Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cuba's emerging leverage

When US Congress approved some US$42 million in aid destined to Cuba on 22 July, it was a concrete signal. Relations between the two countries are likely to improve over time despite the staunchly anti-Castro contingent that retains a powerful voting block in southern Florida.

Raul Castro is well aware of this future. And while he is willing to play hard ball with Washington, he knows the potential FDI upshot from the US could be beneficial to his people, Cuba's economy, and ultimately his regime.

Raul is also aware that Russia is keen to improve relations. His three-day visit with Sachin erased any doubt that Moscow is eager to invest in Cuba's energy and medical resources. Havana has long been interested in becoming a refining hub in the region, and is eager to complete the LUKoil deal to have the Russian energy firm refine Venezuelan heavy crude for domestic use and, perhaps, export to the US.

Cuba is in the middle with each hand on two heavy geopolitical levers. By applying the right amount of pressure, the country can certainly benefit from both relationships. Too much pressure on either side, and Cuba risks losing one or both connections. In the end, however, the island nation will stick to its historical roots – maintain sovereignty and some dignity no matter what the cost.

"Cuba's attitude is 'We'll take your money, but that doesn't mean we'll do what you want,'" Erikson said, adding, "Frankly, I don't see Russian power projection in the Caribbean or in the rest of Latin America." International Relations and Security Network.