Sechin’s Summer Vacation in Cuba

sechin_cuba090108.jpg Igor Sechin, center, one of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s closest aides, walks through the historic center of Old Havana in late July. During the trip, Sechin met with Raul Castro in an event that was qualified by the local media as “cordial and friendly.” (Photo: EPA, Los Angeles Times) I had read about Igor Sechin’s peculiar diplomatic trip to Cuba earlier this summer, but today with all this talk of Russia’s renewed Cold War-like “spheres of influence,” it seemed like the ideal time to revisit the theme. According to Russia’s antiquated power politics reasoning for the war in Georgia, the United States should have the discretionary right to invade and occupy countries within its sphere of influence (such as Cuba and Venezuela) with little warning or consultation with the international community. Thankfully that is not the case. The Los Angeles Times has a new story about Russia-Cuba relations, which have once again deepened to the point of involving discussions of military and intelligence cooperation: “Why go out on a limb for Putin?” asked Latell, who has written a book, “After Fidel,” about Cuba’s political transition. “I’m not sure I can discern why the Cubans would want to get themselves wrapped around these great power issues.” Latell added, though, that he was ready to believe that the Cubans would cooperate on intelligence and would resume limited military contacts, such as refueling of aircraft. I also came across a new profile of Sechin published on Hii Dunia, retelling a very familiar story: The trial of Khodorkovsky, as is clear from Valerii Paniushkin’s book, was a parody of justice. The imprisonment of the tycoon inaugurated a new era of large-scale transfer of assets into public ownership. Sechin became Chairman of Rosneft in 2004 and Khodorkovsky was sentenced to jail the following year. Throughout Putin’s presidency Sechin continued to serve as Putin’s aide in the presidential administration. By 2007, Sechin’s company, Rosneft, eventually acquired the bulk of Yukos’s assets. Indeed, Khodorkovsky believes Sechin egged Putin on to destroy him and the company out of greed, though deference to his master’s wishes was probably just as powerful a motive. Incidentally, Sechin’s daughter is married to the son of Vladimir Ustinov, the Russian prosecutor who was involved in the Yukos case.