As of today, there is no exact definition of the term “small state”. These states are identified according to certain characteristics: they have a very limited territorial area, lack resources, have very low military potential and a tiny GDP, or at least these characteristics are obvious if we compare these states with others. This classification also pays close attention to the population problem. However, there is really no consensus on this point. According to E. Plischke, an American expert in the history of diplomacy, the population of “small countries” should not exceed the total of 5 million people. The Commonwealth of Nations proposes to define “small states” as those states that have a population of 1.5 million people or less. According to the World Bank, there are eleven small states in the Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Jamaica . All of these countries are former colonies of the British Empire. In addition, the “small states” of the Caribbean include countries such as Guadeloupe and Martinique (overseas departments of France), Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles (Curaçao and Sint Maarten, which are colonies of the Netherlands), as well as Puerto Rico (territory freely associated with the United States)… These seventeen States are members of the Association of Caribbean States.
The main characteristics that all these countries have in common are that they have “relatively small internal markets, very weak production and economic potential, in addition to the fact that in many cases and to this day they are mainly dedicated to specialized agricultural production that counts with a rather limited growth potential ”. Therefore, small countries always remain open to foreign trade and the international market, even if, for geographical reasons, this entails higher economic and administrative costs.
It has always been argued that small states have little opportunity to change their position in the midst of a much larger world system, especially because of the nature of this system that always ends up marginalizing this class of countries on the international stage. The weakness and small economic potential of the small islands that make up the Caribbean States, both in terms of development and in international relations, ends up becoming a very big challenge for them when it comes to expressing their particular interests in the world. world stage. The problems associated with its small size also include ecology, economic openness, a very weak institutional capacity and a series of quite limited opportunities . This leads to them being dependent on very strong countries that exist around them or, for historical reasons, being influenced by their former metropolises (such as Great Britain, France, Spain, etc.). This dependence on their political system is combined with the vulnerability they suffer due to external pressure and manipulation from their governments. According to the Commonwealth Advisory Group report: “Small states have no military or economic power; therefore, they have to count on the diplomatic means they possess to convey to other countries the nature of their national interests in various areas of international relations, which are vital for their survival ”. This dependence on their political system is combined with the vulnerability they suffer due to external pressure and manipulation from their governments. According to the Commonwealth Advisory Group report: “Small states have no military or economic power; therefore, they have to count on the diplomatic means they possess to convey to other countries the nature of their national interests in various areas of international relations, which are vital for their survival ”. This dependence on their political system is combined with the vulnerability they suffer due to external pressure and manipulation from their governments. According to the Commonwealth Advisory Group report: “Small states have no military or economic power; therefore, they have to count on the diplomatic means they possess to convey to other countries the nature of their national interests in various areas of international relations, which are vital for their survival ”.
Furthermore, the small island states of the Caribbean are politically very stable and maintain traditional political systems.
For example, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines or Jamaica are unitary parliamentary and constitutional monarchies that follow the Westminster model. The Queen of Great Britain is the Head of State and is represented locally by the Governor General. Guadeloupe and Martinique are overseas territories of France. The president appoints a prefect who manages the department. The States of Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles (Curaçao and Sint Maarten) are former territories of the Netherlands, but they have significant autonomy. However, they depend on the defense provided by the Netherlands, which also administers foreign policy.
The small Caribbean states are among the weakest in the international system, so diplomacy is very important to them and is their main way of participating in international relations. These States cannot resort to military or economic power, so diplomacy is the only effective means they have to influence the international system and thus obtain some benefit .
Among the large island states of the Caribbean there is no potential regional leader to which the weaker countries can turn. “Although Cuba and the Dominican Republic, in terms of their geopolitical potential, could aspire to be regional leaders, both countries lack the material resources necessary to exercise that leadership .” Therefore, the small Caribbean countries become dependent on other external actors who seek their own interests in the region. There are three possible extra-regional leaders as of today:
- United States: The United States government believes that everything that happens in the Caribbean has a direct impact on the internal security of the United States. According to George W. Bush, the Caribbean countries are “vital partners for security, trade, health, the environment, education, regional democracy and other issues” . Relations between the United States and the Caribbean are characterized by strong economic ties, extensive security cooperation, and an extensive foreign aid program for their development.
- Venezuela: The main instrument of integration used by the Venezuelan government is oil. The Petrocaribe program has been operating since 2005 and has supplied oil to several countries in the Caribbean region. In addition, this program aims to break the support that small Caribbean countries provide to the United States. In the summer of 2020, Venezuela announced its intention to reactivate the Petrocaribe program to achieve full integration of Latin American countries .
- Brazil: This country is the regional leader in all of Latin America, but at the same time it has very stable relations with the small states of the Caribbean, something that is demonstrated in the high rates of commercial and economic interaction. However, Brazil is far behind the other two leading countries due to the lack of a regional project that has a great impact in the Caribbean.
Currently, one of the vectors of the foreign policy of the small Caribbean countries is cooperation with the EU countries. The most important areas of this policy include democracy (particularly the promotion of human rights), security, trade, investment, innovation, education, and climate change. For the Caribbean, the EU is an important trading partner and investor.
The EU seeks to strengthen its position and influence in the Caribbean, mainly due to the growing role of this region on the world stage and its great economic prospects.
Cooperation with China is also one of the main foundations of the foreign policy of the Caribbean countries. There are 6 key elements for the development of these countries’ cooperation with China and Xi Jinping’s “1 + 3 + 6” program. These 6 elements are related to China’s economic interests, especially with regard to energy resources, infrastructure, agriculture, industry, scientific innovations, and information technology and techniques. Due to their potential economic development, the Caribbean States are attractive for foreign investment, especially in the area of the tourism industry and port infrastructure. Furthermore, its diplomatic sphere is also developing in this direction. “For example, in July 2014, the President of the People’s Republic of China,
So the small countries of the Caribbean have a high economic potential for foreign investment, so this region is attractive to many “large states” and extra-regional associations such as the US, China, the EU, as well as Venezuela. and Brazil.
Translated from Russian by Juan Gabriel Caro Rivera