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November 15, 2018 No.
7763

Russia In The World – Russia-Cuba Relations: The Reinvigoration Of An Alliance

The Visit

On November 2, Cuba's Chairman of the State Council and the Council of Ministers Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

During his visit, Diaz-Canel also met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, Chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin, and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. Diaz-Canel also conferred with a delegation from the Russian Communist Party that specifically included "A warm brotherly meeting with a friend, [the veteran leader of Russia's Communist Party] Gennady Zyuganov". The Cuban leader took note of the fact that within Russia, the Russian Communists are the main supporters of solidarity with Cuba.[1]

This was his first visit to a foreign country beyond the Caribbean, since he replaced Raul Castro as President of Cuba's Council of State and President of the Republic of Cuba in April 2018.[2]

Diaz-Canel's tour also took him to North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos.


The Chairman of the Cuban State Council and the Council of Ministers Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Russia-Cuba Cooperation Is A Russian Geopolitical Interest

Commenting on the Cuban President's official visit to Russia, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the expansion of cooperation between Russia and Cuba is not linked to rising tensions between Moscow and the West. Peskov stated: "This is unrelated to any particular thing, any Cold War or any other factors. This is an ongoing practice, a steady component of Russia's foreign policy. We cherish good relations with Cuba."[3]

However, military expert, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ovchinnikov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the deepening of cooperation between Russia and Cuba has a geopolitical interest. Ovchinnikov said: "Russia has a geopolitical interest here, connected with the possible exit of the United States from the INF Treaty." He then added that he does not believe that Moscow will deploy any large military bases in Cuba, as well as missiles aimed at the United States.[4]

Cuba And Russia Criticize The US Intention To Withdraw From The INF Treaty

During the meeting at the Kremlin, Putin and the Cuban President expressed their concern over the US intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty. In the joint statement on common approaches in international affairs issued following their talks, the two leaders stressed: "The sides note that this decision by Washington is fraught with very negative consequences for international security and the system of arms control and urge the United States to revise its intentions of withdrawing from this Treaty."

The two leaders also pledged "to support the initiatives aimed at strengthening the integrity of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, and… preserving the unity and authority of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and returning its work to the de-politicized course of chemical disarmament in strict compliance with the provisions of the Convention."[5]

It is worth noting that Cuba's defense minister will visit Russia in the second half of November.[6]

Russia's Loan To Cuba - Russian Expert Drize: What Do We Need This For? The Answer Is To Piss Off The US

Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak stated that Russia may provide a 38 million euro credit to Cuba in the military technical cooperation line.[7] The Russian media outlet Gazeta.ru wrote that it cannot be excluded that Cuba will purchase weapons systems, which will "cause anxiety" to US President Donald Trump "the Cuban's sworn enemy".

However, Storchak told Gazeta.ru: "The loan is quite insufficient in order to 'show Kuzka's mother' [teach a lesson] to the Americans" and would suffice only to modernize Cuba's current arsenal.[8]

"To show someone Kuzka's mother" is a Russian idiom meaning to threaten someone with a brutal punishment. The idiom was publicly used by USSR General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev in his conversation with US President Richard Nixon in Moscow. According to Russian urban legends, Khrushchev also expressed this idiom during his appearance at the UNGA, while banging the table with his shoe.

(Gazeta.ru, November 2, 2018)

The newspaper Kommersant had previously reported that Moscow planned to grant Cuba a loan of $50 million for purchasing military equipment.[9]

(Kommersant.ru, October 27, 2018)

Commenting on the loans to Cuba, Russian commentator Dmitry Drize wrote:

"The question is why does Moscow need this? The answer is to piss off the US, to play the Soviet Union, to recall past glory by demonstrating that Moscow does have allies, even in a faraway region, under America's very nose. Will the latter get afraid? Hardly. Yet, it may realistically punish Russia for supporting the 'troika of tyranny' [US National Security Adviser John Bolton identified Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua as the 'troika of tyranny'].[10] That's because we do provide help to Venezuela, or at least sympathize with. Nicaragua is also a friend of ours. Yet, something tells me that leftists socialistic regimes in those countries won't last long, and after the regime change it's doubtful that those countries will stay in Russian political fairwaters. Moreover, the question of return on investments is also open, but what wouldn't we do for the [perception] of our past might?"[11]

(Kommersant.ru, November 2, 2018)

It is worth noting that the Cuban side expressed its interest in developing cooperation in the field of telecommunications and cyber security. It underscored this interest when the Diaz-Canel-led Cuban delegation visited the office of Kaspersky Lab, the largest company developing computer security systems.[12]

Russian Patriarch Kirill's Anecdote: "Cuba Si! Yanquis No!"

During the meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill meeting with Diaz-Canel, the Patriarch recalled Fidel Castro's visit to Leningrad back in Soviet times. The Patriarch said:

"I know it's your first visit outside Latin America. We highly appreciate, that you paid your first visit to Russia. Russian people have a special feeling towards Cuba – it has to do with your heroic struggle for freedom. When comrade Fidel Castro came here for a first time – I do remember that – I was standing together with other Leningradians, I was also born in that city. We welcomed him with Cuban flags and chanted "Cuba si! Yanquis no!"[13]

(Ria.ru/religion, November 3, 2018)

United Nations General Assembly's Vote On The Embargo Against Cuba

Diaz-Canel's visit to Russia coincided fortuitously with the United Nations General Assembly's vote on the embargo against Cuba. On November 1, 189 UN Member States voted in favor of a resolution urging member states to "refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures" which among other things, in the case of the embargo, interfere with the freedom of trade and navigation. The US and Israel voted against the resolution.

The UN website reported: "The Assembly called upon States 'that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the steps necessary to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible.' Through the resolution, the General Assembly also decided to include the agenda item entitled "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba," in the provisional agenda of next year's session.

"The vote on the resolution is unenforceable, but the Cuban-sponsored resolution shines a spotlight on the relative isolation of the US regarding the embargo, which was first imposed in 1960, when former leader Fidel Castro came to power, following the revolution… Introducing the amendments, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the draft resolution 'changes nothing' in terms of addressing the problems faced by Cuban citizens. 'The United States will continue to stand with the Cuban people, until their rights and freedoms are restored. We won't back down,' she said."[14]

Commenting on the UN's vote, the Russian media outlet Sovross.ru, whose name, Soviet Russia, and the hammer and sickle on its masthead attest to nostalgia for the Soviet period reported enthusiastically on the visit:

"If we had to measure the Moscow temperature according to the way Miguel Diaz-Canel was received here, when making his first official visit to our country as the head of the Cuban state, then thermometers would be useless. 'There is no chill, although everyone is wearing overcoats.'

"This is how the Cuban journalists, who accompanied Diaz-Canel, described the atmosphere in which the visit of the chairman of the Cuban State Council and of the Council of Ministers took place…

"The beginning of the series of overseas visits by Diaz-Canel coincided with another important international event for Cuba - the discussion of the resolution in the UN General Assembly on the need to end the US blockade of the island. Each year, Cuba, for more than a quarter of a century, has been looking for a favorable vote, and, year after year, the demand for lifting the blockade has been receiving increasing support. The absolute majority of the countries condemn the policy of the United States, and only two countries traditionally oppose this resolution: the United States itself and Israel.

"This year everything took place according to the unusual scenario: the Yankees decided to go on the offensive by presenting in the General Assembly eight amendments to the document proposed by Cuba. The rhetoric and accusations against Cuba are familiar: the United States are deeply concerned with respect for human rights in Cuba, including freedom of speech and access to information, the fate of dissidents, even the relations between Cuban workers and the local trade unions and the status of women. As a result, the discussions and the voting at the UN lasted for two days, and the General Assembly voted not once, but ten times. And not once, as usual, but ten times, the General Assembly voted against the United States and in support of Cuba.

"Ukraine voted for all the anti-Cuban amendments together with the United States and Israel - and it hurts to talk about it. Ukraine, whose children had suffered as a result of the accident of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, had been treated for free by revolutionary Cuba…

"'The peoples of the world voted for Cuba, because they know that our cause is truly right,' Miguel Diaz-Canel declared commenting on Cuba's diplomatic victory at the UN. The Cuban leader came to know the results of voting at the UN when he arrived on an official visit to Russia, a country 'that has been supporting Cuba in the confrontation from the first years of the revolution' - and in this Diaz-Canel sees a special meaning.

"The central part of the visit was dedicated to talks in the Kremlin. Putin and Diaz-Canel reaffirmed the strategic and allied nature of the relations between the two countries; the joint final statement signed by the presidents after the meeting reaffirmed that Russia and Cuba are tied by strong historical bonds of friendship.

"The Cuban press stressed that the word 'Allies' had disappeared from the documents, and worse, from the spirit of Russian-Cuban relations, but now this word is again on the first page of the joint statement.

"US sanctions are a reality to be reckoned with both with Cuba and with Russia. Moscow and Havana condemn 'the use of unilateral coercive measures in international relations.' Sanctions are an instrument of political pressure and they negatively affect civilian sectors of the economy and exert a negative influence on social and humanitarian problems - the joint statement of Putin and Dias-Canel indicated…

"Miguel Diaz-Canel mentioned that the strengthening of the relations with Russia represents the continuity of the Cuban revolution and loyalty to the heritage of Fidel and Raul Castro. 'I am grateful to President Putin for his support, ever since the beginning of my mandate, in promoting the industrial development of Cuba,' the Cuban president said. Diaz-Canel conveyed to Putin Raul Castro's greetings and invited him to make an official visit to the island…

"Russian history, the October Revolution and the accomplishments of the Russian people during the Great Patriotic War are something for which Cuba has always shown great respect. In the framework of the official visit, Miguel Diaz-Canel laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden, visited the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and Lenin's Mausoleum.

"From Moscow, Miguel Diaz-Canel flew to Pyongyang. 'We are visiting friends to confirm the continuity of the Revolution and to thank them for their solidarity which is sustaining our capacity to resist,' the Cuban president tweeted."[15]

(Sovross.ru, November 8, 2018)

Cultural Cooperation

Concerning cultural cooperation between the two countries, it is worth noting that there are plans to open a branch of the Russian Museum in Cuba, and presently Russia is helping Cuba for the restoration of the Capitol building in Havana. A number of Cuban citizens are currently studying in Russian universities, and Putin assured that Russia will continue to help Cuba in training personnel.[16]

APPENDIX I - Press Statements Following Russian-Cuban Talks - President Of Cuba Diaz-Canel: This Visit Symbolizes The Continuation And Continuity Of The Cuban Revolution


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "Ladies and gentlemen,

"It is a pleasure to welcome the Chairman of the Cuban State Council and the Council of Ministers to Russia.

"Let me note that this is Mr Diaz-Canel's first official visit to Russia since he assumed office as head of state.

"We have held detailed talks, including with the participation of key ministers, discussed the entire range of issues related to bilateral cooperation and examined topical matters on the international and regional agendas.

"The atmosphere of the meeting was friendly, businesslike and constructive. This characterizes the Russian-Cuban dialogue. Our nations are linked by strong ties of many years of friendship, mutual sympathy, respect, solidarity and support.

"The joint statement we have just signed reaffirms the strategic and allied relations between our counties.

"Naturally, we gave a great deal of attention to economic cooperation. Let me note that bilateral trade grew by 17 percent last year.

"Of course, these are modest figures and volumes in absolute terms, but we know what we need to do next. This is why Mr. Diaz-Canel and I have instructed the intergovernmental commission, which had a regular meeting in Havana this week, to outline concrete measures to increase bilateral trade and expand investment cooperation.

"We have accumulated positive experience in the energy industry. Russia's oil and petroleum product supplies make a weighty contribution to the resources of the Cuban economy and guarantee energy security. Russian energy companies successfully operate in Cuba. Rosneft is conducting a geological survey on the Cuban continental shelf and modernizing the country's refineries. Zarubezhneft is developing a large offshore oil field. Inter RAO is building four new energy units for a Cuban thermal power plant.

"There is mutually beneficial industrial cooperation. Russian companies are involved in the technical refurbishing of Cuban factories that produce metal and nickel products and nitrogen fertilizer. We are cooperating on the production of innovative on e-of-a-kind medications. Russia is offering Cuba assistance in building transport infrastructure facilities. Today we talked about renovating the Cuban railway system, which should triple passenger traffic and double cargo shipments throughout the country.

"We are preparing for the deployment of a Russian GLONASS ground station in Cuba. As a result, our Cuban partners will get access to extensive technical capabilities for Earth remote sensing and satellite and telecommunications services.

"Overall, I would like to stress that Russian businesses are willing to participate in the large-scale modernization of Cuba's national economy. Specific projects will be discussed today during President Diaz-Canel's meeting with our leading business people.

"Of course, we also covered the development of cultural and humanitarian links. Our plans include opening a branch of the Russian Museum in Cuba that would become the first multi-purpose center for learning the Russian language, Russian arts and culture in Latin America.

"I also want to mention that Russia is providing assistance in restoring the gilt on the dome of the El Capitolio in Havana, which houses the Cuban National Assembly. We plan to complete the restoration by the 500th anniversary of Havana next year.

"We intend to continue to assist in the training of highly skilled Cuban professionals in various fields. As a reminder, about 30,000 Cubans have received higher education in our country. Currently, 250 Cuban citizens are studying at Russian universities.

"Cuba has always been and certainly remains one of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists. Last year, about 100,000 Russians visited the republic. In December, an updated intergovernmental agreement will take effect establishing a simplified entry procedure on both sides, simplifying mutual visa requirements.

"When discussing the global and regional agenda, the participants noted the proximity of the two countries' positions on the most important issues. They also reaffirmed mutual interest in further coordinating their joint steps on the world stage.

"Russia and Cuba have always supported and continue to support strict observance of the key principles of international law stipulated in the UN Charter, including respect for the sovereignty and interests of all states, the unacceptability of power politics, the use of unilateral sanctions and interference in internal affairs.

"We agreed with our Cuban friends to deepen cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime, including in cyberspace, illicit drug production and trafficking, and other present-day challenges and threats.

"Our Cuban friends fully share Russia's commitment to deepening dialogue with regional organizations and integration associations of South America and the Caribbean and will provide us with the necessary assistance.

"In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr. Diaz-Canel and all our Cuban friends and colleagues for the substantive and productive discussion. I am confident that the agreements reached today will help further strengthen the friendly ties between Russia and Cuba.

"Thank you.'

Chairman of the State Council and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermudez:

"President Putin, ladies and gentlemen,

"For us, this visit symbolizes the continuation and continuity of the Cuban Revolution. Being faithful followers of the legacy of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz and Army General Raul Castro Ruz, we maintain and constantly work to strengthen relations between Cuba and Russia. This alone accounts for the importance of this visit, which, I am confident, will become a milestone in our relations.

"Notably, yesterday, when we arrived in Moscow, the capital of the country that stood up for Cuba from the first years of the revolution, it was here that we learned the news of Cuba's victory at the UN, which makes this visit particularly important. I think that coincidences in history occasionally pinpoint moments that are important to everyone.

"I had productive talks with Mr. Vladimir Putin, which were another confirmation of the great state of bilateral relations.

"We recalled with satisfaction Mr. Putin's productive visit to Havana and our meaningful meetings, when I had the honor to greet him at the airport upon his arrival in our country. Since then, we have maintained and expanded our exchanges at the highest level.

"We noted the importance of bilateral relations and the opportunities for further development.

"We are very pleased with the numerous instances of shared vision on international issues, especially with regard to protecting peace and the role of international organizations, as well as close cooperation at various international platforms and organizations.

"I am grateful for Russia's steadfast stance against the commercial, economic and financial embargo, which is causing damage to my country. We plan to expand our trade and economic ties and bring them to the high level that we enjoy in the political sphere. Joint projects in energy, transport, the steel industry and biotechnology have an important place in our plans for economic growth and great potential.

"I am grateful for President Putin's willingness, since the start of my mandate, to assist in promoting Cuba's industrial development. This is realized in Russia's participation in Cuba's socioeconomic development projects until 2030 and beyond.

"I reiterate the importance of the bonds of friendship that exist between our countries, which form the foundation of bilateral relations. The joint declaration that we signed envisages all aspects of our relations in the economic, political and social spheres, which Mr. Putin also mentioned, and serves as confirmation of our continued future relations.

"I conveyed to President Putin the invitation by the Cuban government and the people to come to our country on an official visit next year, which marks the fifth anniversary of his previous visit to our country in 2014.

"Thank you."

(Kremlin.ru, November 2, 2018)

APPENDIX II – PM Dmitry Medvedev Meets With President Of The Cuban Council Of State And The Council Of Ministers Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez – PM Medvedev: Cuba Remains Our Ally And Our Strategic Partner

Dmitry Medvedev: "Distinguished President of the Cuban Council of State and the Council of Ministers Diaz-Canel,

"Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

"Let me extend my heartfelt greetings to you. We appreciate it that this visit to Russia is your first visit outside the Latin American region.

"Cuba remains our ally and our strategic partner. We are bound by years of very warm relations. Regardless of the changes we passed through our relations have always been at a very high level. I have warm memories of my visit to Cuba in 2013 and the decisions that were made at the time. We are glad to develop our cooperation further, including with you as the President of the Cuban Council of State and the Council of Ministers. I would also like to ask you to pass on my regards and sincere good wishes to Army General Raul Castro, with whom I have enjoyed years of warm and friendly relations.

"Yesterday you held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, discussed issues of international cooperation, the current situation in the world and economic ties between our two countries. You and I have just discussed some key matters as well. I believe that this should give a boost to our relations. Despite being good friends and partners, we still have much to accomplish in the economic sphere. We have a number of major projects that have not been implemented, and our trade and economic cooperation has an enormous potential. I hope that this major official visit to our country will give the needed impetus to our relations in these areas.

"Once again, let me extend heartfelt greetings to you."

Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez: "Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your kind words. Our relations are based on historical ties, so it is no wonder that the first country outside Latin America I visited is the Russian Federation.

"We would like to confirm with this visit that the new administration maintains the continuity of the legacy of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz and Army General Raul Castro. We give the greatest priority to our relations with the Russian Federation. For us, these are strategic relations between allies. It is a certainly that our ties have remained unchanged and are part of the legacy. The Army General passed on his brotherly regards to you, and he and I are in agreement in our wish to invite you to visit Cuba when your schedule will permit. In addition, the goal of this visit is to review the progress made in our joint projects.

"There are some highly symbolic things. It has been four years since the Russian President's visit to Cuba. That visit became a milestone and marked a new stage in our bilateral relations. It is apparent that the dynamics we see and feel today are a result of that visit in many respects.

"We would like to thank you and your Government for help with the relief efforts in the wake of the last two hurricanes. The Russian Federation rendered aid and support following the hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Incidentally, just as we arrived in Russia, we learnt of Cuba's new victory in the UN General Assembly: the overwhelming majority of countries voted on the side of the Cuban resolution.

"We can see the high level of our political ties and political dialogue, and we aspire for our economic relations, which are developing dynamically as well, to reach the same level as our political ties.

"We have reviewed a group of projects that are currently being implemented, and we held a meeting with representatives of business and banking communities. All projects where the Russian Federation is involved are focused on strategic areas of our economic development: industry, transport, energy, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, and tourism. We would like to make progress in telecommunications and cyber security, as well as infrastructure in general. This proves that cooperation with the Russian Federation helps us develop our economy. I believe this to be true and we should highlight this."

(Government.ru, November 3, 2018)

APPENDIX III – Diaz-Canel Meets With Chairman Of The State Duma Viacheslav Volodin

"Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermúdez: "Russia assists in establishing a climate of peace and stability". The Chairman of the State Council and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, expressed such opinion during a meeting with Chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin, which took place in the State Duma on November 2.

"He also thanked the State Duma members for their support, which is especially important for the Cuban people, because the State Duma 'adopts appeals in support of Cuba year after year' demanding the lifting of US sanctions against the Republic.

"'Russia assists in establishing a climate of peace and stability on the planet. This striving and position of Russia allow us to break the hegemony established by the US in order to have more room for multipolarity in the world,' said Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

"He stressed that the Russian Federation and the Russian people can always count on the support of Cuba, which invariably condemns the policy of one-sided unjust sanctions: 'The main thing in the world is not to build walls, but to build bridges,' he said.

"'We highly value our relations with Russia. And as it was determined by the leaders of our countries, Raul Castro and Vladimir Putin, these are strategic ties,' said Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

"'We well know how to live under sanctions. Russia has not avoided sanctions itself. [And] over the past years, Russia has been facing challenges. Certainly, the sanctions policy is something which we all shall oppose. It contradicts both international norms and the rules that should be in our multipolar world,' said Viacheslav Volodin. 'The world cannot live in a situation of sanctions, a situation of tension, this only causes anxiety, which leads to conflicts. And the world was created not for conflicts, but for life,' the Chairman of the State Duma underlined.

"The Chairman of the State Duma also noted that 'today, not only Cuba, Russia, but also China, Iran, Turkey and other countries that are not satisfied with the United States are facing sanctions', adding that the US is using sanctions as a 'political tool'.

"Viacheslav Volodin also congratulated the Chairman of the State Council and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba on a 'joyful event' for the Republic that the UN General Assembly voted for overturning the lifting of US sanctions against Cuba.

"The parties noted with satisfaction the growth of bilateral relations at all levels, from political, economic relations to tourism (in particular, the number of Russians traveling to Cuba over the past year increased to more than 100 thousand people). Viacheslav Volodin stressed that these are not just relations between commercial partners, but relations between peoples:

"'The special role of inter-parliamentary contacts — they have never stopped, only deepened even more,' said the Chairman of the State Duma, stressing that both Russian and Cuban parliamentarians 'always supported friendship and the development of relations.'

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez invited the Chairman of the State Duma to visit Cuba. Viacheslav Volodin said that he would definitely do so next year.

"'Throughout all the years of work the State Duma has consistently supported the development of relations with Cuba. We value relations between Russia and Cuba. The development of this relationship is very important for us,' said the Chairman of the State Duma."

(Duma.gov.ru, November 2, 2018)

 

 

[1] Sovross.ru, November 8, 2018.

[2] Tass.com, November 1, 2018. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6979, Russia In The World – Rebuffing Trump's Policy Towards Cuba, June 27, 2017.

[3] Tass.com, November 1, 2018.

[4] Tass.com, November 2, 2018.

[5] Tass.com, November 2, 2018.

[6] Tass.com, November 2, 2018.

[7] Tass.com, November 2, 2018.

[8] Gazeta.ru, November 2, 2018.

[9] Kommersant.ru, October 27, 2018.

[11] Kommersant.ru, November 2, 2018.

[12] Sovross.ru, November 8, 2018.

[13] Ria.ru, November 3, 2018.

[15] Sovross.ru, November 8, 2018.

[16] Sovross.ru, November 8, 2018.