Ukraine, Russia, Cuba and the War

A column of smoke from the military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo: Aris Messinis / AFP.

By Eloy Viera Cañive (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – The war has begun. Russia invaded the Ukraine in the early hours of February 24, 2022. Thus, a dispute foretold weeks ago became reality, having only been a war of narratives up until recently – beyond the conflict Ukrainians have had over the past eight years.

Despite air raids and tanks beginning to advance, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is also a war between two different visions of the world and ways of telling it. Announcing the beginning of hostile actions, Vladimir Putin at no point said that a war has begun – confirmed by the Cuban media -, but has always talked about a “special military operation”, which doesn’t seek to occupy the Ukraine, but to demilitarize and “denazify” this country, ironically.

Demilitarizing a country that has the right to have an army and “denazifying” a country where 43,000 people identify as Jewish and 200,000 are elegible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. “Denazifying” a country where the president-elect is Jewish and members of his family were victims of the Holocaust.

Ukraine has been at war since 2014. A war that has spread despite the Minsk agreements in 2014 and 2015. The Ukrainian Government’s confict with pro-Russian separatist forces in Donbas has resulted in the death of 14,000 citizens up until February 24th. Russia’s role has been essential since the beginning of this conflict. The Donetsk and Luhansk movements began after Euromaidan, a popular movement that forced Ukrainian president Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych to resign and flee the country. However, the conflict really began after the popular referendum and Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Before this, Putin had used the so-called “frozen conflicts” inherited or created after the USSR collapse, to intervene or support separatist forces in countries such as Moldova or Georgia.

The Cuban Government and the Putin Doctrine

You can’t criticize US imperialism and justify Russian imperialism. You can’t be an enemy of the Monroe Doctrine and embrace the Putin Doctrine.

Three days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Monday February 21, 2022), Vladimir Putin explained some of his beliefs that are deeply-rooted in Russian nationalism dating back to the Russian Empire. Putin made it very clear that Russia could be understood as all of the land where there are people with native Russian culture. He said that Ukraine – one of these regions – is a State that shouldn’t have the right to exist outside of Russia.

Putin also recognized the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk and declared that “modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, communist Russia.” Meanwhile, he confirmed that Ukraine’s independence had been the result of mistakes committed by the Soviet Communist Party elite (especially by Lenin), who were also responsible for the USSR’s collapse. Putin has classified this fact as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe in the 20th century”, for a long time.

Putin has justified the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s expansion towards Eastern Europe, which is true. Many countries which were under the USSR’s influence in the past, such as Poland or the Baltic states, have been joining the Atlantic Alliance over the years. But those who say NATO don’t have the right to expand towards the Russian border – such as Cuban minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, has – forget that these States (once members of the Warsaw Pact) joining NATO, is a result of their own sovereign decisions. Decisions that were justified at the time as the best defense mechanism to protect themselves from Russia’s forever dormant – and now confirmed – expansionist aspirations.

What can protect small States such as Estonia or Latvia, located on the Russian border and whose population are 40% Slav by origin, after Putin’s speech on February 21, 2022? Just belonging to NATO and the collective duty of all of its members to provide military assistance in the case of an attack stops Putin from wanting to expand Russian influence to these places where significant minorities exist, whom he considers his fellow countrymen.

Putin’s geopolitical view is imperialist in true Czarism-style. It’s as imperialist as many US administrations have been in different historic periods.

The Cuban Government and its acolytes’ position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is proof that anti-imperialism isn’t one of their guiding principles – despite the abundance of propaganda saying the exact opposite. The Cuban Government and anyone defending Putin don’t understand what principles are, they only understand true Machiavellian-style pragmatism. As the Florence master of philosopher once said: politics have no relation to morals.

The Cuban Government’s close ties to Russia are irrefutable. The relationship Diaz-Canel’s Government has with Putin is a sugar-coated and post-modern version of what Fidel Castro once had with the Soviet Union. A relationship where the principles they boasted about of international solidarity and altruism hold no weight, instead it’s the mutual benefit of knowing they have a common enemy. In Putin’s case, a world view could be summarized by what Aleksandr Dugin has called “nationalist populism”.

The new relationship between the Cuban and Russian Governments has been built by different sectors. The military sector has been one of the most important. Russia’s minister of Defense, Sergey Shoygu, visited Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela in 2015 and dealt with matters linked to the technical/military exchange between Russia and the three Latin American countries. Also, Miguel Diaz-Canel visited Russia in November 2018 and met with Putin. After his visit, Russia immediately announced that it would grant Cuba a credit of 38 million euros to buy Russian planes, helicopters and military equipment. In 2019, Cuban vice-president Ricardo Cabrisas – the main negotiator of Cuba’s foreign debt – met with Shoygu in Moscow, as part of these agreements, to talk about “bilateral cooperation efforts in pursuit of stability and security in the Caribbean.”

High-ranking Russian officials have made several visits to Cuba in recent years. Russian deputy prime minister, Yury Borisov, has visited Cuba at least three times since 2018. The last trip was in February 2022, just a few hours before Russia invaded Ukraine. During this trip, Borisov did a tour of Latin America, including another two countries that have been crucial in reinforcing its position in the continent: Venezuela and Nicaragua. It’s no coincidence that Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only countries in Latin America today that have expressed their unconditional support for Putin and his invasion.

After deputy prime minister Borisov’s visit to Cuba (February 18, 2022), Cuban diplomat Rodriguez announced, on his Twitter account, his strong rejection of what he considered “propaganda and media hysteria triggered by the US Government against Russia.” Also a member of the Cuban Communist Party’s Politburo, Rodriguez “strongly opposed NATO’s expansion towards the Russian border.”

After this statement came from Bruno Rodriguez – which wasn’t a coincidence either – a quid pro quo was established. On February 22, 2021, Russia’s State Duma – or, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia – ratified agreements signed with Cuba in August 2021, after Putin’s Government put them forward, which sought to renegotiate part of the debt between both States. These agreements ratified by the State Duma extend payment deadlines to 2027, for credits granted by Russia to Cuba between 2006-2019.

Russia granted 2.3 billion USD to Cuba in this period, and Cuba stopped repayments in early 2020. The grounds for the regulation passed by the Russian State Duma establishes that Cuba’s failure to make payments between 2020-2021 will need to be made between 2022-2027; this new repayment scheme will imply an additional instalment of 11 million USD for Cuba in interest.

The day the State Duma approved the debt restructuring agreement, Cuba responded with an official statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). Expressing gratitude to Putin and the close ties between both Governments, the statement can be broken down into three key points:

    – The US and NATO are responsible for the situation in Ukraine, having manipulated the international community about the dangers of an “imminent mass invasion” by Russia.

    – Cuba has always warned about the danger of this kind of policy.

    – Russia has the right to defend itself.

Two days after this statement (February 24th), the “imminent mass invasion” happened, which – according to MINREX’s statement – the US and NATO used to manipulate the world. The Russian army advanced without the Ukrainians firing a single shot.

While the invasion of Ukraine began, Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel reaffirmed what a pleasure it was to welcome and talk to Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, which approved Cuba’s debt renegotiation with Russia. Volodin is an official with close ties to Putin’s United Russia Party and has even gone as far as saying that there is no Russia without Putin. His visit amidst a situation like the one unfolding in Eastern Europe is no coincidence, and definitely isn’t disinterested.

On top of that, the day Ukraine and the invasion of this country made headlines in the international press, Granma, the Cuban Communist Party’s main newspaper, came hot of the press highlighting the friendship between Cuba and Russia and both Governments’ desire for peace.

Further proof that the war in Ukraine is also a war of narratives and that the Cuban Government doesn’t believe in ethics or morality, such as anti-imperialism.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

7 thoughts on “Ukraine, Russia, Cuba and the War

  • You know what?

    Cuba will not only lose russian tourists………. Canadians will remember they choose the russian politics……..

    They chose to be with the new Adolphe……….Adolphe Putin.

    I’ve been to Cuba maybe 20 times but i will never spent 1$ again in Cuba.

  • First off, Cuba’s sugar daddy is not Russia…it is Canada…specifically over a million tourists a year and climbing which amount to 50% or so of Cuba’s total tourism income. DiazCanal is of course a dyed-in-the-wool communist. His qualifications to be president etc. are due to his performance as a chief in the Cuban communist structure. The point is here, from one who has been studying Cuba for decades…since the 60’s, and who with my family members have visited there over 500 times, a family who have donated $a bundle to help Cubans and who love the people and the weather and the beaches etc…well…we are twitching!! If DiazCanal and Putin are going to be lovers on the International scene, and if they hold. hands while Putin’s gorillas murder innocent Ukranians of all ages, and while they destroy hospitals, churches, schools, museums infrastructure, lives and futures…well…

    We are not so keen on sharing Cuban hotel space with Russian tourists. Nor are we interested anymore in supporting organizations like Gaviota the Cuban hotel, restaurant and rental fleet operator, with our hard-earned cash. Should we be spending our Canadian tourist dollar in Cuba, where that money goes to Russia for interest payments on their overdue loan situation between bankrupt Cuba and the Russians? It is going to take a few months to sink in, but what the short-sited Diaz Canel has done, is he has fired a missile right into his own tourist sector …at his best customers and friends in the world. Ask Cubans about how they feel about Russians! Ask the waitresses, the hotel staff, the average person on the streets, and you will find that Cubans overall detest Russians and always have. It is all about communist politics and if Diaz Canel keeps it up there will be immense pressure for Canadians to reconsider holiday destinations there. Further, pressured by others who oppose communism, a new Canadian government could slap a huge surcharge or tax on every trip to Cuba! I get that Cuba wants to have a socialist government. But they would be better to build on the Swedish model than the old hard-line vodka guzzling ruskies. Diaz Canel is just pissing everyone off!

  • Curt’s comments to this post but also in general always seem to attempt to defend the moribund Castro regime by highlighting some domestic or foreign policy failure of the US or its allies. Does this mean that his brain can not formulate a valid defense of the Castro dictatorship based on it’s own merits or is he a third-grader using the schoolyard argument that usually says “if I stink, then you stink too!”. Either way, since this is a blog about Cuba, he would do well to criticize Israel at the ‘Tel Aviv Times’ blog and justify Cuban failures with Cuban arguments here at HT.

  • We have to stand up for the 2.9 million people who are under massive attack in Kiev today.

  • In the same way that Israel is a bootlicker to the US, Cuba has to be the same way with Russia because Russia is Cuba’s sugar daddy.

  • The US was on the wrong side when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Because of Ronald Reagan’s obsession with fighting Russian communism, the US aided Afghanistan, which gave rise to the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

  • NATO expansion toward Russia’s border is a questionable ambition. The fact is that Russians are aware that previous invasions have come from the west.
    Finland and Sweden are not NATO members. Finland, which has a border with Russia, traditionally declares neutrality.
    The irony is that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine makes non-NATO members more likely rather than less likely to seek membership.

    In the USA President Biden’s political opponents blame him rather than Putin for the invasion.
    The U.K. has been the place where Putin’s oligarchs launder their wealth for several decades. The ruling party in the U.K. has received funding from Putin’s buddies.

    Things are less straightforward than the article suggests.

    China and India seem to have a neutral stance. Cuba’s Government would do well to also lean toward neutrality. The most recent pronouncement seems to move more in that direction. Cuba’s embassy in Ukraine remains open. If it has any influence, Cuba should be promoting ceasefire talks. But does Cuba have any real influence these days?

    Some contributors here see the situation as an opportunity to urge the USA follow Putin’s example in Ukraine and carry out a similar invasion of Cuba. It is a real shame to read such war-mongering viewpoints.

    Here in Europe we have war. Again.
    Ukraine is so far repelling the invasion. The President, a former comedian who became famous playing a President in a TV show, is standing up. Putin has always appeared brutal but at the same time, pragmatic and calculating. This time he seems to have made a gross miscalculation.
    He’s f**ked up big style.
    Thousands of Russian military are reported dead.
    Ukrainian civilians have been killed. Including children. It could escalate further.
    Putin is now referring to nuclear deterrence. War is no game.

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