Foreign Relations

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Historically, Grenada had long manifested a pro-Western foreign policy. This is not to imply that Grenada's role in the international arena was an active one in the immediate preindependence and postindependence period. Its focus during this period was, first and foremost, a regional one, attended to in such forums as Caricom and the OECS. Beyond the horizon of regional concerns, Grenada looked to the Western powers, primarily the United States and Britain, as its political models, its economic marketplaces, and its sources of foreign aid and investment.

Foreign Relations under the People's Revolutionary Government

The advent of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) produced a sharp deviation in the previous norms of Grenadian policy. By the time of Bishop's overthrow and assassination in late 1983, Grenada had been converted from a relatively unassuming member of the Commonwealth to an incipient Soviet-Cuban client state with aspirations of playing a larger role on the world stage.

Almost from the inception of the PRG, Bishop moved to deemphasize traditional ties such as those with Britain and to build strong ties with the Soviet Union and its allies. Cuba was the most important of these new associations. It was evident during his lifetime that Bishop greatly admired President Fidel Castro of Cuba; after Bishop's death (and the revelations contained in some of the documents captured by United States and Caribbean forces), it became clear that he had also shared Castro's revolutionary ideology. The documents revealed that Grenadian foreign policymakers under the PRG were highly dependent upon the Cubans for advice and direction. Despite their trumpeted nationalism, the Grenadians seemed quite willing to adopt the Cuban (and, by extension, the Soviet) agenda in international arenas such as the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, and the Socialist International.

Grenadian relations with the Soviet Union were also strengthened during this period. Soviet specialists Jiri and Virginia Valenta have contended that by the end of the Bishop regime, the NJM was considered a "fraternal" party by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and had been referred to in terms of "new popular-democratic statehood," a characterization that the Soviets had applied to East European regimes in the late 1940s.

Although the Cubans provided the bulk of the economic aid from the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance to Grenada, the Soviets undertook to provide the requisite weaponry for a buildup of Grenadian military capability and a general militarization of Grenadian society. Three separate arms agreements were signed during Bishop's tenure. After the seizure of weapons stocks by United States-Caribbean forces in 1983, the matériel already on the island was estimated as sufficient to equip a force of 10,000; records subsequently revealed that not all the equipment contracted for had yet been delivered. The presence of such an arsenal on an island that before 1979 had maintained a police force of little more than 100 was a matter of concern not only for the United States but also and more particularly for the neighboring states of the Eastern Caribbean.

In addition to establishing stronger ties with Cuba and the Soviet Union, the PRG also established economic and diplomatic relations with Vietnam, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and Libya, among others. The Libyans were the most generous of the island's new sources of economic aid during this period.

The events of October 1983 exposed the limitations of the PRG's policy. The violent action taken by the Coard-Austin faction apparently took the Soviet Union, the United States, and Cuba by surprise. Swift military action by United States and Caribbean forces left little time for the Cubans or the PRA to fortify the island and provide additional supplies and troop reinforcements, even if the Cubans had been willing to do so. Castro's remarks after the intervention indicated that Cuba was not prepared to commit significant forces to the defense of Grenada. The Soviets obviously followed the same line of thinking, constrained as they were by both geography and politics.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress