Putin is opening a "window to America"


Alexander Nemenov/AFP

As in the distant days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Russia and Cuba have made an unequivocal choice in their confrontation with the U.S. and the collective West

The case is unique in some ways: a small island in the Caribbean Sea, 180 km from the U.S., totally dependent on the U.S. and to which the U.S. was quietly preparing the status of a freely associated state following the example of Puerto Rico, "overnight" slipped out of "custody" and reoriented to a state from a completely different world and hemisphere.

Cuba was "sent" to the USSR by providence.

What was Cuba for the Soviet Union and what has it become for the Russian Federation? The question is far from idle, and the answer cannot be unambiguous. Cuba not only "fed at Russia's expense," but also provided invaluable geopolitical and geo-historical assistance.

The USSR bought sugar, bought it in large quantities and at above-market prices, and sugar supplies covered one-third of the country's consumption of this valuable product. Oil was supplied at prices 33% below world prices, taking into account both Cuban needs and its resale to third countries.

The Soviet Union supplied Cuba with almost everything except snow blowers. Cuba imported over 700 items from the USSR, including oil and petroleum products, machinery, equipment, spare parts, chemical products, and food.

Almost in all industries, large industrial or infrastructure facilities built with Soviet assistance were put into operation or were scheduled for commissioning in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Participation in their operation opened up real prospects for USSR not only to fully compensate the funds spent on their construction, but also to receive significant revenues.

For three decades, the Republic exported to the USSR the major part of nickel-cobalt concentrate (for information, the explored nickel reserves on the island in the late 1980s were estimated at 813 million tons, which was 37.5% of the world's), used in the steel industry, defense industry, exported, bringing the country a considerable foreign exchange earnings.

In the 1960s – 1980s, the Soviet military was quite firmly established on Liberty Island. They actively operated on a permanent basis the electronic reconnaissance center in Lourdes, which allowed to monitor not only U.S. airfields; the air base in San Antonio de los Baños, from which Soviet strategic bombers were on combat duty in the North Atlantic; The Cienfuegos Naval Base, which was highly valued by submariners who sailed their giant nuclear submarines into unique Cuban bays where, like in the Bermuda Triangle, they disappeared from American radar and sonar coverage. A motorized rifle brigade was deployed in Cuba.

The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (RAF) were equipped with the latest Soviet weapons. By the mid-seventies, the Cuban army was the most modern and combat-ready in Latin America. The RAF was second only to the U.S. Armed Forces in the Western Hemisphere in terms of its combat capabilities and was capable of independently carrying out tasks against any potential aggressor.

Soviet aid enabled the Cuban people to build the most cultured and socially advanced country in Latin America.

All these prospects went pear-shaped because of "stars and stripes" flag, which defeated the "sickle and hammer" red flag. It took another 30 years for the tricolor to regain its rightful place in world geopolitics and, for the umpteenth time, to start gathering the lands of the multipolar world under its banner.

Finally, Moscow has turned its gaze to Cuba. Over the past two years, there have been important meetings and negotiations, including at the highest level, on major strategic issues of socio-economic and military-political cooperation.

Longtime political allies, subject to draconian U.S. sanctions – more than 11,000 unilateral punitive measures have been imposed against Russia, and Cuba, according to its foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, has suffered more than $6.3 billion in damages during U.S. President Joe Biden's time in office – are simply doomed by Washington to a revival in the new conditions of all-round cooperation.

In the middle of May this year Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Chernyshenko and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment of the Republic of Cuba Ricardo Cabrisas held in Havana the 20th meeting of the Russian-Cuban intergovernmental commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation.

According to Cuban officials, more than 150 Russian businessmen attended the forum in Havana. A total of 14 agreements, contracts and memorandums of intent signed as a result of the two forums demonstrated the willingness of both countries to enter a new stage in their trade and economic relations, with the identification of specific points of their working agenda.

Cooperation in energy, construction, agriculture, agribusiness and tourism, among others, found fertile ground in negotiations between businessmen and officials of the two governments in Havana.

According to Russian officials, bilateral trade between Cuba and Russia reached $450 million in 2022, three times more than in 2021, and rose to $137.6 million in the first four months of 2023, nine times more than in the same period of the previous year.

The participants of the 20th meeting of the intergovernmental Russian-Cuban commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation did not discuss military cooperation. At least not openly. At the same time, this topic is now acute for these countries, which are squeezed by the collective West not only by economic and political sanctions, but also by their naval bases.

By the way, Raul Castro estimated that the Radio Electronic Center (REC) in Lourdes provided Russia with up to 70% of all intelligence information on the United States.

The REC was a real "Klondike" of intelligence information. Experts claim that electronic espionage is the most profitable type of industrial espionage. One ruble invested in radio reconnaissance brings twenty rubles in profit.

Moscow and Havana are successfully developing military cooperation. This was stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a press conference following his visit to the Republic of Cuba on April 21, 2023.

Does this mean the restoration of Russian military bases on Liberty Island?

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov did not rule out such a prospect as early as January 13, 2022. "I do not want to confirm anything (...) and exclude anything," he said. But at the moment the deployment of Russian military facilities in Cuba is desirable, but practically impossible, according to Cuban experts; the appearance of Russian military facilities on its territory would disrupt the already difficult domestic and foreign political situation of the country. The Kremlin takes this into account, but it is not going to lose the opportunity to "open a window to America" through Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela and improve political and economic ties with Latin America.

"Cuba is interesting to us, it is a key partner and a reliable ally of Russia in Latin America," said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, expressing the opinion of the majority of the Russian population. Cubans are the same today as they were 65 years ago.