The Miami Herald
December 15, 2000

Putin promises friendship to Castro but little aid

 Associated Press

 HAVANA -- Reviving a friendship that withered after the collapse of the Soviet
 Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Thursday with his Cuban
 counterpart, Fidel Castro, promising little by way of economic aid but pledging to
 strengthen ties.

 ``We decided we will build a relationship between our countries based upon the
 warm feelings and high-level relations that already exist,'' Putin said after their
 morning meeting. ``We agreed to give a new push to solving problems that have
 piled up during the last years.''

 But the only solid economic agreement between the leaders was $50 million in
 commercial credit from Russia -- an amount that pales in comparison to the
 multibillion-dollar subsidies of the Soviet era.

 The generous Soviet-era aid to Cuba ended abruptly in the early 1990s when
 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev cut subsidies shortly after his 1989 visit to Cuba.
 He added to the insult by deciding to withdraw Soviet troops without consulting

 Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Putin's predecessor, never even visited

 Putin has made a point of restoring ties with old Soviet allies alienated by his
 predecessor. There were none of the bearhugs and kisses typical during Soviet
 times, but Putin extolled the old friendship and pledged to strengthen it.

 ``We must clearly and precisely realize what in our relationship has perspective
 and what is the heritage of the past,'' Putin said.

 Russian and Cuban officials signed agreements in the economic, legal and
 medical spheres but failed to reach a solution on uncompleted Soviet-era projects
 in Cuba that would cost billions of dollars to finish. Nor did they agree on how to
 lower Cuba's $11 billion Soviet-era debt to Russia.

 But the two leaders found common ground in international politics, discussing the
 need to develop the multipolar world -- a reference to what they see as U.S.
 attempts at global domination. In a joint statement, they condemned the United
 States' economic embargo against Cuba.

 Meeting at the Palace of the Revolution, Putin and Castro also agreed to further
 political dialogue, economic cooperation and trade.