Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Cuba’s resilience in the face of U.S. pressure as he hosted his Cuban counterparts for talks Tuesday on expanding cooperation between the old allies.
Putin told Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel that Russia has always remained supportive of Cuba.
“It’s not easy to solve economic and social issues in the conditions that Cuba finds itself in, but you have done it successfully,” he said. “We are glad to see the strengthening of the Cuban state.”
Russian-Cuban ties are still far from the Cold War era of near-total Cuban dependence on the Soviet bloc, which saw the island as a forward operating base in the Americas then largely abandoned it in the 1990s. But observers of Cuban and Russian foreign policy say there is a significant warming between the former partners, prompted in part by the Trump administration’s reversal of President Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba.
Cuba and Russia are also heavily supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom the U.S. has been trying to overthrow.
Speaking to Putin, Díaz-Canel said his government considers developing ties with Russia its top priority and hailed a recent visit by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. “We observe the growing role of Russia that resists the U.S. attempts at domination,” he added.
The Cuban leader on Tuesday also met separately with Medvedev for talks on boosting economic ties.
Russian-Cuban trade has more than doubled since 2013, to an expected $500 million this year, mostly in Russian exports to Cuba. Over the past year Russia has sent Cuba 1,000 minibuses, 50 locomotives, tens of thousands of tourists and a promise to upgrade the island’s power grid with a multimillion-dollar improvement plan.
Neither country provides many details about their improving relations, but Russian products being exported to Cuba include new-model Lada automobiles and Kamaz trucks. There’s a new Cuban-Russian joint venture to produce construction materials, and when Medvedev visited Cuba this month, he inaugurated a petroleum products plant and signed deals to repair three Soviet-era power plants.