‘Challenging’ Russia in the Arctic: Political posturing or a war in the making?

As Russia bolsters its efforts to secure and tap the Arctic, both the UK and the US have been vowing to meet its “challenge” – a premise that could lead to war, experts say, if their naval powers could muster the capabilities.

“It’s nobody’s lake,” said US Admiral James Foggo in a recent interview with US media – the latest in a string of American warnings against Russia’s northward push. His concern is primarily for “Arctic Council nations – of which we are a member,” and which are not interested in the Northern Sea Route being exploited by adversary powers like Russia and China.

UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson recently joined the chorus of warnings, saying Britain would “stay vigilant to new challenges” by “sharpening our skills in sub-zero conditions, learning from longstanding allies like Norway or monitoring submarine threats with our Poseidon aircraft.”

But Russia is better positioned both legally and physically to oversee the Arctic and, while still dangerous, the bellicose statements carry little weight for the reality on the ice, experts have told RT.

Bravado for domestic consumption

Williamson’s promise to defend NATO’s northern flank from Russia must be viewed “in the context of current UK domestic politics,” believes security analyst and former UK army officer Charles Shoebridge. With Brexit just around the corner, Williamson is drumming up the Russia and China threats so that other European nations aren’t “tempted to turn to the EU for its security, but must continue to rely on the US and UK through NATO.”

Ultimately, he could be aiming just for political gain.

With the UK in political turmoil it often appears that Williamson is even positioning himself as a future candidate to replace Theresa May as PM.

Likewise in the US: James Foggo's “nobody's lake” comment was tellingly lacking in detail as to how exactly the US is going to keep Russia out of the Arctic, says retired colonel Mikhail Khodarenok.

“James Foggo’s statements at this point are of a purely political nature. It’s telling that he never clarified how exactly the US Navy is going to accomplish that task. Are they going to create naval groups in the Arctic Ocean, seize important coastal areas, channels, naval bases and ports? But that means war with a nuclear power, one which would see unrestricted use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Dangerous free-for-all

War can be averted, the experts believe, though the danger of escalation is very real. The situation, according to Khodarenok, is complicated by the vagueness of international law regarding the Arctic.

James Foggo’s statement is a fresh indication that the Arctic is becoming an arena of global rivalry over transport lanes and natural resources,” Khodarenok said.

World history knows no precedent of such a rivalry playing out without considering military factors.

Shoebridge, on the other hand, believes that when faced with the danger of an armed incident spiraling into “uncontrolled escalation,” cooler heads will prevail.

“Despite the confrontational language they might use, most leaders of most states want to avoid this,” he said.

Also on rt.com US plans expansion to Arctic in bid to challenge Russia, but can it?...

Questionable claims and capabilities

The US seeks to deny Russia and China the use of the Northern Sea Route – but the lane goes along the Russian coastline, which, under international law, gives Russia a degree of control over it, something Russia should lean on when defending its rights to use the waters, says Khodarenok.

Besides, while Foggo wants Russia and China out of the “nobody's lake,” he admits American companies can’t use it either, since their vessels are too big for local conditions. Besides, Russia is the only world power with a significant icebreaker fleet, which makes it the only one capable of rendering aid to ships that have an emergency while sailing there.
On top of that, Russia has been reviving its military installations that guard the area, including radar arrays and permanent military bases. Abandoning those is not an option, since that would mean losing a vital strategic foothold.

For Russia the Northern Sea Route has defense significance as well, since it provides access to all of the world’s oceans, as well as the ability to maneuver between theaters relying only on the capabilities of the Russian Navy.

At the end of the day the only ones undoubtedly standing to profit from the opening of the Arctic arena are military industrial contractors – with the US 2nd Fleet revived for the sole purpose of containing Russia’s Arctic ambition, Navy contracts are bound to follow.

Also on rt.com Cold War is good for business: US contractors rejoice at the new Red Scare...

  • Published in World

Cold War is good for business: US contractors rejoice at the new Red Scare

US politicians and media peddling scary stories about Russia and China may have a more pedestrian motive than defending 'American values and way of life' – a return to the halcyon days of the Cold War and the Pentagon gravy train.

If there's one thing mainstream Democrats and Republicans agree upon, it's that Russia and China are the new global threat, ready to pounce at the first sign of a week spot in American defenses to topple the benevolent US dominance of the globe.

If there's another – never on the record, of course – it's that war is good for business. Not actual war, what the Pentagon calls 'kinetic military action', as that would be destructive. The ideal conditions for the political class in Washington is the bygone Cold War, when it could funnel billions of dollars in taxpayer money to defense contractors, with these corporations repaying the largesse with hefty contributions to politicians.

War hawks mourn ‘underfunded’ US military that could ‘lose next war’ against Russia or China

With a military budget of $717 billion in 2019 – which is about four times that of China and 15 times that of Russia – Washington war hawks are still lamenting how the "underfunded" US military could lose the next war against either. There's only one way to avoid that – spend more.


F-35: Pie in the Sky

As the US aggressively asserted the right to intervene anywhere around the world, Russia and China began rebuilding their air forces and augmenting them with new-generation warplanes. For the US Air Force and the aerospace industry, this was like the answer to three decades of prayer.

Lockheed finally had the justification for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which produced the first prototype in 2006. There were only two tiny little problems with the F-35: nobody could get the plane to actually work as intended, and it was incredibly expensive. The total lifetime program cost was estimated at $1.5 trillion in 2015 dollars, the bulk of which would be for "operations and sustainment."

The most expensive Pentagon project to date is plagued by some of the most expensive problems – but while Lockheed Martin could not make the F-35 actually work as advertised, it did manage to spread its production over 45 US states, ensuring the program is almost impossible to kill politically. Powerful Republican senators have thrown their weight behind the F-35, warning the Pentagon against taking funding away from it in favor of a simpler F15X update proposed by Boeing.

Also on rt.com US military grounds its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of South Carolina crash...

Lucrative digital battlegrounds

The looming shadow of the 'Russian hacker', infiltrating (not really) American political parties and power grids, has spurred the push for cyber security – and the contracts to go with it.

Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), a program that seeks to provide the US military with secure cloud services, has attracted big tech with its $10 billion contract – which Amazon now seems increasingly likely to win, thanks to its reported inroads with the US administration. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was unapologetic, saying the US is a "great country" that "needs to be defended." Executives at the other two big-name contenders – Microsoft and Google – were equally enthusiastic, with the Microsoft president vowing to give all the tech the company creates to the "ethical and honorable" US military.

Rank-and-file employees, however, were up in arms. Those at Microsoft penned an open letter saying they had joined the company hoping the tech they create would not "cause harm or human suffering." Employee outcry at Google caused it to drop JEDI altogether, despite company leadership's enthusiastic support.

Artificial Intelligence

The for-profit patriotism at Amazon and Microsoft is bound to be rewarded with even more contracts in the coming years, because the Pentagon believes it has some catching up to do with Russia and China when it comes to artificial intelligence. The DoD's first AI strategy, while loose on wording, clearly outlines who the main adversaries are.

The known investment figures are relatively minor so far – as far as Washington's gargantuan defense budgets go. For example, in July 2018, IT consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton was awarded an $885 million to work on AI programs over the next five years, and the Pentagon requested $93 million in 2019 for Project Maven – which aims to develop algorithms for automatic analysis of drone footage. Google was working on that one, but now says it won't renew the contract due to disastrous employee backlash – even though backing out means losing on potentially bigger IT-related defense contracts to come.

With Trump just recently ordering a boost in AI development for the sake of American dominance, those contracts are certain to keep rolling in in the foreseeable future.

Naval friction

The US answer to Russia venturing into the Arctic was to reestablish the 2nd Fleet – created in 1950 as a Cold War-era check on Soviet activity in the Atlantic and disbanded by the Obama administration in 2011 to cut expenses. Apparently, no expense is too much when the threat of Russian submarines is – according to 2nd Fleet chief Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis – "real," and Russians seek to tap the resources the US wanted for itself and its allies.

The US Navy also needs to keep up its "freedom of navigation operation" at the Chinese shores, and "rebuilding" the fleet is one of Trump's staple defense promises. As an example of the accelerated – and rewarding – build-up, the Navy signed a contract worth a whopping $14.9 billion with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls for two Ford-class aircraft carriers. In another throwback to the good old days, this is the first time since the 1980s more than one of these has been commissioned simultaneously.

The two ships will replace aging ones, keeping the number of active dedicated carriers in the US service at 11 – while China has two, and Russia one.

The final frontier

Another Trump staple, the Space Force, is shaping up to be a fount of profit for the enterprising contractor, though the new branch of the US military is still in the early stages of its creation.

While no deals have been made with the Space Force specifically in mind, there is profit to be had in it for companies like Lockheed Martin. In 2018, Lockheed was contracted to create three satellites that can survive counter-space weaponry, for $2.9 billion – and as America's "adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space," as Trump put it, more of that is bound to come.

Also on rt.com Trump signs directive to create not-so-‘equal’ Space Force as part of Air Force...

Way back in 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower – who commanded US forces in Europe during WWII – warned in his farewell speech about the dangers of a "military-industrial complex" dictating government priorities and foreign policy. He spoke from experience: the 'Red Scare' of the 1950s had already driven the US into an arms race based on the 'bomber gap' and 'missile gap' favoring the USSR – both of which turned out to be entirely imaginary.

"We were doing things we didn't need to do. We were building things we didn't need to build. We were harboring fears we didn't need to harbor," President Lyndon Johnson told a gathering in 1967.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Published in World

Attack on Venezuela 1st step in US Attempt to Recolonize Latin America: Maduro

Speaking to HispanTV, the Venezuelan leader said U.S. President Donald Trump "has allowed himself to be led to an extremist position of foolishness."

The United States has relaunched its colonialist aspirations against Latin America, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro warned Thursday during an interview with the Iranian media HispanTV, adding that the Venezuelan military was ready to defend the independence and sovereignty of the Latin American nation.

RELATED: Nicaragua Rejects Possible Military Intervention In Venezuela

"America for Americans, that is, all our America for them, all our riches and all our power for them," Maduro said and added that Venezuela is currently at center of an imperialist attack "because they believe that, by reversing and destroying the Bolivarian Revolution, they will be able to recolonize and dominate the entire continent."

In Maduro's opinion, the U.S. President Donald Trump "has allowed himself to be led to an extremist position of foolishness, to an unattractive position. In addition, he has hinted his true desire to dominate, conquer, and subdue Venezuela."

The Venezuelan leader also denounced that, besides being part of the U.S. geopolitical aspirations in Latin America, Trump’s interventionist attitudes towards Venezuela are triggered by the desire to seize the country's enormous natural and mineral resources.

China opposes military intervention to in response to reports that the U.S. would support the Venezuelan opposition to deliver into Venezuela on Feb. 23.

"Trump's problem is" Venezuela's riches, oil, gold, gas, strategic minerals, wealth, water," to which the great strength of the country is added when it comes to controlling its own model economic, political, social and cultural "added Maduro.

According to President Maduro, most of the polls show that more than 90 percent of Venezuelans reject any U.S. military aggression. This is so because his nation is "united" around the rejection of Trump's statements.

Maduro emphasized that "Venezuela is for Venezuela," and pointed out that the entire offensive against his nation is "a test."

"I'm sure that these challenges and these tests will leave us more strengthened. I'm more than sure of that," he predicted.

Regarding the U.S. attempts to provoke a military uprising in Venezuela, President Maduro stated that the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB), which is ready to defend the homeland and is committed to the Constitution.

  • Published in World

Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides from having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

Read more Building Avangard hypersonic glider was like launching world’s 1st artificial satellite – Putin

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,” he said.

  • Published in World

There are no independent countries in the world, Putin says

Europe can’t oppose the US deployment of missiles, even if it is contrary to their interests, because no country can be truly independent these days, Vladimir Putin believes.

The Russian president thinks “the modern world is the world of interdependency” and there are no truly independent countries these days.

“Do you think European countries want missiles in Europe? Nobody wants it. But they keep silent. Where is their sovereignty?” Putin asked during his visit in Sochi.

Also on rt.com INF Treaty is about European security, not American; US left it to get new missiles – Russian envoy...

The EU Parliament, he said, makes more decisions on behalf of the member countries than “the Supreme Soviet of USSR on behalf of constituent republics” back in the days.

There are no fully independent states in the world.

On Thursday leaders from Russia, Turkey and Iran gathered in the Black Sea city of Sochi to discuss ways of ending Syria’s crisis. The talks were held amid hostile talk emerging from a meeting of the US and its allies in Warsaw, where they talked about their take on the Middle East.

Also on rt.com EU states fold like cheap tents to US demands on Venezuela, Italy one of few to stay independent...

During the meeting in Sochi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani expressed doubts over Washington’s plan to remove troops stationed with Kurdish forces in northern Syria. But Putin seemed to be the most optimistic that the move would actually happen soon.

After the summit on Syria ended, Putin stayed on in Sochi to hold talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

  • Published in World

Norwegian airliner stranded in Iran for 60 DAYS (and counting) due to US sanctions

A Norwegian commercial airliner which made an emergency landing in Iran in December is still waiting for replacement parts it needs to fly home – components which have been blocked due to sanctions unilaterally imposed by the US.

Norwegian Air flight DY1933 – which ferries passengers between Dubai and Oslo – was forced to make an emergency landing in Shiraz, Iran, on December 14 after experiencing engine trouble. The unscheduled detour went smoothly enough: the plane landed safely, and passengers were able to catch a flight out of Shiraz the following day. The plane itself, however, has remained stranded in Iran due to a lack of spare parts: US sanctions prohibit importing technology into Iran that has more than 10 percent of American-made parts.

Also on rt.com EU countries move to evade US’ Iran sanctions by setting up payment channel for ‘humanitarian’ trade...

While it’s possible that Norwegian Air could receive a one-time exemption from the US Treasury Department to import the necessary engine parts, a lawyer who works on sanctions-related issues told NPR that it was a “long shot.”

Ironically, the US sanctions meant to deprive Iran of modernizing and integrating into the global economy may actually backfire in this case: If the Iranians so choose, they could seize the Boeing 737 – which is likely filled with sanctions-restricted technology.

Last year, Washington unilaterally re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Tehran after pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Germany, France and the UK announced in January that they had set up a new payment system which can bypass US sanctions and facilitate “legitimate trade.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in November that there would be “swift punishment” for any countries caught doing business with Iran.

  • Published in World

‘Space is not your property!’ Beijing blasts US report on China & Russia ‘weaponizing’ space

A new US intelligence report portraying Moscow and Beijing as trying to bring warfare into the heavens has drawn the ire of China, which insists that space is not Washington’s “private property.”

Read more Pentagon’s 1st AI strategy vows to keep pace with Russia & China, wants help from tech

“I want to make it clear that outer space belongs to all mankind. It is not exclusively owned by any one country and especially not the private property of the US,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, referring to the latest paper by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). 

Hua slammed the “unwarranted and utterly baseless comments” in the DIA report, saying China stands for the peaceful use of space and opposes its militarization.

“For many years,” the spokeswoman stated, “China, Russia and other countries have been working hard and trying to reach an international legal instrument to fundamentally prevent the weaponization of or an arms race in outer space.”

The DIA report – which comes amid Donald Trump’s cosmic endeavors such as the establishment of the Space Command – fans fears of US dominance being challenged everywhere, including space. Russia and China “view space as important to modern warfare and view counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness,” it claims, noting that both countries have done much to boost their capabilities.

“These capabilities provide their militaries… with enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track, and target US and allied forces,” the DIA says.

READ MORE: Trump orders US agencies to turbocharge AI research and ensure American dominance

What it did not say, however, is that a host of senior US military leaders have openly discussed the prospect of offensive weapons being delivered into Earth’s orbit. Former Pentagon chief James Mattis, for instance, said in 2017 that the US needs to have offensive weapons in space “should someone decide to militarize it and go on the offensive.”

In fact, Moscow warned in early January that it’s Washington which is eying space as a potential battlefield. In particular, the Russian Foreign Ministry cited US plans to develop space-based interceptors.

The US, China, Russia, and dozens of other countries are parties to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that bars weapons of mass destruction from being placed in space and installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body.

  • Published in World

Divided Caribbean Faces Chaos in Event of Military Intervention in Venezuela

Venezuela's relationship with the Caribbean along with the likely fallout are unconsidered factors when the threats of a military intervention are discussed.

When imagining the 28 island nations which form the Caribbean, pictures of long white sand beaches, warm temperatures, and calm waters are all that captures the mind. And while the region may fight this stereotypical view, it has primarily earned this reputation from being one of the few zones of peace in the world and tourism marketing campaigns, where it has positioned itself as a destination for one and all.

RELATED: Uruguay, Mexico Call for Global Peace Conference on Venezuela

The region, however, would have hardly been a consideration when Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The unelected United States-backed opposition politician and head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly was an unknown quantity in Venezuelan politics and the region. The act of swearing himself in as president using Article 233 of the country's constitution and his coronation as the only legitimate leader of the South American country by the United States, Canada, the European Union and several right-wing governments across the region has poured gas on Venezuela's current sociopolitical woes as the United States and its allies continue moves to topple President Nicolas Maduro.

The move has, of course, sent shockwaves around Latin America and even the Caribbean, which has over the last 20 years developed closer relations with Venezuela than any other mainland Spanish-speaking country in the region. Venezuela's relationship with the island nations and CARICOM, the region's fifteen-nation regional integration and cooperation body, along with the likely fallout are unconsidered factors when the threats of a military intervention were discussed following U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration that "all options are on the table" to achieve his desired goals in the Latin American nation.

However, if one were to take into context the landscape of the Caribbean and Latin America and the over 70 U.S. military bases and its history of intervention in conflicts real or manufactured around the world and in the region. It would be shortsighted for any realistic observers in those island nations to believe a successful military intervention of any scale would be executed without the active or passive participation of several of the Caribbean countries closer to Venezuela or without the region succumbing to immediate fallout.

The Caribbean has already felt the impact of the United States' and its allies economic war on Venezuela, which was ramped up following President Barack Obama claim that Venezuela was a unique national security threat in 2015.

In the last year alone several countries, especially in the Eastern Caribbean, have documented complaints about the detrimental impact these sanctions have had on normal trade relations with Venezuela especially in the area of oil and gas products, which Venezuela supplied them with under concessions linked to the 2005 PetroCaribe Initiative.

In late 2018, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines acknowledged the issue as a crisis in the making because of their inability to make foreign exchange payments through regular channels with Venezuela.

“It has an indirect effect on us in respect of the trade in fuel,” he explained while detailing the difficulty his country has experienced with fuel imports. 

“These are not tankers which have been contracted for and paid for in a number of different ways. They have to get small vessels to transport the fuel, specially designed to transport the fuel. The problem is that these vessels are not owned by Venezuela and you have to pay for them, as I have been advised, through a United States account. We have a small sum of money for Venezuela under the PetroCaribe agreement, but we can’t get it to them,” he added.

Jamaica could also experience similar issues, with Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) owning 49 percent of the Jamaican oil refinery Petrojam, through the subsidiary PDV Caribe. 

Trinidad and Tobago, the region's largest economy, positioned just seven miles from Venezuela with its western coast with the eyesight of South America has faced its challenges in this realm. Although Trinidad and Tobago has its own oil and gas riches, its recent agreement to develop petrochemical products from Venezuela's Dragon Fields, which could produce 50 mil­li­on stan­dard cu­bic feet per day (mm­scf/d), with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of it in­creas­ing to 300 mm­scf/d, has faced threats from the most recent round of U.S. sanctions and from opposition legislators, who have threated to blacklist the country for working with the current Venezuelan administration.

Haiti also has a considerable vulnerable due to the PetroCaribe programme. Haiti due to various political crises and the devastating earthquake in February 2010, successive governments have seen Venezuela as a stable partner and source of support. Venezuela's current circumstances have seen a steady decline in PetroCaribe funding. This decline coupled with claims of the misuse of those funds leads to thousands of Haitians protesting for weeks in October and November. Citizens have called for trails for those responsible for the alleged abuse of funds along with the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, who had proposed the use of some of these funds to embark on an ambitious infrastructure investment plan

Protesters march to demand an investigation into what they say is the alleged misuse of a Venezuela-sponsored oil programme. Photo: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

More recently and with the ongoing human impacts these sanctions have had on the South American country's economy, the Caribbean has also been inundated with an inflow of Venezuelan migrants many of whom have journeyed to take advantage of the more favorable Visa requirements offered to Venezuelan citizens. 

With the United Nations projecting 3.6 million persons leaving Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago which has a population of 1.3 million people, has taken in over 40,000 Venezuelans according to its government's estimates. While the Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao along with the mainland territories of Guyana and Suriname have also faced similar challenges, although the numbers haven't been as well documented. 

Venezuela, which has a population of 32 million, could see many more citizens leave if a military intervention did take place. Syria's ongoing civil war, for example, forced over 10 million persons from their homes with almost six million taking refuge in neighboring countries. Syria has a population of some 22 million persons.

While these countries may be united in their inability to manage the inflows of Venezuelan migrants, significant divisions have emerged in the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) response to the most recent developments. 

Those divisions in CARICOM were laid bare when Jamaica, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Haiti, and Guyana voted along with the United States and several right-wing Latin American governments at the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States to declare Maduro's second term illegitimate. While Saint Vincent and the Grenadines led a group, consisting of Suriname and Dominica, which voted against the resolution.

The representatives from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines asserted in voting against the resolution: "The presidential election was assessed by many objective observers, including the Caribbean Observer Mission, to be free and fair. The results reflected the will of the people. A government has been truly elected by the people and for the people. We must respect the sovereign will of the people of Venezuela, nothing more, nothing less."

Five members of CARICOM, Saint Kitts, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Belize, and Grenada abstained from the vote.

The measure at the OAS, in the end, proved ineffectual, with 18 countries opposing the interventionist move.

After the vote and the move internationally to recognize Guaidó, several Caribbean leaders decried the Trump administration's declarations with Saint Vincent's Gonsalves branding it a "Coup d’ Etat” while speaking to the Miami Herald and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne calling it “brazen regime change.”

“The majority of countries that are in Caricom do not accept Juan Guaidó as the interim president,” Browne said. "In fact, we believe that it is an extremely dangerous precedent... which has absolutely no basis in law, it has no constitutional backing, it has no support of international law, and it’s really an affront to democracy within the hemisphere."

Browne also warned the Caribbean should be careful not to be drawn into the ideological war unfolding in Venezuela with the goal of merely removing Maduro from office.

“These people are fighting an ideological war. They believe that socialism in Venezuela would plunge the people into poverty and so on. They want to get rid of these socialist regimes. Okay fine, they can fight their ideological wars, but we have to deal with the practicality and the effects (on the region),” Browne said.

Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has also had similarly strong words for U.S. officials, who have attempted to force CARICOM members into changing their position on the conflict. Rowley sent a clear message to the U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Joseph Mondello, who had said he was “deeply concerning” with Trinidad and Tobago's continued recognition of the Maduro administration.

“I take umbrage at the United States’ ambassador in Trinidad and Tobago making a public statement criticizing the actions of the government of Trinidad and Tobago while we take action in protection of the interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said in the country's Parliament last Friday.

“We in Trinidad and Tobago under all of our governments, we have preserved the sovereign position of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he added. “Until there is a change of government in Venezuela, as Mr. Patrick Manning said when you pick up the phone, is who answer the phone (is) in charge of Venezuela. What they are asking us to do is to take sides largely contrived by external forces. If you are going to have a change of regime in today’s world post-World War 2 and you want to do it properly, you’re required to go through the UN and sanction it. Trinidad and Tobago will not be invited to take any interest that would damage our relations with neighbors.”

UN Secretary-General His Excellency Antonio Guterres, third from left, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, left, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, second from left, CARICOM Chair and Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr. Timothy Harris, third from right, and CARICOM General Secretary Irwin LaRocque, second from right. Twitter/@OPM_TT

Some of these strongly worded and divided positions lead to an emergency of CARICOM member states were 12 out of the 15 signed on to a collective statement reaffirming the CARICOM guiding principle of “non-intervention and non-interference” in the affairs of sovereign nations on January 24. The signatories include Jamaica and St. Lucia, who reversed the positions they had taken in favor of the OAS resolution on January 10. CARICOM chairman and St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, Trinidad and Tobago's Rowley, as well as Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, also met with United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, on Monday in New York to outline their position and discuss the ongoing sociopolitical situation in Venezuela.

A statement issued after the talks clearly outlined their fear over the fallout from of external military intervention in the Venezuelan crisis.

"The CARICOM delegation emphasized its commitment to the tenets of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter which calls on states to refrain from the threat or the use of force. CARICOM has been consistent in the critical importance it accords to the key principles of non-interference and non-intervention. CARICOM reaffirmed the view that there was an urgent need for meaningful dialogue leading to a peaceful internal solution for the Venezuelan people. The Caribbean Community is resolute in its belief that it is never too late for dialogue since the consequences of no dialogue will be dire," a joint statement issued by the body said.

The statement also emphasized “the importance of the Caribbean remaining a Zone of Peace,” an idea first coin by Maurice Bishop, who came to power in Grenada in a revolution that toppled the government of Eric Gairy in 1979. 

“We join with our sister Caribbean nations in re-emphasizing our determination to preserve the Caribbean as a zone of peace, free from military intimidation. We demand the right to build our own processes in our own way, free from outside interference, free from bullying and free from the use or threat of force,”  Bishop, who was later killed in a bloody invasion of the country by the United States, said.

The position was reaffirmed in 2014 at the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana, Cuba, hoping to avoid a repeat of its bloody history of colonialism and in the even more bloody political conflicts experienced by several countries in Latin America over the last sixty years.

The Caribbean's long-held position of “non-intervention and non-interference” has often been reiterated by many of its leaders over the last few decades. If its governments intend to stand by those principles, avoiding the overtures of the world's declining superpower to support their position, it can play an important role in charting a way forward for the hemisphere.  Since the continued destabilization of Venezuela would create chaos and economic, military and social problems many territories are ill-equipped to manage.


  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed