The Cuban government does support Russia's right to defend itself, but the strategy...?

Notably, the Cuban government was silent about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s armed incursion into Ukraine’s separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which he recognized as independent, self-proclaimed republics. The rebel-controlled areas are not mentioned in Cuba’s statement.

“The Cuban position is that Russia’s concerns about NATO expansion are justified, but the Foreign Ministry conspicuously does not endorse Russia’s military action, instead emphasizing Cuba’s support for a diplomatic solution to the crisis,” said American University professor William LeoGrande, an expert on Cuban affairs. “Cuba does not recognize the two breakaway states or even mention them.”

“Cuba has always argued that Great Powers have no right to use force against small powers in order to maintain a sphere of influence — not surprisingly since they endured hostile relations with the United States for more than 60 years,” LeoGrande said. “The Cuban position tried to balance that principle with the realpolitik importance of its relationship both with Russia and the EU.”

The statement avoids criticism of NATO members and blames the U.S. for “imposing the progressive expansion of NATO towards the borders of the Russian Federation,” which the Cuban government sees as a “threat to the national security of this country and regional and international peace.”

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It is true that the Cuban declaration following the Russian military operation in Ukraine does not specifically endorse the Russian action; and on March 2, Cuba abstained from the UN resolution calling for Russian cessation of its military operation, and the discourse of its representative simply affirmed Cuba’s commitment to the principal of non-interference in the affairs of states.

But the position of the Cuban government is far from neutral, inasmuch as the Cuban declaration affirms Russia’s stated reasons for its military operation, thereby standing against the narrative of the West. The declaration of the Cuban government declares that “it is impossible to examine with rigor and honesty the present situation in Ukraine, without evaluating at length the just demands of the Russian Federation to the United States and NATO and the factors that led to the use of force and the non-observance of legal principles and international norms to which Cuba subscribes and fully supports.” The declaration goes on to say that “it was an error to ignore for decades the just demands for security guarantees of the Russian Federation and to assume that country would remain defenseless in the face of a direct threat to its national security. Russia has the right to defend itself.” This is practically saying that Russia was justified in ignoring the rules. At the same time, the declaration notes that the United States and some of its allies have ignored the rules on multiple occasions, invading sovereign states for the purpose of regime change, and interfering in the affairs of states that do not submit to its interests. “Cuba rejects hypocrisy and double standards.”

The Cuban declaration criticizes the United States and NATO (and therefore NATO members) for the progressive NATO expansion to the Russian border. It describes the NATO expansion as driven by U.S. insistence, and it holds the United States primarily responsible, but these true statements do not imply that NATO members are not also responsible. Indeed, the statement criticizes NATO, without mentioning the USA, for its recent decision to activate its Response Force.

Cuba has had strained relations with the European Union in the past, concerning, if I recall correctly, Cuban non-compliance with the norms of Western representative democracy (having developed alternative structures of people’s democracy). In that situation, Cuba showed no hesitancy in criticizing the EU, even in the face of sanctions imposed (which have since been eliminated via negotiation between Cuba and the EU). The conflict in Ukraine does not really involve the European Union, an economic union; it concerns the territorial expansionism of the US-European military alliance (NATO).

In a March 9 article in QuincyInst.org, William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University in Washington, interprets the Cuban position on Ukraine in the context of the historic relation between Cuba and the Soviet Union and the dilemmas that the relation sometimes posed for Cuba. But the world context today is different. Cuba, along with other developing nations constructing socialism (China, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua) plus the Islamic Republic of Iran and Russia are in the vanguard of an anti-imperialist movement to construct a more just world based on cooperation among all nations, moving beyond a system of competing imperialisms among world powers. The Russian military action placed all these anti-imperialist allied nations in a similar situation. They are aware that the aggressive imperialism of the North American military alliance, led by the USA, gave Russia limited options. However, they would not want to openly defend a unilateral military action by any nation, even if justified, because of their continuous criticisms of the USA and NATO for their repeated efforts to resolve conflicts through force.

The common situation of the anti-imperialist vanguard nations is reflected in the March 2 General Assembly vote calling for the cessation of Russian military operations in Ukraine. Cuba, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Iran abstained, along with twenty-nine other nations, including Vietnam, India, South Africa, Angola, El Salvador, Laos, and Tanzania. Five nations voted no: Russia, Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, and Syria.

The carefully worded Cuban declaration does indeed reflect a balance of concerns. Its cooperative relation with Russia. Its strong ties of solidarity with the peoples of both Russia and Ukraine. Its commitment to anti-imperialist principles and its leadership role in a world anti-imperialist movement, in cooperation with China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Iran and Russia. The commitment of Cuba and the world anti-imperialist movement to the principle of the peaceful resolution of conflicts. And Cuba never would want to needlessly provoke further aggressive action from the United States. Taking these various considerations into account, it put forth a balanced and responsible statement, supporting Russia but not stoking the flames of conflict. The Cuban media and academics, on the other hand, are less constrained.

William LeoGrande is considered an expert on Cuba in the United States, but he is not generally so recognized in Cuba. I have had problems with his interpretations on this and other issues.

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What if...NYT published these maps...what if...

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Mar 2, 2022Liked by Charles McKelvey

i am not surprised and am really glad Cuba is standing by Russia. The map you have provided is proof of what has been happening in Europe, surrounding Russia with NATO missiles. The problem is the US and NATO and EU don't like their game to be disclosed to the public, which Russia is doing now. All they can think of is Europeans are suffering, European refugees etc. Unbelievably racist comments about Europeans being attacked lie they were Syrians or Iraqis. I cant believe people's short sightedness regarding the history of the region, including from so called Marxists. People do see Russia as the problem and i am wondering where do they learn their history?

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Thank you very much, Deepika, for your comment. I too was impacted by the maps. It reminded me of what Putin said: “All you have to do is look at the map.” Moreover, I found the maps in the Cuban daily newspaper, reflecting the effort of the Cuban media to educate the people concerning what is right and wrong in this situation on the other side of the world, and what the Cuban position ought to be.

There is such a difference between Russian military action in Ukraine and U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia is seeking control of the region where Russian people live adjacent to its borders, and preventing Ukraine from being used as launching platform for NATO attacks against Russia; whereas the USA was seeking control of natural resources and economic activities in the region. It is the difference between armed self-defense and imperialist military aggression, and the Cuban media attempts to explain this difference to its people, whereas the U.S. media is complicit with corporate interests in seeking to confuse the people. I think this is why many of our people, including Marxists and leftists, are confused.

If a more just world comes into being, it will understand the difference, and it will judge accordingly. Perhaps this is what Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez had in mind when he said that “history will demand of the government of the United States that it take responsibility for its doctrine of a growing military offensive beyond the borders of NATO.”

The commitment of Cuba to principles is impressive. Cuba could negotiate with the United States a softening of the blockade in exchange for Cuban support, or at least silence, with respect to U.S. foreign policy initiatives. But it does not do so. Cuba believes that its foreign policy pertains to its sovereignty, and as Fidel said, “the sovereignty of the nation is not subject to negotiation.”

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