Cuba, Russia seek new post-Cold War relationship
From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman
HAVANA (CNN) -- The bear hug isn't as tight as it used to be, and gone
are the triple kisses on the cheek. Still the greeting between Cuba's President
Fidel Castro and Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was reminiscent of
the past -- of a time when Havana and Moscow were united in their
communist ideology and their animosity toward the United States.
Cuban and Russian leaders held closed-door talks Tuesday in an effort to
redefine their troubled post-Cold War relationship. Diplomats said Ivanov's
visit was focusing primarily on bilateral issues, but with discussion also of the
recent Kosovo conflict and the present crisis in Chechnya.
Trade and debt on the agenda
Pressing bilateral concerns include a trade deal to exchange Cuban sugar
Russian oil and Cuba's disputed outstanding debt, which Russia inherited
from the former Soviet Union.
"It's evident that taking into account the wealth accumulated in the many
years of relations between both nations, it's logical that the ties between
Cuba and Russia continue to develop," said Ivanov.
The Russian foreign minister's visit came exactly one decade after relations
between both countries plummeted with the visit to Cuba by Mikhail
Gorbachev, who came here to tell Castro to change his economic and
political system, ironically just as the Soviet Union was about to collapse.
After enjoying one of the firmest Cold War alliances, the special relationship
between Havana and Moscow ended abruptly with the collapse of the
Soviet bloc at the start of the 1990s.
Cuban economy hangs on
The end to favorable trade and Soviet aid that once propped up Cuba's
ailing economy has helped plunge Cuba into an abyss -- an economic crisis
dubbed by some Cuban authorities as a "Special Period in Time of Peace"
-- from which it is still struggling to emerge.
Despite almost all predictions, Cuba's economy has survived. Some would
argue it is even healthier than Russia's.
While the Cold War that once thrust both nations together is behind them,
Russia and Cuba once again are finding common ground.
"Cuba and Russia support a multipolar world order," said Ivanov. "We
support the charter of the United Nations and respect for international law."
But anyone expecting Havana to follow Moscow's path on the ideological
front will have to keep waiting. Cuba's leadership never tires of pointing to
the economic and political chaos in Russia as an argument against the sort of
reform that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.