Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says that reports that Russia has readied its nuclear arsenal amidst the conflict with Ukraine represents a “very dangerous, and unacceptable acceleration and escalation” of the conflict.
Gonsalves made the comments on his party’s radio station, on Monday, as he gave insights into but did not disclose the contents of a “private letter” that he has written to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The prime minister said Kingstown’s ambassador to the United Nations, I. Rhonda King had sent to his office a communique from Moscow to all heads of UN missions.
“And I didn’t see anything, any mention of that in the letter and they were explaining their position on several things, giving assurances about this or that. But the best assurances could be given now is for us to have peace,” Gonsalves said, referring to the alleged threat of use of nuclear weapons.
CARICOM, a 15-member bloc of Caribbean states, has issued a statement strongly condemning “the military attacks and invasion of Ukraine by The Russian Federation”. Some heads of government within the bloc have further issued separate statements condemning the violence.
However, Gonsalves has written “a private letter” to Putin “about what they called a special military operation in the Ukraine,” he said.
This approach has generated criticism of what some political observers have suggested is a personal rather than state-to-state approach to the conflict.
Gonsalves has said he “may or may not make that letter available to the public. And that is why I said it was private.”
He said that if he releases the letter, it would be “at the moment of my choosing, because I don’t come to diplomacy, always in public”.
The prime minister said he wanted Putin “to understand how the leader of a small island developing state sees this quote unquote, special military operation, as what they call it.
“But they think I would write a letter and don’t specify in it the sacrosanct nature of the principles of the United Nations Charter which are being broken here?”
He reiterated that the CARICOM statement spoke for St. Vincent and the Grenadines also.
“But meanwhile, I was making a number of calls to different persons. And I was making sure our diplomats, particularly at the UN, would make contact with a number of different important heads of delegations of important countries and to brief them about the contents of the letter. Not to show them the letter.”
Gonsalves, who recently returned to St. Vincent from three weeks of official business, which took him to Dubai, London and Doha, said he had briefed a representative of the British government.
“I can tell you, there was appreciation for what I have done because you’ll have to decide when a particular issue arises.”
Addressing his local critics, which include the parliamentary opposition, Gonsalves said:
“Are you going to join an echo chamber openly or you’re going to draw something to the attention of a leader who you’ve been in communication with and him with you on matters before and, in fact, other leaders in the world .”
Gonsalves, who, on March 28, marks 21 years as prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said that he does not make public the contents of every letter he writes to another head of government.
“That’s not necessary nor desirable…
“I have no problem in saying that St. Vincent and Grenadines is a friend of the Russian Federation. I have no problem in saying that we are a friend of every country in the world. Our tagline for our Security Council run was friends of all we strive for a better world,” Gonsalves said.
He was speaking about the campaign that led to Kingstown’s stint as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for two years ended Dec. 31.
“And that’s why we are able to speak, frankly, to a number of leaders in other countries about our position and we explain what we do.”
He noted that the United Nations General Assembly, on Monday, began debating a resolution on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“And I don’t want to preempt our ambassador but she would make a statement and when we vote, you will see how we vote. That is the first occasion that a vote arises and we have a vote to cast…
“But if the opposition wants to be a self-satisfying member of an echo chamber of this or that government, they can do that. St. Vincent, we are friends of Ukraine. you know what we want to see? We want to see peace.”
He said that in the letter to Putin, he pointed out that even if the articulation by Russia that they have legitimate security concerns and even if their perspectives on what has been happening in the Donbass region over the last eight year years, are taken at the highest in favour of Moscow, “the Russian Federation they do not reasonably justify driving a veritable horse and chariot through the UN charter, with the time honoured principles of peaceful settlement of disputes, multilateralism, non-interference, sovereignty and independence.
“These are things which are germane and central to us as a small island developing state. and with all the challenges in the world, we are also going to be affected,” he said, noting the likely impact of the conflict on oil and commodity prices, including wheat.
“And you will hear the statement at the general assembly … by our ambassador, which would be reflective of the letter which I wrote,” Gonsavles said.
Kingstown said on Tuesday that its UN ambassador was expected to address the general assembly around 11:45 a.m.