Cuba Embraces the Russian Bear Again

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, last Friday in Havana. (Cubadebate)

By Yoani Sanchez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – In many Cuban houses there is still a wooden Matryoshka, an empty bottle of Moscow Red perfume, or a copy of Sputnik magazine. The Soviet presence was so intense on our Island that, for the children who grew up between the 70s and 80s, the USSR was like a powerful and severe stepmother. Today, we see the Kremlin envoys arrive again and, although they look different in their suits and ties, we know that they are seeking the same thing: to use our country as a geostrategic chess piece that is too big for us, very big.

The same day that the Group of 7 summit began in Japan, Cuba President Miguel Díaz-Canel ratified to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Chernishenko, “Cuba’s unconditional support for the Russian Federation in its confrontation with the West.” In Hiroshima the meetings revolved around how to tighten sanctions to corner Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine, but in Havana the red carpet was rolled out for the former KGB agent’s narrow circle of power. It was no coincidence.

Increasingly isolated internationally and with a war in which it has not won the stunning victory it had hoped for, the Russian regime is in dire need of alliances. The urge is not only on the diplomatic level to pretend that it maintains loyal partners in some parts of the planet, but also for its friends help it evade sanctions. Until the beginning of the invasion, Putin had shown several signs of disinterest towards the Island, several joint projects were even canceled due to the inefficient actions of the Cuban side. But the war campaign changed everything.

Havana rapidly aligned itself with Moscow’s discourse and began to call the entry of troops into Ukrainian territory a “special military operation.” It avoided condemning the Russian actions at the United Nations and blamed Kiev for the start of the conflict. Then began a slew of announcements of new agreements signed, of credits granted by the Kremlin and of visits by officials to both sides of the Atlantic. As more photos surfaced with bureaucrats from both countries signing contracts and memorandums of understanding, concern grew among Cubans.

The unease that overwhelms us now comes for several reasons. We know the intensity of the presence that the Russians can have in our country, their infinite willingness and ability to meddle in ministries, offices and barracks. We know that the Díaz-Canel regime is bankrupt and that to save what remains of Castroism it is capable of auctioning off the Island piece by piece. We intuit that a fat check from Moscow would allow the unpopular engineer in the president’s seat to continue at the helm of the nation and reinforce the repression. We also understand that Putin is only interested in us because we are 90 miles from the United States, his archenemy, and located in Latin America, a region in which he wants to have a significant area of ​​influence.

Furthermore, we suspect that with those collar-and-tie envoys who arrive in Havana these days, a democratic change will not come to us, nor more freedoms, much less greater respect for human rights. It points to the opposite. When Chernishenko announced last Friday the creation of “a road map” to accelerate the rapprochement between the two countries, “which might require some changes in Cuban legislation,” he is not thinking of decreeing more spaces for dissidence or a framework of respect for independent media. Rather, it is about paving the way for the Russians to control portions of the national economy and run wild in other spheres as well.

They will bring us, yes, their methods. The ability for obscure agents of the political police to amass an empire, for Party bigwigs to take over the most appetizing industries, and for money from public property liquidations to end up mostly in in the hands of ideological comrades who will exchange their military uniforms for the elegant clothing of the oligarchs.

Translated by Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

9 thoughts on “Cuba Embraces the Russian Bear Again

  • May 25, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Again to “Carlyle MacDuff” everybody knows Putin was in power long before Biden, you must be a child or unaware of an existing world.

    When I said he had the opportunity before Putin was because Russia is approaching Cuba NOW, after Friday’s visit from Chernishenko.
    And Biden could have done it BEFORE.

  • May 25, 2023 at 8:22 am

    One more thing: I just saw a news report on television that Cuba has just agreed to allow Russian currency to begin to circulate in Cuba. Hahaha! Sorry…I couldn’t help myself. The US dollar is currently valued at 1 dollar for 195 CUP. The Russian Ruble is trading at 1 Ruble for 15 CUP. Read that again: 15 CUP! Is this how the Castros plan to reinvigorate the Cuban economy? By infusing a currency almost as worthless as the CUP? This move simply allows Russian oligarchs the opportunity to buy goods using CUP. This is money laundering for those who are having trouble keeping up. Russian millionaires who have billions of rubles can convert to Cuban CUP and then convert to …US dollars. Good move, Cuba. At a time when you need US dollars more than ever, you are now allowing Russian oligarchs to buy up what little supply you had available to you. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

  • May 25, 2023 at 8:05 am

    Russia choosing to enhance their alliance with Cuba as drones fly over the Kremlin is an empty gesture. In the best case scenario, Russian oligarchs are increasing economic activities in Cuba to buy themselves some time. Hiding ill-gotten capital in Cuba only delays the inevitable: massive confiscation by Ukrainian and Western powers to cover war reparations costs. Furthermore, the higher the profile of Russian money in Cuba, the greater the possibility that the US and Europe will use this money as a pretext to do what anti-castristas have wanted to do since the Castro revolution began: take over governance in Cuba. Russian money is toxic. Cuban investment is and has always been a bad idea. Putting both together? A losing proposition.

  • May 24, 2023 at 11:59 pm

    Manuel ought to take a break and read his own contribution before yapping about others supposedly not reading clearly. He wrote:

    “Biden has had the same opportunity to link ties to Cuba even before Putin.”

    For Manuel’s information, Putin was in power long prior to Biden being so.

    It was not Trump who closed the door that Obama had opened. The relative facts are:

    Obama opened the door in a speech given at the Alicia Alonso Theatre on March 21st, 2016, during which he raised the subjects of both the US Embargo and Guantanamo. In doing so he stated that in discussions there would need to be reciprocation. I both watched and heard it.

    On March 28th, 2016, Fidel Castro Ruz had a letter published in Granma, the official publication of the Communist Party of Cuba, with the heading: The Man Obama. The letter was read on all Cuba’s State controlled TV and radio stations, at 8.00 p.m. that day – it took 14 minutes. Fidel Castro Ruz, repudiated all that Obama had proposed. I both watched and heard it.

    Next day, March 29th, 2016, the Cuban Minister for External Affairs (Foreign Minister), Bruno Rodriguez, gave a speech in Havana in which he stated that there would “be no reciprocation”, as suggested by Obama. All that was 9 months prior to Trump taking office. I heard the recorded speech that evening.

    Manuel is either unaware of the two year long negotiation that took place in Canada, to enable the Obama visit, and that a condition of him doing so, was that he would be able to address the people of Cuba live, on TV and radio, or chooses to try to distort facts.

    The difference between my “old, dusted, outdated political views” and the supposedly modern but ill-informed and unenlightened ones expressed by this person: “Manuel”, is that I relate fact not fiction.

  • May 23, 2023 at 2:15 pm

    Oh boy…this person “Carlyle MacDuff” is only showing poor reading comprehension. No one suggested Biden was in power before Putin, incredible to even think about it, poor kid.
    And also, his/her thoughs are old, dusted, outdated politcal views. Not related with modern times. Very woke indeed.

  • May 23, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    An Oh so happy Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, at long last the return of a Sugar Daddy. Go suck it – and see!

  • May 23, 2023 at 12:11 pm

    (1) Manuel demonstrates his ignorance, by suggesting the Biden was in power prior to Putin, rather than the fact that Putin was in power prior even to Biden being Vice-President to Obama. Secondly, The President of the US, can under the US Cuban Democracy Act, only lift the embargo, when recommended by the US Congress.

    (2) Russia seeks to re-impose it’s control of the Cuban political hierarchy and re-establish the relationship which it had with Raul Castro Ruz, from April 1953 – when Raul first visited Russia and met with the KGB, until the implosion of the USSR in 1989/90. From a firm base in Cuba, it can work to move Latin America to adoption of the communist faith – which reflects the 19th century thinking of Marx/Engels/Lenin/Stalin so beloved by the Castros and which has given the people of Cuba a life of penury, misery and hunger.

  • May 23, 2023 at 11:18 am

    Manuel, you forgot one small detail. Nine months before Trump took office Fidel Castro vetoed any improved relations with the US and lessened repression in Cuba. Trump made matters worse, but the lost opportunity was ordered by Fidel and passed on down the chain of command. I just searched and found this article from March 2016, the month Obama came to Havana.
    Obama’s overtures to Raul Castro were squashed as soon as Fidel spoke.

  • May 23, 2023 at 10:43 am

    You don´t care to mention that Biden has had the same opportunity to link ties to Cuba even before Putin. Obama opened the door, Trump closed it, and everyone expected Biden (Obama’s Vice President by the way) to reopen it and continue the path. But no, in order to get Florida votes, he turned his back on the island and showed no will to establish a good neighbor policy.
    Even though several organizations, politicians and private companies in the USA have asked to end the embargo, Biden seems weak and uninterested to do so.
    This is why Putin is taking advantage. It is time for the USA to wake up.

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