It’s been 51 yrs since the Cuban missile crisis caused America to almost go to nuclear war with Russia. And while we aren’t likely see a return of the Cold War, it is newsworthy to note Russia’s recent naval visit to Cuba. With little fanfare from the press, Russia just sent a cruiser, a destroyer accompanied by a tanker to the port in Havana. The visit is described as being a message of “goodwill”, of course. To further strengthen ties with the island, Russia announced $30 billion dollars of debt relief that was previously owed to them by Cuba. As a country, Cuba has obvious geopolitical significance to Russia because of its close proximity to America’s east coast, let alone our long-standing icy relationship with Cuba. Let’s be honest, Russia naval vessels near the Alaskan coastline doesn’t raise eyebrows the same way as having them near Florida.
The naval visit is probably Putin making sure Cuba doesn’t forget about its powerful ally to the east. It’s not as if Cuba has a lot of friends in the world outside of South America anyway. It’s also Putin’s way of sending a clear and unequivocal reminder to the U.S, in case we somehow forgot, about the reach of the Russian military. Putin has consistently remained defiant in the face of pressure from the Obama administration on various key issues. Whether it’s the Snowden debacle, political support for Iran, to providing military aid to the Assad regime, Putin increasingly flexes muscle’s (no pun intended) with the sole intent of reminding America that Russia is still a world super power with clout.
So much attention has been paid to China’s global economic expansion that it’s easy to forget about the big bear in the east. It shouldn’t be forgotten though, that Russia currently produces more oil than any country in the world followed by Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Iran and China. Their oil boom did more to line the pockets of elites in Moscow than all their former occupations ever could. Oil makes Russia rich and relevant enough to project military might internationally once again. To be clear, Russia has never tried to match America’s capitalistic prowess. It simply isn’t their strong suit, since Russians aren’t exactly the most charismatic or ethical business partners to deal with. Although, it is interesting that one of them owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. No need to yell “The Russians are Coming” just yet though. Instead, their strategy has always been built upon showing themselves as an American political substitute in the world, a conflict broker and still a major weapons exporter. They remain a constant thorn in any American President, partly because Russia is second behind the U.S. as being the world’s largest arms exporter.
Now as far as this visit to Cuba is concerned, it would be irrational to overstate the recent visit to Havana as a being a Kennedy era crisis. The nightmarish idea of shared mutual destruction is pretty well establish as pure insanity where no one emerges as a winner. Instead, what could be developing to replace the former Cold War, will look more like a Chill War with philosophical and political disagreements vs. open threats of annihilation.