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Reviewing the Russia-Venezuela-Cuba-China-Iran nexus

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Jaime Suchlicki, Director of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, has a paper summarising the Russia-Venezuela-Cuba-China-Iran relationship entitled, “The Cuba-Venezuela Challenge to Hemispheric Security: Implications for the United States.”

Most of it will not come as news to regular readers of this blog, but I thought it worth reviewing principally because it aggregates in one place a timeline of certain undeniable facts that hold regardless of what one’s political orientation is, not to mention the recent $3.2 billion trade deal between Venezuela and Cuba, as well as Bret Stephen’s take on the Venezuela-Iran in the Wall Street Journal

With regard to Russia’s role, Suchlicki outlines the following:

In September of 2006, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov visited Cuba and signed an economic aid pact providing Raúl Castro with $350 million in credits to upgrade Cuba’s armed forces, including the acquisition of Russian transportation equipment, air navigation systems, industrial goods for the energy sector and the financing of future Russian investments in Cuba. Fradkov explained that the credits did not imply the sale of specific Russian military equipment. “This means,” explained Fradkov, “that Cuba will pay Russia directly for military equipment.”

In 2007 the Cubans purchased seven Russian passenger planes. The Russian leasing company, Ilyushin Finance, sold two TU-204 and three An-148 planes to Cuba’s Aviamport S.A. Previously, Ilyushin had delivered three Il-96-300 and two Tu-204 air liners to Cuba. The An-148 is designed for passenger, cargo/passenger and cargo transportation. The Tu-204 is also designed as a passenger/cargo plane. Cuba agreed to buy $100 million per year in civilian aircraft over the next seven years, including the An-148 planes.

In July 2008, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin visited Cuba. The delegation included Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, Communications and Media Minister Igor Shchegolev, Education and Science Minister Andrey Fursenko and Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev. The visit coincided with a variety of statements by Russian politicians and military leaders about possible responses to U.S. deployment of missile defenses in Europe. These included the possibility of stationing strategic bombers in Cuba. After Russian newspaper Izvestia discussed the deployment of strategic bombers to Cuba, and Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, stated that this “would cross a red line,” the Cubans complained they had not been consulted. Even Fidel Castro wrote one of his “reflexiones” praising his brother Raúl for rejecting Russia’s request. Despite these Cuban denials, Patrushev met with Cuba’s defense and interior ministers. After the trip, the Russian Council issued a statement confirming that the two countries planned “consistent” work to restore traditional relations in all areas of cooperation.”

Anatoly Isaikan, head of Rosoboronexport, who also visited Cuba in July 2008, declared in the state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that Russia planned to export weapons in excess of $6 billion in 2008. “Among the new markets,” Isaikan said, “are Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Cuba.” The type, quantity and cost of these Cuba purchases are not known at this time.

The next month, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reiterated the need for Russia “to rebuild its ties with Cuba.” “We need,” said Putin, “to re-establish positions in Cuba and other countries.”

In September 2008, Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia’s Space Agency (Roskosmos), mentioned that Russia would be willing to transfer to Cuba “the necessary technologies to establish a space center on the island.” Perminov added that during discussions with Cuban officials, they reviewed agreements “signed two months earlier.” “The purpose,” he said, “is to prepare agreements toward the use of space for civilian purposes and to develop Glonass, the system for space navigation.”

The Lourdes electronic eavesdropping facility near Havana, which Soviet Union built to spy on American military and gather technological secrets, was closed in 2001.

Cuba’s debt to Russia from the Soviet era amounts to approximately $20 billion.

In the past two years, Hugo Chávez has purchased over $6 billion in Russian weapons.

Access the full paper here.