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Cuba - Russia Relations

Relations between Russia and Cuba cannot be compared to the relationship between Cuba and the USSR. Cuban relations with Russia remained cautious. China, Spain, Canada, and Venezuela were much larger trading partners than Russia. Roughly 40,000 Russian tourists/business people visit Cuba annually, primarily flocking to resorts such as Varadero. He added, however, that the high cost of airfare--despite the direct Cubana flights from Moscow--prevents Cuba from being a top choice for Russian tourists. Russia was heavily involved in projects aimed at providing assistance to Cuba. This included Russian economic assistance provided to the World Food Program in the amount of 1 million dollars, the donation of construction equipment and electric cable, and a plan to increase the number of slots for youth study programs in Russia.

Under the Intergovernmental Agreement of October 18, 1991 Russia supplied Cuba with small arms, ammunition, bottom mines, radio sets, engines, spares, training and auxiliary equipment. In addition to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation of November 3, 1992 Russia and Cuba signed a Protocol on the Scope and Form of Reimbursement for keeping a Russian electronic monitoring station in Cuba in 1993-1995.

During the 1990s, Cuban economic relations with Central and Eastern Europe plummeted. Cuban economic relations with Russia focused principally on barter trade, at market prices, exchanging sugar for petroleum. Cuba refused to service its large accumulated international debt to the Russian Federation, but that was no different from its general policy on nonservicing of any debts. Russian ground troops, who had been stationed in Cuba since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, also departed in 1992.

Russia and Cuba retained two somewhat more complicated relationships. The Russian government paid rent to Cuba for the use of electronic eavesdropping facilities set up south of Havana at Lourdes at the height of the Cold War. And Russia and Cuba continued to negotiate over the fate of the nearly completed but mothballed nuclear power plant near Cienfuegos in south central Cuba. The investment costs of completing the nuclear power plant, however, were beyond the capacities of both governments. Routine maintenance on the Juragua nuclear power plant was discontinued in 2002 making the facility useless.

A new page in the Russian-Cuban relations was turned by the official visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Cuba on December 13-16, 2000. In November 2008, President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Cuba. By 2008 China, Spain, Canada, and Venezuela were much larger players than Russia. For the most part Russia-Cuba economic cooperation was focused on the energy sector. Russia was assisting the GOC with plans to minimize Cuba's dependence on outside sources of energy by focusing on the areas of petroleum and natural gas, the construction of hydro-power aqua ducts, and assisting with plans to upgrade the antiquated power infrastructure on island.

Russia did not have a preference for working with Raul or Fidel Castro. As a general trend, Cuba-Russia ties were becoming stronger, but that the relationship had not changed significantly since Raul Castro came to power in 2008. Raul spent more time in the Soviet Union and Russia than Fidel and understood Russia better. Russia believed Raul to be the more pragmatic brother, and he did more to encourage outside investment in Cuba from a number of sources, including Russia. Russia's military relationship with Cuba would most likely be limited to upgrading Soviet-era equipment.

Cuban President Raul Castro visited Moscow from January 28 to February 4, 2009 in an effort to boost trade ties and rejuvenate relations with Russia. Despite some exercises in Communist-era nostalgia, experts were quick to downplay any anti-U.S. angle to the trip. Medvedev and Castro signed a number of agreements to establish joint ventures in various areas of economic activity, including automobile manufacturing and energy cooperation, although energy experts were quick to discount the oil agreements. Additionally, Cuba will receive over USD 350 million in loans and aid, which are contingent on purchasing Russian goods and services. Prior to Castro's visit, DPM Sechin negotiated a number of economic agreements with the Cuban government, continuing his role as the frontman for this vanity foreign policy.

On 12 July 2014 Russia's president began a six-day tour of Latin American countries. Vladimir Putin's first stop was Cuba where he met with Cuban President Raul Castro. After talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, Putin unveiled a deal to write off $32 billion of old Soviet debt. That is 90 percent of the total. He said the other 10 percent would be reinvested in Cuban development projects.

Russian energy companies successfully operate in Cuba. Rosneft is conducting a geological survey on the Cuban continental shelf and modernising the country’s refineries. Zarubezhneft is developing a large offshore oil field. Inter RAO is building four new energy units for a Cuban thermal power plant. There is mutually beneficial industrial cooperation. Russian companies are involved in the technical refurbishing of Cuban factories that produce metal and nickel products and nitrogen fertiliser.

By 2018 Russia was preparing for the deployment of a Russian GLONASS ground station in Cuba. As a result, Cuba will get access to extensive technical capabilities for Earth remote sensing and satellite and telecommunications services.

Cuba has always been and certainly remains one of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists. In 2017, about 100,000 Russians visited the republic. In December, an updated intergovernmental agreement will take effect establishing a simplified entry procedure on both sides, simplifying mutual visa requirements.

On 02 November 2018 Chairman of the State Council and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermudez, visted Moscow and met with President Putin. After the meeting, Diaz-Canel said " this visit symbolises the continuation and continuity of the Cuban Revolution. Being faithful followers of the legacy of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz and Army General Raul Castro Ruz, we maintain and constantly work to strengthen relations between Cuba and Russia."

A loan of US$43 million dollars was given for the "sustainable development" of Cuba’s military, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said on 06 February 2019. "The agreement has been finalized and the documents signed. All parameters, such as interest, the payment schedule and the currency in which refunds will be made, have been adopted in coordination with Cuba,” Borisov said. Both countries will benefit from the recent arrangement, Borisov said, explaining that the concord’s purpose is to "ensure the sustainable development of Cuba's defense sector in the coming years."

The loan will be dedicated to the development of Cuba’s technological operation and assistance and will give the Caribbean nation "the opportunity to develop its long-term military-industrial complex," said Federal Service of Technical-Military Cooperation, Dmitry Shugaev. The recent exchange is a continuation of a nearly 15-year agreement between Russia and Cuba which dates back to 2006 when the former first offered militarized technology assistance.

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