The Miami Herald
December 13, 2000

 Putin urges revival of Russian ties with Cuba

 MOSCOW -- (AP) -- Russia should move quickly to revive economic ties with
 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 Wednesday
 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 and instead
 wants practical deals that will benefit Russian business.

 ``Unfortunately for us, in the years when our economic contacts collapsed, many
 important aspects of our mutual activity were squandered, and the position of
 Russian enterprises were taken by foreign competitors,'' Putin said on the ORT
 television channel.

 Russian trade with Cuba now totals about $1 billion per year, Putin said,
 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 cross U.S.
 airspace but is not scheduled to make a stopover, the presidential press service
 said Tuesday.