order. But they’re also competitors and will continue to collaborate -also in our region- until it’s no longer in either’s interest to do so.
Without a doubt a new Cold War is brewing in the Caribbean between the US on one side and China and Russia on the other. Because of this, some countries, especially Venezuela and Nicaragua, have gained a degree of geopolitical significance which they eagerly use to diffuse their domestic crises. Also, authoritarianism in Cuba, Suriname, Dominica and others are being emboldened by China and Russia.
Both Beijing and Moscow have their eyes on several regional small (island)states which they expect will align with them in the United Nations, further boosting their global influence.
The US has been cutting assistance to the region and taking a hard line on immigration making the US unpopular here. Leaders like the Prime Minister of Dominica praised President Putin saying that Russian leadership has “provided a great balance in the world on international issues”. US engagement slipped, massively. Mother Nature abhors power vacuums and China and Russia are more than happy to step in. Is the US going to engage the Caribbean more, or are we up for grabs by China and Russia?
We should also be aware of the practices Russia employs elsewhere to influence democracies via cyberwar and the presence of operatives. Some areas in Curaçao, the hacking of the Ministry in charge of among others election, statistics and archives, are especially vulnerable to outside influence.
We need to have a frank conversation how best to relate to Russia and China in our region. We need to focus on our connections on the long run regarding these newcomers as well as our traditional partners. More than anything, we need a strategy. We need also be in discussions with our Caribbean neighbors as well as The Hague.
This article appeared originally on June 20, 2019 and has been updated