Despite its critical position as the crossroads of the Western Hemisphere, the Caribbean is often overlooked in conversations about conflict, defense and security. When it is discussed, the conversation is invariably about illegal narcotics trafficking and counter-narcotics operations. However, the Caribbean basin has a unique array of maritime security issues that merit discussion. This series of seven short essays by maritime security professionals who all have experience working in the Caribbean, intends to open a discussion on some of the most pressing issues in Caribbean maritime security. The tension and dialogue between the pieces highlight the complicated nature of these issues and makes clear that there are no easy answers.
There are two primary questions or tensions that these pieces illuminate. The first is the conflict between the United States and Venezuela, which lies at the northern and southern ends of the Caribbean respectively. The near-total collapse of the Maduro regime has made Venezuela into a font of regional insecurity through mass migration, chronic fuel shortages and support of other illegal activity. In response, the United States surged military and law enforcement assets to the Caribbean, but the situation has only worsened. This conflict is playing out in oil sanctions, counter narcotics and old boundary disputes that threaten pull in other nations and spill escalate tensions.
The second question is over the very character of maritime security in the Caribbean – should regional navies and coast guards be more focused on conventional naval operations or take a constabulary role that focuses on counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism and sanctions enforcement? The United States is perhaps the best case study for this tension because it has recently employed both Navy and Coast Guard assets to the Caribbean. But should it? Or would those assets be better used on other global hot spots? Other regional navies from Mexico and Colombia have also evolved in recent decades but still face questions about their future role.
Series Publication Schedule
- Monday, 10 May 2021: The Venezuelan Navy: The Kraken of the Caribbean? By Wilder Alejandro Sanchez
- Tuesday, 11 May 2021: Diplomatic Pressure in the Caribbean Under the Guise of Counter Narcotics? By Rafael D. Uribe Neira
- Wednesday, 12 May 2021: Venezuela, Illegal Fuel and Maritime Security in the Caribbean by Dylan Phillips-Levine
- Thursday, 13 May 2021: The Elusive Prey: ‘Narco Submarines’ In The Caribbean by HI Sutton
- Friday, 14 May 2021: The Caribbean Test Case for the Coast Guard’s Tri-Service Commitment by Joshua Tallis
- Saturday, 15 May 2021: Arm the Coast Guard with More Drones in the Caribbean by Walker D. Mills
- Sunday, 16 May 2021: The Evolution of the Mexican Navy Since 1980 by Christian J. Ehrlich
Walker D. Mills is a US Marine officer and graduate of the War Studies program at King's College, London. He also holds degrees from Brown University and the Naval Postgraduate School. He is also an associate editor and podcast host for the Center for International Maritime Security, a non-resident fellow at Marine Corps University's Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future War and a non-resident fellow with the Irregular Warfare Initiative.
He also edited the Caribbean Maritime Security series for Strife Blog in 2021.