Russia is preparing to inaugurate a monument to Fidel Castro, on November 22. And, for the occasion, the visit of the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel is expected. But it is not just about inaugurating monuments, but about deepening bilateral ties, which are especially important for Moscow in the middle of the war against Ukraine. “The Russians are very isolated in the world. The only ones who support them are the Syrians, the Belarusians, the North Koreans and the Eritreans. In the last vote, the Cubans and Nicaraguans too. So Moscow feels cornered and wants to strengthen its support with the few countries that are more or less supporting their aggression,” says Laurence Whitehead, a senior researcher in Latin American politics at the University of Oxford, to DW.
Carlos Alzugaray’s perspective is different, former Cuban diplomat. “For Russia, today any country that does not join the anti-Russian campaigns in the world is important,” he says, and assures that “the Cuban government has not issued any statement of support for what President Putin called an operation special military”. And he maintains the need to negotiate “an agreement that takes into account and respects the security of all the parties involved”.
Cuba joined the rejection of a resolution of the UN General Assembly which asks Russia to pay reparations to Ukraine. But he abstained when one was voted on demanding Russia to immediately cease hostilities (March) and another condemning the attempted “illegal annexation” of Ukrainian territories (October).
This position is due to several reasons. On the one hand, a main principle of the Cuban revolution is “the sovereignty of all countries against imperialist countries,” explains the Oxford academic. Cuban-Ukrainian ties also play a role. “Recently, Ukraine accredited an ambassador here, in Havana, and there were virtual political consultations between the Ukrainian and Cuban foreign ministries,” Alzugaray points out, stressing: “There is no anti-Ukrainian prejudice, quite the contrary, there has been solidarity with Ukraine, many Cubans studied In Ukraine, there are Ukrainian-Cuban marriages, as there are also many who studied in Russia. It is something very painful.”
Whitehead considers that it is a “very uncomfortable situation for the Cuban regime. Many in the government, they even view with admiration the resolution of the Ukrainians to protect their sovereignty and their effectiveness in the military struggle”. But he believes that, on the other hand, many think that, if the Kremlin is defeated, “the most right-wing forces in the West – in Miami, for example – could even take advantage of a victory against Russia to further increase their pressure against both Cuba and against Nicaragua and, theoretically, against Venezuela”.
The remnants of the “cold war”
In the United States there are divided opinions as to how to act with regard to Cuba. “There are people in Joe Biden’s government who want to separate Cuba from Russia, who want to reduce tension,” says the British academic. But he considers that the issue is not a priority, especially now that the Republicans have won the mid-term elections in Florida, a bastion of Cuban exiles.
The former Cuban diplomat also believes that “there are people in the US government and in the establishment that would welcome a return to the path of Obama”. He notes some slight positive signs, such as the resumption of talks on the issue of migration. But he points out that important steps would be required, such as removing Cuba from the list of countries that promote terrorism, where Donald Trump included it again at the end of his term, and regrets that “what has prevailed in the relationship between Cuba and the United States Over the years, it has been this cold war”.
Its greatest expression is the embargo applied for decades against the island. On November 3, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution demanding its termination. The only votes against were those of the United States and Israel. On this point, Washington “is as isolated in the UN” as Moscow in what concerns Ukraine, Whitehead notes, pointing out that “for Havana it is essential to maintain this international solidarity”.
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