Putin urges revival of Russian ties with Cuba
MOSCOW -- (AP) -- Russia should move quickly to revive economic
Cuba or risk losing out economically to other countries already moving onto the
island, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview aired Tuesday.
Putin spoke to Russian and Cuban media ahead of his planned visit
to the former Soviet ally, the first by a Russian leader since the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991.
Russia should use its relations with Cuba as a bridge to revive
contacts with other
Latin American nations, Putin said.
He emphasized that Russia has no ideological agenda in the region
wants practical deals that will benefit Russian business.
``Unfortunately for us, in the years when our economic contacts
important aspects of our mutual activity were squandered, and the position of
Russian enterprises were taken by foreign competitors,'' Putin said on the ORT
Russian trade with Cuba now totals about $1 billion per year,
according to the Interfax news agency. This is well down from about $3.6 billion in
For the Soviet Union, Cuba -- only 90 miles from the U.S. coast
-- was a strategic
outpost and ideological ally worth subsidizing. About 20 percent of Cuba's gross
national product is estimated to have come from Soviet subsidies.
Meanwhile, Putin said in the interview he hopes for positive relations
with the new
U.S. presidential administration regardless who wins the disputed election.
``We expect that the new U.S. administration, whoever heads it,
will use all the
positive things achieved in Russian-U.S. relations in recent years, including those
in the international security spheres,'' Putin said, according to Interfax.
Putin is scheduled to fly to Canada after visiting Cuba, and will
airspace but is not scheduled to make a stopover, the presidential press service