The Miami Herald
September 29, 1999

Russian official: Cuban debts no obstacle to relations

 HAVANA -- (AP) -- The billions of dollars Cuba still owes Russia have not
 impeded relations between the two countries, visiting Foreign Minister Igor S.
 Ivanov said Tuesday.

 Ivanov told a news conference that the debts, reportedly around dlrs 20 billion,
 were not discussed during his talks earlier in the day with President Fidel Castro
 and other high-ranking Cuban officials.

 ``That's an issue to be debated by the finance ministers'' of both countries, said
 Ivanov. He said Tuesday's talks were political discussions meant to set the tone
 for continuing dialogue between Cabinet-level ministers of both countries.

 When Russia joined a group of Western lenders two years ago, it gained greater
 bargaining power for collecting the estimated dlrs 120 billion it had earlier loaned
 Cuba, Iraq, Iran and other nations.

 For three decades Cuba depended economically on the Soviet Union and its
 eastern communist allies, and counted on their protection from the neighboring
 United States at the height of the Cold War.

 With the collapse of the Soviet bloc at the turn of the decade, socialist Cuba saw
 some 40 percent of its aid and trade vanish. That plunged Cuba into an economic
 crisis, forcing it become more financially independent.

 Russia, the most powerful of the former Soviet republics, resumed commercial
 relations with Cuba in recent years. A sense of responsibility toward Cuba
 apparently remains in Russia. Russian officials also seem keen on having Cuban
 officials adopt their new multipolar view in the world, which places less emphasis
 on the United States as a world power.

 ``Russia supports helping get rid of the remaining remnants of the Cold War and a
 resumption in Cuba-American relations,'' Ivanov said.