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Cuba and Russia: Budding Relations

In his first international tour, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel reaffirmed bilateral relations, negotiated trade deals, and worked to secure a $50 million military loan from Russia.

Though he visited six countries, the most significant accomplishments were made with Russia. Russia has committed to Cuba’s plan to modernize infrastructure, energy and transportation, increase exports to Cuba, and follow through on 60 pre-negotiated investment projects.

The two countries also pushed their defense agenda forward with a new arms deal. This entails the $50 million military loan that Cuba will use to purchase Russian military equipment such as armored vehicles, helicopters, and small arms.

Russian President Putin and Cuban President Diaz-Canel at a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow. Credit:  Business Insider

Russian President Putin and Cuban President Diaz-Canel at a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow. Credit: Business Insider

Then, in a joint press conference Putin and Diaz-Canel urged President Trump to not withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). INF, a product of the Cold war, banned the deployment of land-based nuclear and non-nuclear ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Putin and Diaz-Canel warn a U.S. withdraw would be detrimental to international security.

Russia and Cuba vowed to the further “consolidation of Russian-Cuban strategic partnership in various spheres and [to] discuss opinions on current international and regional problems.”

Diaz-Canel also traveled to Vietnam, North Korea, Laos, and China. The main goal was to secure loans and investments. In the wake of Venezuela’s economic crisis and the drop in tourism generated by the Trump administration, Cuba has been struggling.

In Vietnam the two countries reaffirmed their shared ideological views: “We also expressed our desire to continue to share experiences of building socialism in each country," Diaz-Canel said.  In North Korea the countries shared concerns regarding U.S. sanctions.

Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, left and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Diaz-Canel is on a three-day visit to Vietnam to boost ties as part of his first international tour. Credit:  The Wichita Eagle

Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, left and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Diaz-Canel is on a three-day visit to Vietnam to boost ties as part of his first international tour. Credit: The Wichita Eagle

This tour is colored by the current constitutional reforms that could liberalize Cuba’s economy and completely remove sections of the constitution that mention “progress toward a communist society.”

These proceedings transform the already unstable relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The U.S. has stood alone on several Cuba resolutions at the UN General Assembly, demonstrating a solitary position on embargoes and sanctions toward Cuba, as other countries leave the U.S. behind and seek to establish new relations. The EU dropped all sanctions and negotiated political dialogue. While the Obama Administration began interest in renegotiation with Cuba, the Trump Administration soured these efforts.

As Putin seeks to revive relations and deepen influence in Latin America, the U.S. threatens to withdraw from INF, and as Russia and Cuban military relations tighten, many politicians and military experts caution this may lead to an arms race.