Cuba holds key role in Russia’s Latin American policy

December 26th, 2008 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Havana, Dec 26 (RIA Novosti) Russian-Cuban relations will serve as the starting point of Moscow’s expanding friendship with the entire Latin American region, the Russian envoy to Cuba said Friday. “Cuba holds a key role” in Russia’s foreign policy because Cuba “has much authority and a lot of influence in the region”, Mikhail Kamynin told Ria Novosti during an interview.

The diplomat noted that much more than a bilateral relationship, cooperation with Cuba is also a stepping stone to closer Russian ties with other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

According to Kamynin, Russia and Cuba have always had good relations and this year was particularly notable for the multifarious bilateral activities in practically all spheres.

“One of the key moments that characterised our relations on a new level was, undoubtedly, the official visit to Havana by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the end of November,” the ambassador said. The visit was the first by a Russian leader since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Kamynin expressed his confidence that 2009 would prove to be “just as dynamic in character” as 2008 was.

Preliminary estimates show that trade between Russia and Cuba in 2008 will be close to $400 million, according to the ambassador. “There was also an increase in Russian tourists coming to Cuba. This year, there were approximately 40,000 Russian tourists,” he said.

The recent port call of the Russian Northern Fleet’s Admiral Chabenko to Havana in mid-December should not be looked at as simply cooperation between the countries’ armed forces, Kamynin noted.

“This was a huge political event that supplemented other important events within the framework of bilateral relations (in 2008) and demonstrated that Russia has returned to Cuba with all seriousness and for a long time to come,” he said.

Cuban President Raul Castro had told the ambassador that such visits should become regular occurrences.

In the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, relations between Moscow and Havana almost snapped and cultural relations suffered most, the envoy said.

“More than 100,000 Cubans received their education in the USSR back in the 1960s-1980s and Russian was taught as a foreign language in all Cuban schools,” he said.

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