The visit to Guyana of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is an indication of the growing importance of Guyana on the international stage. This importance is a by-product of Guyana’s bourgeoning, petroleum-based, economy which will soon place Guyana as the largest petroleum producer per capita in the world. This, however, means little because with production at 1 or 2 million barrels a day, which is expected to be the maximum that Guyana will attain unless our reserves increase significantly by more discoveries, Guyana will not be in the big leagues. Guyana’s oil will have no influence on the world’s economy, as Saudi Arabia or Russia, which both produce in the vicinity of 9 billion barrels a day. However, Guyana will become economically powerful enough to have an influential voice in the Caribbean and even in Latin America and, perhaps, further afield. It is in the recognition of that growing reality that brings Blinken to Guyana. The US would undoubtedly wish to influence the direction of that voice.
The US would be interested in ensuring that it has the capacity to share its views with Guyana at the earliest stage in matters of importance to the US. There are many such matters, but one of much importance is Guyana’s relations with China. The US considers China to be its most serious international competitor and adversary. It indulges in economic warfare against China in what appears to many to be aimed at obstructing China’s economic growth and economic influence in the world. At the same time its military encirclement of China continues with a new military base in the Philippines and military alliances being developed which are aimed at China. It engages in provocative activities in relation to Taiwan. While China’s democratic credentials and violation of international law in relation to the Philippines leave much to be desired, US foreign policy seeks to limit the relations of other countries with China, consistently warning about the alleged dangers of Chinese investments. The US would see it as very important to seek to influence the Guyana Government to limit its relations with China. President Ali has announced that he would be visiting China soon.
The Biden Administration has displayed a remarkably progressive domestic agenda. Its achievements, though severely limited because of its flimsy majority in the US Senate and two right wing Democratic Senators who obstruct its policies, have been encouraging. But President Biden is also an old-time cold warrior and has adopted a distinctively backward foreign policy.President Biden has supported the Trump Administration’s reverse of President Obama’s opening to Cuba and has sought to impose additional conditions on Iran before resuscitating the agreement on nuclear proliferation. Iran has naturally refused. The failure to resolve the crisis in Ukraine which first emerged as an issue in 2008 when NATO, at the insistence of the US, invited Ukraine and Georgia to join, which Russia then deemed as an existential threat to its security, has been simmering since at least 2014 when the US instigated the overthrow of the democratically elected Ukrainian government. The issue could have been resolved since then, and even later, by creating a neutral Ukraine with the necessary security guarantees. Instead,the US forced continued confrontation with Russia, blocked President Zelenskyy’s negotiated settlement in March 2002, the draft of which President Putin published recently, and is financing and arming Ukraine in the current attempt to impose a military defeat on Russia. Russia violated international law by invading Ukraine, but the invasion, death and destruction could all have been avoided or ended by the abandonment of President Biden’s cold war agenda.
The Guyana Government, in the 1970s and 1980s displayed creative approaches in walking between the Cold War raindrops. By exploiting the US’s fear and aversion to the ‘communist’ PPP, the Burnham administration charted a course from a fawning sycophant to US imperialism to an independent foreign policy. Diplomatic relations were established with Cuba under the cover of other Caribbean countries and with China after the US could not object because of Nixon’s visit; support was given to the ANC of South Africa and Guyana became a leading voice in the Non-Aligned Movement. In the same manner, Guyana can now chart an independent foreign policy under the umbrella of Caricom by utilizing the independent voice that is now available to it because of the importance of its growing economic clout. Guyana does not have to cause President Jagan to turn in his grave by policies such as recognizing Morocco’s jurisdiction over Western Sahara merely to encourage Morocco’s establishment of relations with Israel. The struggle by the Polisario Front for the liberation of Western Sahara from Morocco’s colonial domination was close to Jagan’s heart as it was to the entire progressive world. Benefitting Israel in the face of its inhuman war crimes against Palestine is unbelievable.
Of course, good relations with the US are vital having regard to Venezuela’s claim for two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, its claims over Guyana’s maritime space, including the Stabroek Block and the perpetual challenges to Guyana’s democracy by attempts to rig elections and post-elections violence. Also, because of Guyana’s boundless economic potential, Guyana needs US investment for its economic growth and US support for its social and political development.