Updated: April 29, 2018

By Jamber Press Contributor

During the past three to five years, the Russian Federation has been aggressively re-exerting its influence in the Caribbean region, Central and South America though not to the same extent as during the USSR years. This Russian expansionism has been reflected by increased financial and material (oil, petrol, grain, fossil fuel exploration) subvention to target countries. Unfortunately, involvement of the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin in the region has not being for the common good of people in the targeted countries. Of course, government assist others for some form of mutual benefit of their respective countries. However, in the case of Putin, caution is virtuous. It so happens that several of the target countries are those with vulnerable, dictatorial or down-right corrupt governing administrations. These include Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru and Dominica. Other Eastern Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada are joining the fray! Why? Do these countries match the profile of states 'ripe for picking' in the region?

An obvious reason for Putin's interest in Caribbean, Central and South America is their proximity to the USA. It is also an effort by Russia to buy favors from these countries. The latter is increasingly important to the Russian Federation as it has been progressively isolated in response to aggression against its neighbors (Ukraine, Georgia) and interference with other Sovereign countries. In the case of Dominica, Putin sees another vulnerable administration which is susceptible to Russian machinations. Why would the Russian Federation have any interest in the Caribbean? What do these small states have offer? Sun, sand ...?

In most asymmetric bilateral relationship, observers are usually evaluating the benefits to the economically more powerful participant or country. So, with the Russian Federation's foray into the Caribbean and Latin America, this aspect grabs the attention. However, many fail to appreciate the benefit to the administration in the 'target' country. We tend to underestimate schemers and scammers who may occupy high offices in target countries; they are always one step ahead with another scheme, always have backup plans. Hence the main reason why the best international law enforcement agencies are challenged with tracking the trail.  Consider the case of the Labor Party Administration in Dominica. The list of questionable interactions are mind bugling: Macoa, Malaysia, China, Venezuela, Dubai. Remember Francesco Corallo, Ng Lap Seng ('Mr. Wu'), Alireza Monfared ecetera. Where are they now?  It should come as no surprise that Russia and Putin are now targeting to the Caribbean.

Dominica formerly established diplomatic relationship with the Russian Federation in 1995. In the past few years, except for passport selling agents of questionable repute, little activity was noted or reported between the two countries. That is, until 2017 when Roosevelt Skerrit showed up at an economic forum in Russia as the sole EC leader in attendance; see blog post Dominica as Hub for Russian Entry into Caribbean. So far, what has Dominica gotten from this 'pretend new' Russian relations? Russia has delivered some belated hurricane relief 'supplies' and 'equipment' in multiple containers. Are Dominicans aware of the details? Remember when China moved into Dominica, container also came in and most custom officials were prohibited from examining their contents. Subsequently, Dominica saw the emergence of a relatively large Chinese embassy on Morne Daniel. What is going on in that unit? Recently, the administration signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian Federation concerning bilateral activities, cultural exchange and developmental assistance. Dominicans are yet to see this MOU. However, they should not be surprised if a large Russian Embassy springs up somewhere on Morne Bruce or Morne Daniel.

It is likely the there may be some token benefit to Dominicans as Putin's Russian Federation creeps into Dominica! However, Dominicans need to keep a close eye on Roosevelt Skerrit's Labor Party Administration, their cronies, sympathizers and hangers-on. They will be the real beneficiaries. This is likely where Nuri Katz fits into the milieu. Will he become another one of those characters that have so sullied the country's name as Ambassador? Mr. Katz is the loose-talking, multi-citizenship 'businessman' who sort of just happen to stumble onto radio station Q95 about 2 years ago. He swore he had no relationship with the government of Dominica. However, he sells citizenship for various countries. Now he has been appointment Resident Ambassador to the Russian Federation. What a coincident? Talk about conflict of Interest and contravention of Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) - an Ambassador selling passport under shady conditions to shady characters. Think about this, Katz is granted Dominican Citizenship, becomes an Ambassador and now is selling Dominican Citizenship. What other commodities will he be plying between Russia, Russian Oligarchs and Dominica's malefactors?  

Likely, the biggest short term payoff to the Labor Party, for Russian involvement in Dominica may be the upcoming Parliamentary elections which are constitutionally due in Dominica next year. Two scenarios are likely. The labor Party is seeing dwindling support at home and facing strong headwinds abroad where they are typically able to recruit voters to be transported to Dominica for voting. Utilizing Russian money and the dirty tricks which the Russian are deploying across the globe to skew elections and expand Russian influence, the Labor Party may see this as a benefit. Putin is in the habit of pretending he has been democratically elected; that is, after he has had his political opponents jailed or mysteriously dispatched. Is the Labor Administration seeking his expertise in this 'Art of getting rid of one's political opponents' before 'democratic elections'? Secondly, the Labor Administration needs new markets to peddle passport / citizenship as the screws are tightened in traditional markets. The Russian Federation, with an influential oligarch and money to spend, may fit the bill. It also provides avenues for continued diversion of Dominica's financial resources.

Against this backdrop of relentless assault on Dominicans' sensibility and sense of responsibility, what can be done to curtail the Labor Administrations foray into closer ties with another authoritarian administration? Firstly, demand and obtain cleansing of the voters lists, confront the Labor Party illegal behavior on cheating and treating to steal elections, standup for your country. Take a page from the people of St. Kitts / Nevis in their challenge to Danzel Douglas when he tried to parachute illegal voters to participate in the last general elections. The Diaspora should be on the lookout for Fake Ambassadors whose main role seems to be to sell the country and do whatever it takes to maintain Labor Party in power so they can continue to ply their trade in passport and whatever. The Diaspora must confront these Ambassadors' misbehavior on the International stage at every turn. Whether you are in the EU, UK, Australia, USA, raise the issues with your representatives or national government. To varying degrees, many of these countries have suffered from Russian meddling in national elections. It is in their interest to prevent this virus from spreading and causing untold havoc on democracies globally.