| Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel exchanged documents following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia November 2, 2018. (photo: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)
Cuba and Russia have been close allies since the Cold War. They have maintained good relations in many sectors. In his previous visit to Russia in November, 2018, Diaz-Canel and Putin confirmed the Russia-Cuba strategic alliance. Pressure from the US has pushed them closer to each other.
Pressure from sanctions
Both countries are struggling with an economic blockade and sanctions from the US. Cuba has been seriously affected by US embargos for many decades. Its economy has been unable to attract foreign investments and strategic partners. On October 25, the US announced it would suspend all flights to Cuba, except to Havana. It’s the second ban in the past week tightening air travel to Cuba, targeting one of Cuba’s spearhead sectors and main foreign currency earners. US trade embargoes have cost Cuba’s tourism sector about 38 billion USD over the past 5 decades.
In an interview on “Direct Line” in Moscow in June, Putin said the West and US sanctions on Russia since 2014 have cost Russia 50 billion USD. The sanctions have targeted major capital resources such as defense, energy, finance, and banking. Russia’s economy has been in recession at times and the ruble has devalued against the USD.
While struggling against US and West sanctions, Russia has enhanced cooperation with Latin American countries to mitigate losses and raise its prestige internationally. During Prime Minister Medvedev’s visit to Cuba from October 3-5, the two countries signed 8 cooperative agreements on transport, science, industry, customs, and maintenance of Russian aircraft in the Cuban fleet. Medvedev activated three new wells at the Boca de Jaruco oil field, which has a total deposit of about 3 billion tons. A cooperation project between Russia’s Zarubezhneft and Cuba’s state-owned company Cupet will meet Cuba’s domestic oil demand. Medvedev said that although their relations are friendly in nature, they are nevertheless relations between modern states and should be mutually beneficial.
Enhancing cooperation with Russia, a military power with a prominent voice in the international arena, will help Cuba grow and Moscow will expand its role and status in a region heavily under US influence.