The New Russia-Cuba Friendship

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryWhen the former Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba was pretty much set adrift. No more economic aid came from the Soviet Union, and a newly emergent Russia gave no aid either in the 1990’s. Without the generous economic and material aid that Cuba had received from the Soviet Union, Cuba was left with severe shortages of just about everything including toilet paper. Thus, from the 1990’s into the late 2000’s, Cuba had entered what it called the “Special Period.” Cubans had to contend with even more shortages than before, and this included food. Cubans had to stand in long lines for even the basic of necessities. Without fertilizer that Cuba had gotten from the Soviet Union, its agriculture was more badly affected. It meant food shortages even from what Cuba could produce—leading to empty store shelves. The cars, trucks and even trains imported from the Soviet Union had been breaking down over the years, and without spare parts for any of these vehicles it meant that Cuba’s transportation infrastructure was collapsing.

In this decade, that has all changed. Russia had forgiven 90 percent of Cuba’s debt to it in 2014. Since then, Russia has provided cars, trucks, trains, and the spare parts to fix what had been breaking down over the decades. More than that, the Russian government is renewing military cooperation with Cuba, and will help repair and renovate three nuclear power plants that the former Soviet Union had constructed in Cuba in the 1980’s. This is happening now because of the U.S. government’s further tightening of economic and tourist sanctions on Cuba. As a matter of fact, Russian tourism has grown 30 percent over the past five years. The reason is not hard to find; Cuba’s beaches, its world-class hotels built by Chinese companies, and its rich history. Russia’s interest in Cuba is two-fold. First, it wants to help break Washington, D.C.’s sanctions against Cuba. Since the United States has some sanctions against Russia as well, it only stands to reason that Russia wants to help out a country also under U.S. sanctions. Second, Russia wants to expand its business and governmental dealings around the world. Cuba is simply a logical step since it is on America’s doorstep.

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