Does Cuba Really Need an Army Today?


By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

The Cuban army shows off its weaponry.  File photo: Jorge Luis Baños

HAVANA TIMES — Not too long ago, I read an article in Granma newspaper that said that over a a billion USD are spent every day on weapons. That the United States and Western powers are the largest exporters, responsible for over 80% of exports.

However, they (coincidentally?) forgot to mention Russia and China. I learned from another source that these two countries figure among the top 10 producers on the market and in Russia’s case, arms are its primary export, followed by hydrocarbons.

Knowing this, it isn’t strange to see world powers “helping out” to settle conflicts and apparently “wasting lives and resources” on foreign problems. How much do their economies depend on this business? Is it alruism or a mere business strategy? Clearly, there isn’t any money to be made without wars.

This led me to reflect again on Cuba’s military expenditure and the size of our Armed Forces as well as our need for them. Checking sources here and there, I could confirm how much military arsenal we have accumulated here (I don’t really know exact figures).

It’s been said that we have approximately a thousand different kinds of missiles, not less than 350 different planes, at least 100 helicopters, a thousand anti-aircraft guns, over 2000 tanks, thousands of vehicles, thousands of artillery pieces, millions of small and heavy firearms; and much more.

As well as huge reserves of projectiles, fuel, food and spare parts, billions of pesos in salaries, expenses and resources which were necessary to develop them. Dozens of factories, workshops and infrastructure. Our military expenditure is gigantic. Not only is the world wrong in this regard, we also are as a country and we should be thinking about this.

And why do we need this army in today’s context?

Quite simply, for nothing. Or maybe we do, to have enemies. Whoever has an army can be considered a threat to “someone”, or “someone” can justify an attack or a simple hostile action, due to the presence of so many weapons. Today, you earn more respect from the international community if you have a neutral and functioning democracy than if you have a powerful army.

I’m not saying that it wasn’t necessary in previous decades, but today, the most intelligent and productive thing to do is to disarm. We are an island that has no territorial conflicts with anyone and our borders are well-defined. The US is the only power we have close by and if it didn’t manage to convert us into a state or associated state between 1899-1902, today it’s basically impossible. Only a stupid person or a manipulating opportunist could argue such a threat.

Our dispute with this powerful neighbor of ours lies with their military base in Guantanamo and there doesn’t seem to be an agreement in sight. A military solution? Definitely not. But, do you want to know something interesting? This agreement would be perfectly negotiable if Cuba were to potentially disarm.

A Special Development Zone could be developed in this great bay, with attractive privileges for US companies as an incentive and leverage for this country. Furthermore, we would be an example to the world for both of these achievements: closing down the controversial military base and deciding not to have an army, that is to say, to be neutral. We would be much safer without arms that we are with them.

A Cuba willing to change, not because anyone is forcing us to but because the country is calling for this change and urgently needs it, could also void the US blockade or embargo in a few months. It’s the shortest, most convenient and most productive path forward. And it depends on us more than it depends on them.

Photo: Jorge Luis Baños

We need to urgently rebuild our country, starting with our people who are polarized politically-speaking and progressively leaving. A new Constitution would be crucial, which guarantees peace, social balance and progress; without sterile vengeance and external pressure. But, always consulting the people wherever they are, outside or in Cuba, and respecting the wishes of the majority.

Learning to live in a democracy and not imposing our “truth” on those who don’t want it. It’s a message which would help everyone on both extremes of the political spectrum, because intolerance isn’t just a Communist flaw: many detractors also end up imitating them.

In such a context, disbanding the Army would be an act of great economic, political and strategic importance. With the end of the blockade and our exile community’s contributions (remittances, investments and expertise), it would be a key factor in us moving towards progress. Selling or using all of this military arsenal as a raw material would mean an additional source of resources. Not even selling it as weapons, so that our message is one of complete peace.

The military planes and helicopters could be reused, adapted for civilian and financial uses. They could even strengthen our police force. Many vehicles would be better made use of, we would stop spending billions of pesos in maintaining them, and this money is critical for our financial development. Not to mention the thousands of young people doing their military service and soldiers who would stop being an expense and would then be gradually incorporated into economic sectors which benefit the people more. In this sense, it needs to be a gradual process.

However, it’s a shame that this proposal becoming a reality is just a dream! It would be such a wonderful step towards peace and our true goals as a Nation, but those who govern us need weapons and they will never value such a proposal. To them, we need to carry on spending billions of pesos and dollars which weigh like an iron weight tied to the ankle of our weak and stagnant economy.

13 thoughts on “Does Cuba Really Need an Army Today?

  • Estoy de acuerdo con el articulista… y no estoy de acuerdo con él.
    Estoy de acuerdo con los anteriores opinantes… y no estoy de acuerdo con ninguno.
    Para todos pondré sobre el tapete lo siguiente:
    1) La República de Cuba nació SIN EJÉRCITO en 1902. El que estaba y había vencido en la guerra contra España había sdo desmantelado por su aliado, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos, entre 1898 y 1899. Y nació con la famosa Enmienda Platt que autorizaba la construcción de bases navales, por supuesto, militares, en el territorio cubano.
    2) Muchos de los antiguos mambises (rebeldes cubanos) del Ejército Libertador pasaron a formar parte de una Policía y de la Guardia Rural, para el mantenimiento del orden público y en los campos.
    3) Hasta 1933 TODOS los presidentes cubanos y los integrantes de esos gobiernos habían sido mambises, alcanzado grados en las Guerras de Independencia, o de algún modo estuvieron vinculados a ellas.
    4) Hasta ese momento TODOS esos gobiernos no fueron todo lo leales que por su procedencia esperaba el pueblo cubano.
    5) Y de repente, la Revolución del 33 o ¨de los Sargentos” con el joven Fulgencio Batista al frente.
    Surge mi pregunta ¿Cómo surgió ese Ejército y por qué que con artillería pesada cañoneó y casi destruyó el Hotel Nacional de Cuba?
    Sobre el mantenimiento actualmente de un ejército en Cuba hay que tomar en cuenta que Cuba no está en la misma posición geográfica que Costa Rica. Desafortunadamente estamos en un corredor de tráfico de drogas que no cesa. Sin embargo, yo no soy de los que creen que Estados Unidos vaya a invadir a Cuba, pero sí que intentan recuperar sus intereses en la Isla, aunque no sería por la fuerza.
    Entonces el problema nuestro estaría dado en la protección de nuestras fronteras MARÍTIMAS, y en este sentido Cuba ha demostrado MUCHA LEALTAD a sus principios incluso protegiendo las de Estados Unidos. Esta es una realidad innegable que a Estados Unidos le es MUY conveniente por su propia “seguridad nacional” que tanto defienden.
    Ambos países han llegado a acuerdos en este sentido, por lo que creo que Cuba pudiera avanzar, digamos, en invertir en tecnología para proteger las costas, o sea, colocar una especie “muro virtual” y colocar unidades militares en los puntos más vulnerables de ese corredor del que hablé arriba.
    Eso estaría más cercano del sueño del articulista de reducir o eliminar en Cuba físicamente en el siglo XXI un ejército que a principios del siglo XX no existía.

  • Should Cuba disarm? Well only if you want the US to get back into controlling Cuba. They need not make Cuba a state or even a commonwealth like Puerto Rico. All they need is to privatize the national economy. Then a new oligarchy will appear. Its first targets will be the education and health system as to expensive for the new “Cuban taxpayers”. Instead only the wealthy will be considered worthy and they will have the necessary money that talks about all subjects.

    Should Cuba develop a nuclear bomb as a cheaper deterrent? Only if you want to lose the moral standing of the Cuban Revolution in the world today. Capitalism and imperialism always has a cheaper way at the expensive the many who aren’t wealthy beyond belief. Korea is at the geographical juncture of three world powers. That has more to do with why the US doesn’t just invade then the actual bomb and missile technology developed by the DPRK.

    Their might be a way to dual purpose some military items like those used for transportation. However to maintain a level of readiness one needs to plan how they can be placed back into military service should they be needed for that reason.

  • Those who are advocating that Cuba dismantle its military forces are having all kinds of wet dreams. When The United Nations came into being, all wars were to end. Chapter (1) Article (2) OF THE UN CHARTER DECLARES–“TO DEVELOP FRIENDLY RELATIONS AMONG ALL MEMBERS BASED ON RESPECT FOR THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUAL RIGHTS AND SELF DETERMINATION OF ALL PEOPLES AND TO TAKE OTHER APPROPRIATE MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN INTERNATIONAL PEACE!”

    Five years (25th June, 1950), after the Charter was ratified in October 1945, when the Soviet Union boycotted the Security Council for failing to recognize the Peoples Republic of China (800 Million inhabitants) rather than The Republic of China with 100 million, the USA launched an attack on Korea in its effort to contain Communism. The Korean war lasted 1950- 27th June 1953: Again in 1954 -1975 there was the Vietnam War, to halt the spread of Communism.

    The UN Charter Chapter ! Article 1(2) was thrown out the door- “Respect for the Principles of equal rights and self determination!” If a country wishes to pursue the COmmunist pathway to its self development, it has the right to do so without any interference from the USA which believes that it is the BULLY of the world. This bullying attitude, this disrespect for the sovereignty and self determination of countries by the USA which shows total contempt for the UN Charter is what causes countries like Cuba to arm themselves with scarce dollars to arm themselves in order to protect their sovereignty.

    Look at all the Leaders of the Third World the USA has assassinated, look at all the Governm,ents it has toppled because they do not tow the its line? How come the UN has not imposed sanctions on it for breaching its Charter? What an unfair world we are living in? Why didn’t the writer ask the USA to dismantle all the bases it has around the world in its efforts to control and rule the world, so that peace could reign triumphant on the PLANET which thirsts for it so badly? Writers must educate their readers by presenting historically truthful facts. Why call on Cuba and not the USA? Look at how the USA is treating Guantanamo and the writer wants Cuba to dismantle?

  • As the Jungle Observer and Nick have emphasised, for Cuba to disarm would be foolhardy. Just look at the continuing aggressive behaviour of the U.S. even after the end of the Cold War. As General Eisenhower, in his farewell address, warned us, the Military-Industrial Complex is a self-perpetuating monster whose appetite grows ever larger. In a military confrontation, the U.S. would initially gain the upper hand, but in the long run it would get bogged down in a never-ending guerrilla war, as is the case now in Afghanistan, and this would make it too unpalatable for the American public. What Cuba spends on its military is really chump change compared to what the U.S. spends. (although, perhaps they could get more “bang for their buck” if they could buy a nuke or two from the D.P.R.K. Had they been more successful with this endeavour in 1962, perhaps this might have prevented much grief for the Cubans in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s.) One beneficial factor, though–at least for the rest of the world, if not for us–is that with so much of our tax money and gross domestic product being plowed into the unproductive military-industrial complex, this will eventually bankrupt us and we will be out of business in running, let alone expanding, our empire. Even a cursory study of history will reveal that this was just the problem which brought about the demise of previous empires. When will we ever learn? Probably never. We seem to be unable to solve even our simple problems (e.g. the gun problem), which recurs again and again.

  • Just think of how much money could then be re-routed into the economy for the benefit of the ordinary Cuban people, however on the other side of the coin is the problem of where would all the ex-service people be redeployed? possibly in project work to rebuild the infrastructure of the country.

  • The Costa Rica model will be the best for Cuba after the restoration of democracy. Cuba needs a national guard or national police as well as a strong coast guard. For most countries maintaining an army, air force and navy can be very expensive and a waste of money from the tax payers. I resent the fact that for every dollar I pay in federal taxes, sixty cents will be on military expenditures!

  • “…today, the most intelligent and productive thing to do is to disarm.”

    Absolutely! As evidenced by the joyful and united citizenry, making gigantic strides in national development and advancement in Libya, the endless lovefest and new age of Harmony in Iraq and Syria, the massive tourism of wealthy Iraqi and Syrian citizens in their hundreds of thousands to Germany and other European shores. Whew, what a wonderful world! Kumbayaaa…..

  • As the author says, the disbanding of the military in Cuba is a dream.
    It would be wonderful if all countries disbanded their armed forces and everlasting peace broke out……
    But it doesn’t look like happening soon.
    The prime aggressor to Cuba is clearly the USA. History has proven thus.
    If the USA were to seriously attack, then Cuba would be annihilated.
    However Cuba’s defences and the way they are dug in throughout the island has the following purpose:
    It forces the USA, if they were to invade, to use ground forces to finish the job.
    The amount of filled up body bags going back to the USA would so unpalatable to the US public that an invasion would quite possibly be halted before any Cuban surrender.
    Therefore no US President would seriously consider invasion in the first place.
    Furthermore the US public would not condone the sheer scale of civilian casualties so close to home that would be unavoidable if an invasion did ensue.
    Enough of the US public seem to have been convinced that civilians slaughtered in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq are somehow deserving of their fate due to the religion they follow (post the 9-11 atrocity).
    But that does not apply to Cuba (the anti-commie vitriol in the USA is just so 20th Century!!).
    Cuba would outgunned by the USA a million times over but Cuba’s military is an insurance policy.
    As (regrettably) are armed forces all over the world.
    Having said all that, one of Cuba’s big issues is the extent to which it is militarized. If the world were a safer place with no ‘aggressor nations’ there would be no excuse or pretext for this type of overt militarization.

  • The young people must be fed and organized or they will make decisions, for their best interests. These will not necessarily conform to political needs.

  • I honestly believe that the Cuba of today should scale… way back the defense spending and this will free up money for a lot more urgent needs. The U.S. has signed an agreement to not invade the Island and:
    1. It totally controls the possibility of allowing invading forces from the U S (Cuban-American)
    2. The Cuban-Americans have long ago abandoned the idea of attacking Cuba. They have embraced the American way of life and are too busy working to pay the bills of their way of life.
    The “Macho Men of the past are by now way to old to take any kind of action

  • it could be done gradually,say over a period of five to ten years.Some of the money saved could be used for the improvement of medical facilities .this would help Cubans and medical tourism.

  • The Cuban military is designed to defend the homeland against an insurgency. The Castro dictatorship has long been aware that they could not prevail against a US military invasion. (Just shut up about the Bay of Pigs. Far from a US military invasion) Instead, Cuba’s tanks are intended to put down a couple attempt against the Castros. For this reason, as long as the dictatorship is in charge, there will be a Cuban military to defend it.

  • Common sense. Great article. Wouldn’t it be great to debate this with country’s leaders & make them see sense. Zero chance of that of course. There is no intelligent argument against disbanding the armed forces. Look at The Costa Rican model. Proves no need for a military. Armies are a total waste of money for small countries such as Cuba. Law & Order is maintained by Police pretty effectively in Cuba & The US is never going to invade. If they did WW3 breaks out, so wouldn’t it be great for the Cuban economy if the leadership realised this & diverted funds elsewhere. Chances of that however. Zero. Good work.

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