Cuba, Russia Envisage Technical-Military Cooperation

Allies Cuba and Russia, both targets of Western sanctions, intend to pursue closer “technical-military” cooperation, the communist island’s government mouthpiece said Wednesday.

The plan was discussed during a visit Tuesday by Armed Forces Minister Alvaro Lopez Miera to Moscow, where he met counterpart Sergei Shoigu, newspaper Granma reported.

Granma quoted Shoigu as telling Lopez Miera that “Russia plans to jointly develop with Cuba a series of projects in the technical-military field.”

No details were divulged.

It said Shoigu had stressed that “Cuba has been and remains the most important ally of Russia in the region.”

Russia’s Sputnik news agency said Shoigu had referred to “existing and promising projects in the military field.”

Moscow has sought to portray a return to business as usual since Shoigu was the target over the weekend of a failed revolt by the Russian mercenary group Wagner.

A video by Russia’s state-run TASS news agency showed Shoigu welcoming Lopez Miera in what was likely his first meeting with a foreign dignitary since the rebellion.

As Russia has been increasingly isolated since invading Ukraine in 2022, relations with Cuba have intensified with an uptick in bilateral projects and visits between senior officials.

Moscow and Havana were at the center of a global nuclear scare in 1962, when the Soviet Union stationed missiles on the island, sparking threats of an attack by the United States nearby.

The weapons were withdrawn and a crisis averted.

After Russia invaded its neighbor, President Joe Biden has warned that for the “first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat from the use of nuclear weapons.”

Cuba, under US embargo since 1962, is facing its worst economic crisis in three decades, and recently received a shipment of Russian oil to help ease a crushing shortage of fuel on the island.

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel has assured Russia of “Cuba’s unconditional support” in its “clash with the West” over Ukraine.

Lopez Miera’s trip, which was not announced beforehand, came just days after Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero concluded an 11-day official visit to Russia during which he discussed cooperation in energy, tourism, and transport.

Marrero had met President Vladimir Putin, among other senior officials.

According to the Russian presidency website, Putin had told Marrero that “we will do everything so that our economic interaction helps to overcome these difficulties imposed from the outside,” referring to “illegal sanctions” against Havana.

As Cuba has looked for friends since Washington ramped up sanctions under then-president Donald Trump, it has also raised some eyebrows over its interactions with China.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Havana was negotiating with China to establish a joint military training facility on the island, and the White House said China has been operating an intelligence unit in Cuba for years.

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