In the wake of Russia’s war with Ukraine, the Kremlin is strengthening its partnerships with Cuba and Venezuela. The move comes as President Joe Biden and other world leaders voted to invite Finland and Sweden into NATO.
For decades, the U.S. has had a complicated relationship with the two Latin American nations. However, economic pressures and a need for more oil have made the countries a new priority for the Biden administration and Moscow.
“It’s a geo-strategic chess game,” said Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University in Miami. “Russia is not the Soviet Union. It doesn’t have the same objectives, the same goals and it doesn’t represent, in the case of Cuba and Venezuela, the same geostrategic threat they used to represent during the Cold War.”
Russia and Cuba’s relationship
Cuba does not have much to offer Russia economically, but Arcos said its proximity to the U.S. is favorable to Moscow.
“They are just exploiting circumstances that arise while they are busy doing other business around in order to keep the United States paying attention or shifting attention to other places,” Arcos said.
Russia and Venezuela’s relationship
Venezuela, unlike Cuba, is rich in oil and minerals.
“Russia, of course, it’s not after the oil,” Arcos said “They have enough. Venezuela’s riches go far beyond that, and right now, the Russians, for example, have been reported to be taking planeloads of gold from Venezuela to Russia.”
Arcos also downplayed any warnings that Russia may deploy its troops to Venezuela.
Biden loosens sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba
In March, senior U.S. officials went on a secret trip to Venezuela and met with dictator Nicolas Maduro to negotiate the release of two Americans and to talk oil.
In recent months, the Biden administration has eased sanctions on the country and those connected to the Maduro regime.
The administration also reversed a Trump-era policy limiting flights to Cuba.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this move is “in support of the Cuban people, and in the foreign policy interests of the United States.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON: AS RUSSIA CONTINUES TO WAGE WAR IN UKRAINE, THE WEST IS BOLSTERING ITS PARTNERSHIPS.
ABC NEWS ANCHOR: “Historic moves at a NATO summit in Madrid. President Biden and other leaders formally inviting Finland and Sweden now to join the alliance.”
JOHNSON: THESE ALLIANCES ARE PUTTING PRESSURE ON PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN – FORCING THE KREMLIN TO LOOK OUTSIDE EUROPE AND TIGHTEN TIES WITH LATIN AMERICAN ALLIES.
NEWS NATION ANCHOR: “And fresh concerns a little bit closer to home after a top diplomat would not rule out the possibility of Russian troops being deployed to Cuba or Venezuela.”
JOHNSON: AMERICA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH CUBA AND VENEZUELA IS COMPLEX.
AND LIKE A SWINGING PENDULUM – CAN SHIFT WITH EACH ADMINISTRATION.
NOW – ECONOMIC PRESSURES AND A PUSH FOR MORE OIL HAVE MADE THE TWO COUNTRIES A POLITICAL PRIORITY.
SO WHAT ARE RUSSIA’S INTENTIONS HERE? LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT.
SEBASTIAN ARCOS: “It’s more of a geostrategic chess game.”
SEBASTIAN ARCOS IS THE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF THE CUBAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE AT FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY IN MIAMI.
ARCOS: “Russia is not the Soviet Union. It doesn’t have the same objectives, the same goals and it doesn’t represent, in the case of Cuba and Venezuela, the same geostrategic threat they used to represent back during the Cold War.”
JOHNSON: CUBA DOESN’T HAVE A LOT TO OFFER ECONOMICALLY. THE MARKETS ARE IN SHAMBLES AND THEY CAN’T PAY ANY OF ITS DEBT.
BUT ARCOS SAYS ITS [CUBA’S] PROXIMITY TO THE U-S IS FAVORABLE TO RUSSIA AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP IS STRICTLY POLITICAL.
ARCOS: “They are just exploiting circumstances that arise while they are busy doing other businesses around in order to keep the United States paying attention, or shifting attention to other places.”
JOHNSON: What’s so special about Venezuela that Russia would want to have any influence or any dealings with the country?]
ARCOS: Venezuela, as I said before, it’s a very rich country. It has the largest non-deposits of oil in the world. Russia, of course, it’s not after the oil. They have enough. Venezuela’s riches go far beyond that. And right now, the Russians, for example, have been reported to be taking planeloads of gold from Venezuela into Russia.”
JOHNSON: MILITARILY, ARCOS IS DOWNPLAYING ANY WARNINGS THAT RUSSIA MAY DEPLOY ITS TROOPS TO VENEZUELA AND POSES ANY SERIOUS THREATS TO THE U-S.
IN MARCH, SENIOR U-S OFFICIALS WENT ON A TOP-SECRET TRIP TO THE COUNTRY.
THE GROUP MEETING WITH DICTATOR NICOLAS MADURO TO NEGOTIATE THE RELEASE OF TWO DETAINED AMERICANS AND TALK OIL.
THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION FOLLOWED UP BY EASING SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA AND THOSE CONNECTED TO THE MADURO REGIME.
AND IN A SIGN THAT RELATIONS MAY BE IMPROVING – IN CUBA, AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHTS ARE TO RESUME AFTER THE REVERSAL OF A TRUMP-ERA POLICY.
SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN SAYS THIS MOVE IS “IN SUPPORT OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE, AND IN THE FOREIGN POLICY INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES.”