Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Russia and Cuba: Old Friendships Never Wither

Cuban President Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz (1931- ) with President Vladimir Putin (1952- )

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Russia and Cuba are strengthening their bilateral relations again after a break that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union supplied Cuba with oil, up to 13 million tons each year, and quantities of arms. In return, it received Cuban tobacco, coffee, fruit, and sugar and enjoyed the right to build and operate military facilities on Cuban territory. However, after the Soviet collapse these exchanges went downhill. The oil was cut off. In the early 90s, Russia shut its military training centre in Cuba. In 2002, it also closed its signals intelligence centre near the Cuban town of Lourdes, withdrawing all 1,000 personnel from the facility.

The millennium turn was the low point of the relationship. However, under Vladimir Putin, Russian-Cuban ties started to pick up again. In 2000, Putin visited Havana. In 2006, during a Havana visit by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Cuba’s Soviet-era debts to Russia were finally settled, and Cuba received a 335 million dollar (11.925 billion Roubles. 275 million Euros. 215 million UK Pounds) Russian credit line, which allowed it to procure spare parts for some of its Soviet-made machinery and weaponry. In 2009, Cuban President Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz visited Moscow. This Wednesday, he arrived again, amid summertime heat, which he said reminded him of Havana. After discussing matters with Prime Minister Medvedev, he proceeded to the suburban dacha of President Putin.

President Putin said, “Some time ago, Russia and Cuba marked 110 years since they established diplomatic ties. These 110 years have seen ups and downs in relations, but at present, the relations are on the rise. Although pragmatic, they don’t negate the positive legacy of the past. We’re glad to welcome you. I do hope we’ll be able to review the entire spectrum of Russian-Cuban relations”. President Putin also used the occasion to extend his best wishes to veteran Cuban leader Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (President Castro’s elder brother).

President Castro said he was looking forward to a very productive Moscow visit, saying, “We live in a very complex and rapidly changing world. During my previous visit, we devoted time to the challenges faced by our countries in 2009. Today, we’re discussing the current situation. I’m always happy to meet with my old friends in the Russian capital. I expect my working visit to be very busy and highly productive”. After meeting with President Putin, Señor Castro shall meet with Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Russian National Security Council.

Annual trade between Russia and Cuba already tops 220 million dollars (7.175 billion Roubles. 180 million Euros. 140 million UK Pounds) and continues to grow. Importantly, it isn’t limited to arms sales. Russia’s Gazpromneft is drilling for oil and gas in the Cuban sector of the Gulf of Mexico. Other Russian companies are helping Cuba develop electricity generation. Last year also saw a 30 percent increase in Russian tourist visits to Cuba. Russian holidaymakers on the island are rapidly catching up with European and Canadian ones.

11 July 2012

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_07_11/Russia-Cuba-old-friendships-never-wither/

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