What is Russia looking for in Cuba?

Russian FM promises more economic & military support to Cuba during visit

Experts – on the visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Cuba, Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions and regional realities

The two-day visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Cuba is indicative of the fact that the intention to strengthen ties between themselves is demonstrated by two authoritarian regimes, both of which are under the pressure of Western and American sanctions. Experts interviewed by the Russian service of the Voice of America consider Medvedev’s visit to Havana from this angle..

Recall that the US State Department not so long ago added the former Cuban leader Raul Castro to the sanctions lists “in connection with his involvement in serious human rights violations.” In accordance with the requirements of American law, sanctions also apply to members of his family..

“As the first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, Raul Castro runs a system that arbitrarily deprives thousands of Cubans of their liberty and currently detains more than 100 political prisoners. As First Secretary of the Cuban Armed Forces, Castro is responsible for Cuba’s actions to support the former Maduro regime in Venezuela through violence, intimidation and repression, ”the State Department said in a statement..

In turn, Dmitry Medvedev in Havana did not fail to criticize the administration of President Donald Trump, accusing it of seeking to damage the international reputation of Cuba..

“In recent months, the energy blockade of Cuba by the United States has tightened, there is an obvious desire to create a toxic atmosphere around economic cooperation between Russia and Cuba, scare away economic investors, and in fact carry out an energy blockade of the island,” Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said upon completion of official negotiations with the President of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin in a conversation with a correspondent for the Russian service of the Voice of America, he admitted that he does not find anything surprising in the fact that two authoritarian regimes, which are in rather dense international isolation, are moving towards each other. In addition, according to him, none of the “decent” countries is eager to be friends with either Havana or Moscow..

“So they don’t have much choice,” he says. – However, the interests of the parties are completely different. Cuba needs, first of all, serious economic support, which is difficult for today’s Russia to provide on a scale comparable to the Soviet one. The Kremlin, on the other hand, is looking for geopolitical gains in the face of a permanently growing confrontation with the United States. He doesn’t need cane sugar for free “.

In other words, the Kremlin, in a successful scenario, hopes to cause trouble for the United States in the weak hope of getting chances for counterplay, the political scientist emphasized: “Well, for the sake of such a case, we, of course, will forgive all debts to Havana, as we did before. If we talk about the global competition of systems, and Putin is talking about this all the time, then it is beneficial for Russia to support him exclusively in the area of ​​strategic confrontation. And this must have something significant, some kind of trump card in the sleeve at the side of the United States. This is such a forceful demonstration that justifies the existence of the Putin regime in his own eyes. “.

Accordingly, the Kremlin is primarily interested in military bases on the territory of Cuba in order to give a kind of “mirror response” to the expansion of US influence, summed up Dmitry Oreshkin. At the same time, he expressed confidence that things would not come to a new Cuban missile crisis..

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Andrey Kortunov in a commentary for the Russian service “Voice of America” ​​noted that today Russia has formed certain priorities in relation to Latin America. In his opinion, these priorities are connected, first of all, with the leading left regimes of the region..

“Moscow is diligently strengthening ties with Venezuela. The same, of course, applies to Cuba and, probably, to a lesser extent, Nicaragua, he added. – Havana is in many ways a traditional Russian partner, which also has significant influence over other Latin American countries. For example, in Venezuela, the Cuban presence is very significant, and in various areas. “.

Therefore, the parties have something to discuss, and such a contact with the Cuban leadership is very valuable for Moscow, said the Director General of the RIAC. There are also questions regarding the coordination of the activities of Russia and Cuba, he continued: “In particular, both countries are the object of US sanctions pressure. Therefore, there is something for them to talk about, too. “.

At the same time, the political scientist expressed some doubts about the fact that Moscow is looking for a counterbalance to the growing pressure from Washington in Cuba and the Latin American region: “Perhaps this is too strong, since Russia and the United States really have incomparable economic potentials. It is difficult to “mirror” the US sanctions here … On the other hand, Havana has been under US sanctions since the 1960s. Therefore, the Cuban experience here may also be of interest to Russia in some ways ”.

At the same time, Andrei Kortunov found it difficult to say how much the tradition of free lending to the Island of Freedom, when the Russian authorities were writing off Cuba’s debts, would be preserved. But the fact that the importance of Havana for Moscow is growing due to the aggravation of relations with the United States, he has no doubts..

Arturo Lopez-Levi (Arturo Lopez Levy), an expert on Cuba and the United States, an assistant professor at the private Catholic University Holy Names in Oakland, California, calls the relationship between Havana and Moscow special, but because of the renewed US sanctions against Cuba, cooperation is more important for Havana.

“Relations between Russia and Cuba are especially significant for the latter, but they are also symbolic for Russia, because there is a historical heritage between the countries,” the expert notes. – In addition, for a long time Cuba and Russia, or rather the former Soviet Union, had important trade relations, including oil supplies. Although it is now impossible to reproduce, it is a precedent that makes Russia very important for Cuba, especially given the conflict in Venezuela and the tightening of the US embargo against Havana, in particular in the field of energy. “.

What is Russia looking for in Cuba?

Despite the possible cooperation between the countries, the expert believes, its potential is most likely very limited. The reluctance of both Moscow and Havana to unnecessarily provoke Washington could be a key factor here..

“Both Cubans and Russians understand that there are several red lines that neither side would like to cross in relations with the United States. Some experts talk about the possibility of renewing energy cooperation, but I think that it will be limited by the announced partnerships, for example, in scientific and medical issues, ”says Arturo Lopez-Levi. “I think that neither Cuba nor Russia is interested in resuming cooperation at the level of building a nuclear power plant in Cuba,” he adds. “This is not something that would be convenient for Moscow or Havana, because it will not be received positively in the United States. States “.

“Russia would like to be perceived as an ally of Cuba, and the latter would like to promote good relations with Russia as a balance in the conflict with the United States, but I think that the political elites in both countries, although they understand the potential for the development of relations, are also aware of the problems and red lines. what this relationship can bring, “- the expert sums up.

Regional ambitions of Russia

Speaking about the situation in Venezuela, the head of the US Southern Command, Admiral Craig Voller (Craig Faller) said at a meeting with reporters on Friday, October 4 that the United States is fully prepared, and is cooperating in this direction with Brazil and Colombia..

“Our planning is focused on what will happen the next day, when there is a legitimate government in the country. Isolation is working, our goal of achieving a democratic transition of power to an interim government led by Juan Guaido is being implemented. We are dealing with a dictator, an illegal ruler supported by Cuba, Russia and China. Today, almost 100% of the presidential guards are Cubans, and there are hundreds of Russian contractors and military personnel in Venezuela, ”said Admiral Craig Voller.

  • Victor Vladimirov

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  • Valeria Jegisman

    Voice of America journalist. Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics

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What is Russia looking for in Cuba?

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