By Keryn Nelson
Russia’s history with Grenada spans decades. Ties between the Spice Isle and what was once referred to as the Soviet Union were severed in 1983, following a political snafu, which resulted in the murder of Grenada’s then Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop and a subsequent United States invasion. Now, in the 21stcentury, the governments of both the 6.602 million mi²,Russian Federation and 134.6 mi²Grenada, are taking steps to strengthen their alliance — a relationship that had been rekindled in 2002 when fresh diplomatic ties were forged.
First St. George’s Club International Conference; A New Dawn, 2017
In 2017, the first-ever St. George’s Club International Conference was held in the very city the club’s name suggests, from November 1 to 3. The theme then was, “A New Dawn.” The event was the brainchild of the Ministry of International Business, Government of Grenada, Embassy of Grenada in the Russian Federation, and the Bering-Bellingshausen Institute for the Americas, an NGO founded by South American and Russian journalists. The inaugural event gave birth to the formation of St. George’s Club as an NGO in Grenada and a platform for promotion of bilateral and business relations. The purpose was simple; to enable cross-regional dialogue in an environment conducive to fostering mutual understanding and collaboration between entrepreneurs and leaders from both countries and, by extension, their subsequent regions; Eurasia and the Caribbean.
We can also discuss the fact that Saint George is a capital of Grenada and that Saint George is also seen on the coat of arms of most countries in Eurasia including that of the Russian Federation.
After the conference’s success, plans to facilitate the second edition came underway and made Grenada the platform for future events.
“Next step” 2019
Unlike 2017, the second ever SGC International Conference was scheduled for the start of this year. From February 22 to 24, business and administrative leaders from Russia/ Eurasia, the Caribbean, Latin Americaand the United States gathered in St George’s Grenada, for the event themed, “Next Step.” This year’s agenda and activities sought to deliver on the club’s mandate; to enable academic and economic discourse and to offer “an excellent environment for work, aiming to develop and enhance business communication and relationships between the regions.”
Amongst the group were administrative leaders, managing directors, and CEOs of civil aviation, agriculture, technology, healthcare and investment-based organizations. Dialogue between the cohort of over 50, was formally moderated during a forum on Friday, February 22 by Grenada’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Peter David, Minister for International Businessand Health, Hon.Nickolas Steele, alongside the event’s founder and renowned Russian Journalist Dr. Sergey Brilevand Ambassador of Grenada to the Russian Federation, H.E. Oleg Firer.
“In CARICOM, we pride ourselves with a motto, which is; Friend’s to all, servants of none. In Grenada we make a little variation on that saying [which is] ‘friends to all, servants of none, and open to the business of nation-building.’ And it is through that, that we will find our partners. Those who are with us for nation-building” were the words of Minister Steele in the opening minutes of the forum.
Ambassador Firer said, “[The] inaugural event in 2017 brought many opportunities to Grenada. At least five of which, are currently underway – including real estate development projects, medical collaboration and the technology park project to include regional development and create jobs. We believe that Next Step event will bring more opportunities and exposure for Grenada and the Eastern Caribbean region in the fields of hospitality, technology, renewable energy, waste management and culture and sports.”
Civil aviation received heavy focus during the SGC ‘Next Step’ forum. “One of the new elements to our dialogue this time around, is not just the culture, not just the taxation but also civil aviation,” said Dr. Brilev to the group.
Brilev introduced one of the event’s sponsors & partners, the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company (SCAC).
Founded in 2000, SCAC, which is headquartered in Moscow, creates and develops new models of commercial aircraft. Currently, the company’s main focus is the production of the Sukhoi Superjet100. Recently, the company signed a $300 million contract with the Thai Kom Airlines Company Limited, to deliver six SSJ100 during the period of 2019-2020.
“I would love to see one in the [Caribbean] region to deal with precisely what I mentioned,” Brilev said after hinting to the difficulties he encounters on his journeys from Russia to the Caribbean. He added, “There is no smaller aircraft for inner region. All the foreign tourists are being brought here, with the exception of Caribbean airlines, by bigger airlines and aircrafts”.
Senior Vice President President of Commerce of Sukhoi, Mr. Evgeniy Andrachnikovalso made a separate presentation to the group about the company’s operations. “… Soon, we will be able to conquer the Caribbean skies,” were his concluding remarks before handing over a prize to a Grenadian man, following his win in a pre-conference, online quiz competition.
Medicine and Healthcare
During the afternoon portion of the February 22 forum, medical tourism and collaboration was discussed, in depth, by representatives of the Grenadian government. Potential initiatives were also proposed by Russian healthcare organizations.
Speaking to the success of the St. George’s University, Minister Steele informed the room that, “1 out of 100 doctors practicing in the United States graduated from the St. George’s University.”
Steele believes however, that although the university’s accomplishments ripple not only throughout the Caribbean and by extension the Americas, healthcare in Grenada leaves room for improvement.
“We are proud of SGU and SGU is proud of us, but none of us are proud of healthcare,” said Steele. He extended an invitation for proposals, from the able, when he said; “Come set up something in medicine … We will give you the concession that is needed.”
Dr. Djabrail Djabrail Jade, Head of Cooperation National Research Center for Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology—also known as the Dmitry Rogachev National Research Center(DRNRC)—presented the details of the facility, possibly, as a viable contributor to the upliftment of Grenada’s healthcare system.
The primary aim of DRNRCis “to provide the best care for children, adolescents and young adults with cancer, hematological non-malignant disorders, and immune deficiencies. Currently, the Center has up-to-date research laboratories, providing molecular diagnostics and other advanced studies”.
Additionally, Dr. Rimma Abramovich, Director of the Center for preclinical and clinical studies, Russian University of Peoples’ Friendship “RUDN,” also made a presentation. She believes RUDN remains an attractive option for Grenadian and CARICOM students who desire to study medicine in Russia.
Citizenship by Investment Program
The CIP remains a major talking point within the Caribbean. In answer to a question posed during the SGC ‘Next Step’ forum, Minister Steele explained that though Grenada and the Caribbean have experienced their fair share of hiccups regarding CIP, the initiative now serves as a useful source of funds for transformational projects but not to cover recurring costs.
Valeri Surin, who holds three different passports, one being Grenadian–thanks to CIP, provided buyers incite into the program. Surin shared his experiences as a Russian traveler restricted by geopolitical factors beyond his control. CIP, he says, not only allows him the option of more seamless travel but also the opportunity to be a “citizen of the world.”
“We want to be useful to this country. We want to be real citizens of this country,” Surin stated.
As a warning to potential CIP takers, Minister Steele reiterated that the program is not a ploy for those trying to escape the law within their own countries.
“If you are thinking of using Grenadian citizenship to escape the law of your country, this is not for you.”
More to come for Eurasia and The Caribbean?
The SGC conferences also provide opportunities for interaction in informal settings, as organizers schedule an island tour for participants, along with other culture-based activities. During this year’s program, paintings by Russian Orthodox Christian, Vasily Polenov, were exhibited at and donated to the St. George’s Cathedral and Soviet-era newspapers were also formally presented to and accepted by the Grenada National Museum.
This year’s conference was organized by the St. George’s Club, The Government of Grenada, the Bering-Bellingshausen Institute for the Americas and the Embassy of Grenadato the Russian Federation.
In 2020, a subsequent conference will be held with a similar mandate; to enable conversations about the regional and global economy between Caribbean and Eurasian business leaders.
Until then, Russia’s new ambassador to Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, Saint Vincent & The Grenadine and Trinidad & Tobago, His Excellency Mr. Alexander Kurmaz says he will continue to work with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Grenada to the Russian Federation, His Excellency Mr. Oleg Firer to strengthen the budding relationship between Latin America, the Caribbean, and Eurasia.
Save the date for the next event (April 27 – May 3, 2020).
For more information visit: sgc.gd