Sunday, September 20, 2009

Russia and Cuba

In February, I noted that President Obama had not changed U.S. policy regarding Georgia or about Ukraine or Georgia joining NATO, so Russia was still interested in maintaining a Latin America presence in response. However, I speculated that since the missile shield policy would likely change, that might be enough to reduce Russia's military connections to the region.

That may well be wrong, as a senior Russian military officer says they will modernize Cuba's military, and warships may be on the way for a visit.

``Although maintaining a military presence in Latin America has logistical and financial problems for Russia, it will still force the United States to address the Russian presence in its backyard,'' wrote Stratfor, a private geopolitical analysis firm based in Austin, Texas.

This is a very important point. The cost for Russia is nontrivial, and I doubt Cuba has much to spend on Russian weapons to counteract that cost to any significant degree. But obviously the announced change in missile shield policy was not enough.


Anonymous,  7:01 PM  

Cuba can't pay for much of anything. If Russia wants to modernize the army, navy and air force of Cuba so be it. It will just be good money following bad. The US, nor its allies, do not have much to fear with regard to Cuban interventionism in Latin America anymore.

If Putin is trying to keep the US busy in Latin America that is a strategy born of a commodity boom. What he ought to worry about are declining life spans, alcoholism and corruption. But, since the public can't check his power through open debate and an honest election, this may very well come to pass.

The linkage to missile shields will continue to be Iran. If Putin does not cooperate with tougher sanctions, then Russia itself will face sanctions from the West.

Kelby,  9:27 AM  

There is a really fascinating interview with Demetri Medvedev on Fareed Zakaria's GPS this week.

Doesn't Russia-Latin America specifically, but well worth the watch.

leftside 1:32 PM  

The deal is about Russia modernizing existing Cuban weapons and materials (plus some training). So, once again we have a case of Cuban-American analysts and Miami press trying to inflate the issue into something larger and more menacing. What new?

On the larger question of Russian involvement in Latin America, I believe this has also been overblown. Sure there are some ideological affinites re-awakening (after Cuba cursed out Russia for its abandonment in the 90s) - the whole multi-polar thing. And sure there are some some tit-for-tat real-politic gestures involved. Given the US' refusal to acknowledge a Russian spere of influence, it is not surprising that Russia is trying to show the hypocrisy of that US argument with activities in Latin America. But overall, the cooperation and assistance is a penny in the bucket versus what it used to be. Russia (and China) want to see Cuba succeed as a leader of the developing world. But they do not want to spend a lot of money to do that. Both are after Cuba's natural resources and a ground floor in their post-embargo economy. So it is not a one way street.

And Anon, Putin and Medvedev have been focused like a laser on life spans, alcoholism and corruption - all problems badly exacerbated by the abrupt shift to free market policies. And if you think Putin and Medvedev are only in power because there is no open debate or honest elections in Russia, your paranoia is really worse than we thought.

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