Cuba’s state visit to Russia shows Havana’s importance to Putin’s anti-American policies

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

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil on the island nation, and Cuba, in return, has installed Russian intelligence at the notorious Lourdes SIGINT (signal intelligence station) near Havana, where it actively monitors US communications.

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Russian Security Council Deputy Head Dmitry Medvedev, right, shakes hands with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel during their meeting at the Gorky State Residence outside Moscow in November.  21, 2022. (Ekaterina Shtukina/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian Security Council Deputy Head Dmitry Medvedev, right, shakes hands with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel during their meeting at the Gorky State Residence outside Moscow in November. 21, 2022. (Ekaterina Shtukina/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite Cuba’s dire economic outlook, Russia seems happy to extend recurring financial lifelines to the Caribbean island in exchange for an increased geographic and military presence just 150 miles from US shores. At a time when Russia is at risk like never before in the post-Cold War era, its commitment of critical resources shows the value it places on Cuba, which many scholars believe is the center of command in the “long game” Russia is seeking. play as it battles for hearts and minds in the South American region.

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital that “the Cuban government has struggled to stay relevant since their financial partners in the Soviet Union stopped sending them money in the 1990s,” but with renewed ties getting they “military equipment and intelligence from Russia…the Cuban regime benefits from being able to sustain itself on Russian blood money. Communism only works with other people’s money.”

Russian-born intelligence analyst Rebekah Koffler, a former director of Defense Intelligence, believes the Russian military is coming to the island.

“Russia is likely considering sending military assets and personnel to Cuba to show Washington that it, too, can screw up in its backyard — all part of a plan to pressure the Biden administration to end support for Ukraine. Clearly, Putin would need Diaz to hold.-Canel’s approval for that.

Sixty years after the disastrous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the risk of another conflict looms large.

“Putin may be hoping to get permission to place nuclear-capable assets on the island as Moscow fears NATO intervention in the Russia-Ukraine war. This is intended as a deterrent but would likely be seen by Washington as an escalator,” Koffler said.

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

The late Cuban leader Fidel Castro meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Havana, Cuba during the Russian president's visit in 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)

The late Cuban leader Fidel Castro meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Havana, Cuba during the Russian president’s visit in 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Castro)

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As Koffler points out: “On January 24th, one month before the so-called ‘special operation’ (the Russian invasion of Ukraine), the Cuban and Russian presidents had a ‘friendly and productive telephone conversation’ discussing the ‘call’.” strategic cooperation’ … less than a week before the invasion, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov visited Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, Russia’s main allies in Latin America, to secure their support.

Despite their close relationship, Cuba and other Latin American allies such as Venezuela and Bolivia surprised the world when they abstained from a UN vote to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year and a subsequent vote on 10/12 on Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory. .

Koffler believes that this decision is tied to Cuba maximizing its economic position with its historic benefactor.

“Cuba did not overtly vote in support of Russia, probably because it wants a negotiating guarantee over Moscow. Havana probably hopes that Moscow will forgive some of its loans and get preferential trade terms. In 2014, Moscow wrote off $32 billion of Cuba’s outstanding debts. Havana probably hoping for more debt relief from Moscow.”

Russia and China, despite having a strong interest in the region, take very different approaches to Latin America. While China has largely confined its interests to securing a return on its economic investments, Russia, in a return to Cold War thinking, has made significant political investments in ensuring the stability and longevity of its authoritarian allies, as well as promoting anti-U.S. movements and emotions.

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Honorable men are present at celebrations to mark the Revolution Day in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Honorable men are present at celebrations to mark the Revolution Day in Guantanamo, Cuba.
(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The renewed use of the Lourdes SIGINT facility, where it actively monitors US communications, is a key element of Russia’s long-standing strategy in the region, which primarily consists of antagonizing the US.

Still, given Cuba’s history of aggressive military intervention around the world, Cuban military involvement in Ukraine is not beyond the realm of possibility. Last week, popular state TV host Vladimir Solovyov called for the creation of an international force to come to Russia’s aid.

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

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

Still, Koffler considers this possibility 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 Kremlin’s main propagandists and most of his rhetoric is designed to scare the West and stir up ultra-nationalist sentiments within Russia. While we cannot completely dismiss what he says, we always need to take his rants with a grain of salt.”

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