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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has responded to persons who have questioned the benefits to Vincentians of the visa-waiver agreement that his government signed with Russia last month.

The agreement was signed even as the United States has not extended to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and three other independent Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States members, the privilege of their citizens not travelling to the US Embassy in Bridgetown as part of the visa renewal process.

Gonsalves said he had heard that persons had questioned the sense in the Kingstown-Moscow visa-waiver agreement.

“Who going Russia? How many Russians coming here,” he said, citing what he said were the comments of his critics.

“As always, people think in a very static manner,” he said, adding that the same thing was said when SVG signed a similar agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

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Gonsalves said he remembers that around that time he was going to Young Island to meet with the UAE officials, he met three Vincentian young ladies who lauded the visa-waiver pact.

“Three young ladies, all professional women came out from Mangoz [restaurant] and they said, ‘We are hearing about this thing with the visa waiver, when is it going to happen?’”

He said that women told him that they want to go to the UAE since they have friends and there are opportunities there.

“I often find it amazing that persons who are supposed to help to shape public opinion are so far behind people. They don’t know really about people, you know.

“If you want a lot of mischief, you could go and get it from some people who want to shape public opinion. But real substantial questions which influence people’s lives — Russia is the largest territorial area of any nation state in the world,” he said.

He noted that Russia has about 140 million people and is the successor to the superpower that was the Soviet Union.

“We are 150 square miles, we are 110,000 people. The very fact that Russia would sit down with us to want to sign a visa waiver agreement would tell you that they have some idea of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and its growing profile.”

The prime minister said that the critics don’t know that Russians didn’t require a visa to visit SVG.

He said only nationals of Afghanistan, Iran Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic need such visa.

“As a small country, the more countries with which we have a visa-waiver, the better. We are a migrant people and we are open, also for tourism,” Gonsalves said.

He noted that even with a visa waiver, there are a maximum number of days that one can stay without a visa.

The prime minister said immigration officials can decide the length of stay on a visa, up to that maximum number of days, or can deny entry altogether if the person is undesirable.

5 replies on “Gonsalves defends visa waiver with Russia”

  1. PM, Russia also sees this as a way to continue to enter into and or erode the American sphere of influence. The US sees the Caribbean as its backyard, even the wider western hemisphere. Hence the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine. One of the US greatest geopolitical fears is the rising up of a Eurasian power that is capable of challenging its global hegemony. The Monroe doctrine has been at the foundation of US policy to keep European powers out of its backyard thus protecting itself geopolitically. The US also entered two world wars when it became evident that a single Eurasian power was eminent. The US also fought the Cold War with the USSR as a containment strategy to keep it from overtaking the Eurasian subcontinent. It was also an ideological war between communism and capitalism. The capitalist seemed to have won the day with the collapse of the Berlin wall and the USSR, which fragmented into the Russian Federation and small satellite states within the Russian periphery. The US created the UN, World Bank and the IMF as agencies through which it can exercise soft power. It also created NATO as part of its wider Eurasian containment strategy. When these instruments do agree with the US or give it the cover of international law, the US acts unilaterally to achieve its goals perhaps, even with a few of its global allies.
    Today, a small country like St Vincent and the Grenadines is using some of these very instruments to reposition itself within the global hierarchy. It is also doing so by playing all the sides within this new emerging ‘Game of Thrones’ between Russia, China and the US. China has all but smothered Taiwan diplomatically with just about seventeen countries remaining in the world that diplomatically recognize Taiwan. Yet, Kingstown continues to sing about the helplessness of Taiwan within the global system and shun the pocketbook diplomacy of China. Ironically, as Taiwan allies get smaller, it now has more money to give to its old endearing friends like Kingstown. The Russian courting of Kingstown would continue to increase Kingstown diplomatic profile. But, Kingstown must also strike a delicate balance between trying to project power beyond its borders, maintaining a strong and stable Government at home and maintaining some level of friendship with the US so as not to frighten them into thinking that Kingstown is trying to weaken them geopolitically. We all know how that spectacle went down in Granada and the Cold war missile crisis between Cuba, USSR and the US. Any fatal crack among Kingstown pillars of ‘Power Projection’, Stable Government and Friendly US relations would spell a certain death to Kingstown geopolitical ambitions. Its weakest element is the continuation of the ULP administration, hence the PM contemplates seeking another term. Local political meddling is also the US weapon of choice in the smothering of regional powers. Venezuela is a prime example of a budding regional power that got smothered with politics. Kingstown won the day at the OAS, but it has an uphill battle at the UN security council should it win. It certainly needs all the global allies it can get.

    1. Duke DeArment says:

      I do not know about your history information because it is a matter of perspective. A good relationship with Russia could be a very great thing for us, especially if it includes investment. Ralph Gonsalves seems to have a very good foreign Policy Philosophy when it does not include economics (unless it is election money for his party). Maybe he can use his foreign policy relations ability to bring in macro investment and thereby nullify his very terrible economic philosophy.

      1. You are correct Duke, it is a matter of perspective. In this instance I am looking at things from a geopolitical view point and yes, it is a different spin on history contrary to what is being taught. Kingstown foreign policy as articulated by the PM is enshrined in the doctrine: St Vincent has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interest. This doctrine is credited to have been first espoused by Henry John Temple Palmerston, as he made his remarks in the House of Commons, March 1, 1848 in relation to Great Britain. It was also later credited to Winston Churchill (??). It worked well for the British Empire and would no doubt work well for Kingstown. It has proven to be one of those things that has withstood the test of time. As for the PM’s economic policy, it may be at odds with conventional wisdom but in comparison to other Caribbean islands, it somehow restrained the economy from going into a tailspin given all the external economic shocks the country had to deal with during the course of the current administration. Notwithstanding, people what to see more wealth creation and this is certainly not forthcoming.

  2. Remember Youthman, SVG and others extract money from these type of international friends by giving them the benefit of our vote at the UN.

    Now with SVG hoping to be elected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council next year, SVG’s vote will be many more times more valuable. I hope this does not happen because it also leaves the door open for our politicians to take corrupt payments personally.

    Friending up rubbish regimes like Russia which is ruled by a dictator called Putin, means there can be lots of dirty money slopping about, but not for us the citizens.

    Russia and the visa waiver is a Venezuelan and Cuban thing, also an ALBA directive.

    Gonsalves is taking us down a route of confrontation with the US. Its all part of the current Marxist nations scheme for the Caribbean.

    We have a lot of Vincentians living and working in the US and the UK. Do we really want to piss them off?

  3. Vincy in New York says:

    When it comes to diplomacy and foreign policy, a leader must have a tempered spirit. A leader’s political philosophy should not interfere with the economic and social wellbeing of the citizenry, nor should it be of paramount importance or the sole projection of its foreign policy on the world’s stage. The people and country come first.

    Roseau, St. John and Kingstown benefitted tremendously from Petro Caribe and a vote at the OAS for non-intervention in the affairs of Venezuela does not surprise anyone. However, what is most disturbing is the failure of the three regimes to denounce the atrocities in Venezuela. Yes, a vote for non-intervention in the national affairs of countries in the West Hemisphere by any imperialist is understood, but failure to address the political and economic maladies is another. At no time our PM addresses the Venezuelan situation on humanitarian terms. Our PM looks at this issue from a purely ideological and political point of view. In this scenario, the diplomatic thing to do was to vote for non-intervention and address the problems on a public platform or to do what Grenada and St. Lucia had done. There is no public chastisement that backdoor diplomacy cannot fix.

    A visa waiver requirement for Vincentian nationals to Russia is supposed to be big news and Vincentians having to travel to Barbados to renew visas is not a big deal. This is pure political bantering and no display of humanity with regards to the people having to travel to Barbados. How many barrels came from Russia to SVG last year? What about remittances from Russia to SVG?

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