Sociedad Jose Marti

sábado, agosto 02, 2008

Russians in Cuba again

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin arrived

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin arrived in Cuba on July 30 to
discuss Russian energy investments on the island with the Cuban leadership.

On the surface, this looks like any old state visit between the Russians and
the Cubans. But there are a number of reasons why this visit in particular
caught Stratfor’s attention.

First, the visit comes as Cuba has resurfaced as a source of geopolitical
friction between Russia and the United States. In recent days, a series of
rumors and denials on everything ranging from relocating Russian bombers to
Cuba to Russia setting up a small aerial refueling base on the island have
been making their way through the Russian press. While the Russians have not
made any concrete moves yet, the specter of Russia returning to the U.S.
periphery is more than enough to grab Washington’s attention.

Second, the Russian official who made the visit is none other than Sechin, a
longtime ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the leader of one
of Russia’s two major factions. Sechin is an enormously influential figure in
the Russian leadership. As a former KGB man, he commands the loyalty of
Russia’s powerful Federal Security Service (FSB). Moreover, as vice premier,
he has considerable oversight over the Russian energy industry and is (not by
coincidence) the boss of Russia’s giant state oil company Rosneft.

Sechin does not typically have such publicized visits. He is man who works in
the shadows as any former KGB official would. Not only has this visit been
publicized in both the Russian and Cuban press, but it was specifically
printed in the English-language Moscow Times, which is designed for Western
consumption. This visit was intended to grab the attention of the U.S.
administration, particularly Kremlinologists like U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice and segments of the CIA who were knee-deep in combating his
activities in Latin America during the Cold War — and are likely all too
familiar with Sechin’s history with the Cubans.

Washington is not going to be too comforted by the idea that Sechin is linking
up with his old drinking buddies on the island. During his decades-long stint
in the KGB during the Cold War, Sechin himself organized the Soviet Union’s
illegal arms transfers in Latin America and Africa, which involved him having
a close relationship with the Castro brothers. While Sechin is most certainly
discussing business during this visit (including talks on Russian firm LUKoil
building a refinery in Cuba to process Venezuelan heavy crude), this visit is
about much more than energy deals. Russia is signaling to the United States
that it may be ready to get aggressive again in Washington’s backyard, and
Russian leaders like Sechin are going to be the ones to lead this effort.

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