Russia, Ukraine conflict could hijack the agenda as Caricom Heads of Government meet

The developments surrounding Russian hostilities in Ukraine and the regional approach to the situation is expected to be among the issues discussed at the 33rd inter-sessional meeting of Caricom Heads of Government set for Belize on March 1 and 2.

Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith indicated at a press conference on the weekend that the war, which has captured the attention of the world since last Thursday, will be included in the deliberations.

Johnson Smith is scheduled to leave the island today as part of the Jamaican delegation which will be led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for the session in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Pressed for comments during the media briefing on Saturday on action being taken by Jamaica in relation to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, Johnson Smith said that no decisions or move has been made yet in relation to Russian interests, diplomatic or otherwise, here.

She noted that the Government has not made any decisions regarding the Russian mission in Jamaica, nor has there been any direct expression of condemnation of Russia’s attack on the Ukraine, to the sitting ambassador, Sergey Petrovich. The ambassador’s mission in Jamaica started in August 2021.

“These matters are being contemplated more broadly, the regional approach will be discussed [and] our national concerns will be addressed by the Cabinet,” said Johnson Smith.

She added that Jamaica will be guided by the decisions of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and UN General Assembly (UNGA), as it relates to imposing any sanctions, or other action against Russian interests in Jamaica.The 15-member United Nations Security Council is expected hold a rare emergency special session of the 193-member UNGA on Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine today, following a vote on Sunday, for the session to be held.The request for the session, which has only been held a few times in history, follows Russia’s veto on Friday of a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have denounced the attack, which Russia launched on Ukraine. India, China, and United Arab Emirates abstained from the vote.

It is not yet clear what impact the severe restrictions imposed by the US Treasury department on financial institutions in Russia may have on the global alumina market, including Russian aluminium company UC Rusal’s operations here in Jamaican.

In the wake of the Russian attack, the Joe Biden-led United States Administration, and its allies, imposed harsh economic sanctions against Russia, with restrictions on its top financial institutions, a move which is expected to have severe immediate and long term effects on the Russian financial system and economy.

Among the US treasury restrictions are unprecedented action against Russia’s two largest financial institutions — Public Joint Stock Company Sberbank of Russia (Sberbank) and VTB Bank Public Joint Stock Company (VTB Bank) — drastically altering their ability to operate.

In 2018 when the US-imposed sanctions on UC Rusal the Jamaican Government rushed to put in place safeguards to protect the country’s interests in West Indies Alumina Company (Windalco), the mining operation, which UC Rusal operates in St Catherine.On Sunday some signs emerged of significant economic consequences to Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

While official quotes for the Russian ruble were unchanged at roughly 84 rubles to the US dollar, one online Russian bank, Tinkoff, was giving an unofficial exchange rate of 152 rubles over the weekend.