By Eduardo Sanchez (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – On February 22, the Cuban government established its official position vis-à-vis the conflict in Ukraine. Far from joining the majority of the international community in condemning Russia’s aggression against the Ukrainian state, it adopted an openly imperialist stance that is contrary to international law. In its official statement, the Ministry of the Exterior employs falsehoods, half-truths and omissions that deserve to be pointed out.
Cuba accuses NATO of provoking Russia by expanding to countries near its borders, acting as though NATO were an occupying force rather than a treaty to which sovereign states adhere. States have the right to establish relations and alliances with the countries they wish, and this cannot be conditioned by proximity to or distance from another power. To deny the right of Russia’s neighboring countries to choose their allies is to question their sovereignty, and would be analogous to forcing Cuba to remain a satellite of the United States.
NATO’s expansion was not accomplished by force, but because states that feared for their security strenuously sought membership. It its analysis of the current situation, the Cuban government ignores the fact that the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe was precisely because of the threat of a Russian invasion, as occurred in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine itself in 2014. Given this history, it is not surprising that many former Soviet republics think that being part of NATO is the only thing that prevents them from being next, and they are probably right.
Cuba also ignores the fact that the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine was not Western hysteria: it was a reality in 2014, and when this statement was published, it was a reality in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. It would be interesting to see what everyone who spent weeks ridiculing the Russian invasion warning has to say today.
In its communiqué, the Cuban government forgot to mention that Russia’s illegal recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces as independent republics that took land from a neighboring nation, completely blew up the 2014 Minsk accords that were meant to establish a cease fire in eastern Ukraine. Absent a serious cause such as genocide, constituent regions of a state have no right to self-determination.
But Russia not only broke the Minsk agreements with this declaration, but it also trampled on the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, in which Ukraine handed over to Russia the nuclear weapons that remained on its territory in exchange for a commitment to respect its sovereignty. and territorial integrity.
But is NATO’s eastward expansion the reason Putin invades Ukraine? According to Putin himself and his ministers, the answer is no. In his February 21 address to the Russian nation–a speech loaded with neo-tsarist rhetoric–Putin questioned both Lenin and the Soviet Union for first allowing the existence of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and then, later, the independent Ukraine.
In case this speech did not make clear that the Russian government does not recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty and right to exist, the Russian Foreign Minister himself repeated the same point hours later. Putin does not want to return to the USSR; rather, he wants to return to Czarist Russia, and the NATO story seems to be his alibi. As an analogy, imagine the Spanish Foreign Minister explaining that Cuba was always part of the Spanish Empire, and that its existence as an independent state is a historical mistake that Spain has the right to correct.
The Cuban government turns a deaf ear to the international community’s almost unanimous condemnation of Russian actions in Ukraine. All the American nations that have spoken, with the ignominious exceptions of Venezuela and Nicaragua, have firmly condemned the aggression against Ukraine. Even the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself has singled out Russia for violating the Charter of the United Nations.
The Cuban government has preferred to place itself on the wrong side of history. In doing so, it has embraced a principle that it has theoretically opposed: that of the zones of influence and the Monroe Doctrine. It has defended as legitimate the use to force to intervene in a neighboring country if the aggressor nation feels that its interests are threatened. If this sounds like the ideas underlying the Platt Amendment, that’s because it is. In fact, all the arguments used by Cuba to justify a Russian invasion of Ukraine would also serve to justify a US invasion of Cuba.
It is not the first time that Cuba has explicitly defended flagrant violations of the national sovereignty when its allies are the perpetrators. During the infamous Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, then-de facto President Fidel Castro defended Soviet tanks marching on Prague as a means to avoid a “counter-revolutionary” situation (read: to prevent a nation from freely determining its course). In this way, he opened a gap with his left-wing supporters around that world who had still considered him a hero of freedom.
You cannot criticize US imperialism and justify Russian imperialism. You cannot be an enemy of the Monroe Doctrine and the Platt Amendment and embrace the Putin Doctrine. The Cuban government demonstrates that its position, rather than being anti-imperialist, is anti-liberal, anti-democratic and anti-Western. Moreover, when it defends its sovereignty vis-à-vis the United States in international forums, it leaves the door open to criticism that it is employing what the Minister of the Exterior would call “double standards.”