By Frank Calzon
HAVANA TIMES – A recent Newsweek article says that “Biden takes aim at Cuba during the worst crisis between the United States and Russia since the Cold War.”
The author, Tom O’Connor, offers plenty of space to the Cuban authorities to respond to Washington’s criticisms, and writes that “the United States has opened a new political front against Cuba, accusing it of tacitly supporting Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”
What might be the reasons behind Biden’s actions?
According to O’Connor, Washington complains that Cuba abstains from United Nations motions condemning Moscow and instead repeats arguments that the United States and its NATO allies helped to set the stage for the conflict.
The Cuban regime has strongly denounced the US embassy in Havana saying “it has regularly been used to broadcast messages in support of Ukraine and critical of Russia. Some tweets accused the Cuban government of expressing ‘support’ for Moscow in the conflict.,” the article says. And, although it is not mentioned in the article, the US embassy has publicized the critical situation of hundreds of Cuban political prisoners.
Newsweek also reports that “Moscow has also channeled its narrative of the war in Ukraine through its embassy in Havana, sharing tweets of an opposing view in which Russian forces were valiantly carrying out what President Vladimir Putin has called “a special military operation’ to neutralize Ukraine militarily and politically while striving to eliminate the far-right wing forces he claims which have hijacked the country’s leadership.”
The regime’s response to those who say Cuba supports Putin, is to remind them about Cuba’s medical assistance to sick Ukrainian children after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Yet, some historians reading Cuba’s statements are likely to instead remember Fidel Castro’s perverse logic when he supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Then Cuba had no diplomatic relations with the United States, and the Czech embassy represented Cuba in Washington.
Sometime later, Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright, and former political prisoner, by then president of a free Czechoslovakia, told me that when he became president, he ordered the Castro diplomats out of the Czech Embassy in Washington. It was Havel’s government that obtained a strong denunciation from Castro’s dictatorship at the United Nations in Geneva years later.
No one should be surprised if Ukraine, with the support of its friends, were to obtain the expulsion of Cuba from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which recently suspended Russia. It is an effort being promoted by the Center for a Free Cuba and has the support of several democracies and international organizations.
Cuba’s foreign minister lamented Moscow’s suspension, blaming Washington and speculating that after suspending Russia similar efforts would be tried against others, like Cuba. I hope that the minister, who has been mistaken often in the past, is right this time, and that he manages to convince Raul Castro to decree an amnesty of political prisoners before several nations withdraw their diplomats from Havana in protest.
According the article, which is certain to be under intense scrutiny in Havana, ”a month before the February 24th invasion was launched Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov would not rule out the potential for Moscow to answer new deployments in Europe by Washington and its allies by increasing Its military presence among partnered countries in the Western Hemisphere.” An obvious reference to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
The failure of talks between NATO and Russia, O’Conner notes, “could result in a worse situation than the 1962 Missile Crisis which brought the world to the edge of nuclear war.”
It was then, as would be known later with the publication of Nikita Kruschev’s memoirs, that Fidel Castro urged Moscow to use atomic bombs against the United States. Castro told Kruschev that the Cuban people were willing to die to liberate the world from US imperialism.
*Frank Calzon is a political analyst and human rights activist.