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Cuban state visit to Russia demonstrates importance of Havana to Putin’s anti-American agenda

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to Russia this week under the auspices of an official state visit, where he will attend the unveiling of a statue of Fidel Castro at Sokol metro station in northeastern west of Moscow.

Despite Cuba’s decision earlier this year to abstain from UN votes condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Ukrainian territory, Cuba and Russia remain close geopolitical, economic and economic allies. and military, united by a shared anti-American vision.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lavished hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil on the island nation, and Cuba in return installed Russian intelligence at the infamous Lourdes SIGINT (signals intelligence) station near Havana, where they actively monitor American communications.


Russian Security Council deputy head Dmitry Medvedev, right, shakes hands with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel as they meet at the Gorky state residence outside Moscow on November 21, 2022. (Yekaterina Shtukina/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite Cuba’s bleak economic outlook, Russia seems happy to extend repeated financial lifelines to the Caribbean island in return for a bolstered geopolitical and military presence just 150 miles from US shores. At a time when Russia is in peril like never before in the post-Cold War era, its commitment of critical resources demonstrates the value it places on Cuba, which many scholars regard as the command center in the “long game” that Russia is looking to play as it fights for hearts and minds in the Latin America region.

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital that “the Cuban regime struggled to stay relevant after their financial facilitators in the Soviet Union stopped sending them money in the 1990s. “, but with renewed ties, they receive “from the military equipment and intelligence from Russia…the Cuban regime benefits because it can continue to support itself with Russian blood money. Communism does not only works with other people’s money.

Russian-born intelligence expert Rebekah Koffler, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, believes Russian military deployment to the island is a possibility.

“Russia is likely planning to deploy military assets and personnel to Cuba to show Washington that it can mess up its backyard too – it’s all part of the plan to pressure the Biden administration to give up. his support for Ukraine. Obviously Putin would need Diaz-Canel’s consent for that.”

Sixty years after the harrowing Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the threat of a new confrontation looms.

“Putin may be hoping to get permission to deploy nuclear-capable assets on the island as Moscow fears NATO involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian war. This is meant to be a deterrent but would likely be perceived by Washington as an escalation,” Koffler said.

Diaz-Canel’s visit demonstrates that Cuba remains firmly in Russia’s geopolitical orbit, with ties between the two nations arguably closer than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Late Cuban leader Fidel Castro meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Havana, Cuba, during a visit by the Russian president in 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)

Late Cuban leader Fidel Castro meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Havana, Cuba, during a visit by the Russian president in 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)


As Koffler notes, “On January 24, a month before the so-called ‘special operation’ (the Russian invasion of Ukraine), the Cuban and Russian presidents had a ‘friendly and productive telephone conversation’ during which they discussed their ‘partnership strategy’… less than a week before the invasion, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov visited Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, key Russian allies in Latin America, for support.”

Despite their close ties, Cuba and other Latin American allies like Venezuela and Bolivia surprised the world when they abstained in a UN vote condemning Russia’s earlier invasion of Ukraine. this year and in a subsequent vote on October 12 regarding Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory.

Koffler believes the move is tied to Cuba maximizing its economic position with its historic benefactor.

“Cuba has not openly voted for Russia, probably because it wants some bargaining power over Moscow. Havana probably hopes that Moscow will forgive some of its loans and get preferential trade terms. In 2014, Moscow canceled $32 billion in outstanding debt Havana is likely hoping for more debt cancellation from Moscow.

Russia and China, while sharing a keen interest in the region, take very different approaches to Latin America. While China has largely limited its interests to securing a return on its economic investments, Russia, in a return to a Cold War mentality, has made substantial political investments to ensure the stability and longevity of its authoritarian allies, as well only to bolster anti- American movements and sentiments.


Honor guards attend celebrations marking Revolution Day in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Honor guards attend celebrations marking Revolution Day in Guantanamo, Cuba.
(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The renewed use of the Lourdes SIGINT facility, through which it actively monitors US communications, is a key part of Russia’s long-term strategy in the region, which is primarily to antagonize the United States.

Yet, given Cuba’s history of aggressive military interventions around the world, Cuban military involvement in Ukraine is not out of the realm of possibility. Last week, famous state TV host Vladimir Soloviev called for the formation of international brigades to come to the aid of Russia.

“I don’t understand why the Americans, even if they are fighting in Grenada, always improvise an international coalition. … Why do we deny ourselves this pleasure? There are units in Syria trained very well by us, there are people in Africa who support us, there is Venezuela, there is Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.”


Citing the example of foreign volunteerism during the Spanish Civil War, he added: “If volunteers from all over the world are going to fight in Donetsk, why shouldn’t we give them the opportunity to organize themselves and create an international body ?

Yet Koffler views that possibility as remote.

“I don’t think it’s likely, but we can’t completely rule it out, at least on a coercive basis rather than voluntarily,” she said. “Solovyov is one of the leading Kremlin propagandists and most of what he says is aimed at scaring the West and galvanizing ultra-nationalist sentiments in Russia. While we cannot completely reject what he says, we must always take his rants with a grain of salt.”


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