Thursday, August 28, 2008


Another Cold War Brewing?

There has been increased rattling about Russia wanting to “restore” its position in Cuba, referring not only to trade and economic cooperation predominant in the island´s economy back in the 80s, but still farther back to the times of the “October Missile Crisis”.

The return of that ghost to Washington corridors responds, in my opinion, to the every day nearer situation when Cuba´s oil wealth in the Gulf of Mexico will be untapped.

But criminals, as the saying goes, think everyone is of their kind and White House gurus say Russia plans a military comeback to Cuba because it wants to get even with the United States for the missile defense shield it is setting up in Eastern Europe.

So-called experts on Russia and Cuba policy in Washington go as far as taking for a fact that cooperation between Moscow and Havana include use of the Caribbean nation as a refueling stop for long-range bombers and for reconnaissance ships and aircraft, as well as reopening the surveillance facility at Lourdes, near Havana.

For one, the buildings once venues to the Soviet monitoring facility are now home to the University of Computer Sciences (UCI). On the other hand, Cuba is not prone to give the US an excuse for war as was confirmed by the abandoned dream to build a nuclear plant.

Another thing is the still numerous industries in Cuba equipped with outdated technology of the Soviet era, transportation parks and others that Russia is eager to update with more efficient and modern equipment, including the military sector.

The visit to Havana last July of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin was considered by some analysts as a confirmation of Washington´s worries, but in fact it was investment-related. Talks dealt mainly with the possibility of Russian Zarubezhneftgas taking part in exploration for oil and gas in Cuba´s Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf and the generation of electricity.

As the Russian economy becomes more solid, Moscow is also interested to expand its trade and economic relations with Latin America, goal in which Cuba can become a springboard for Russian deals with the continent.

Since 2001, when a door opened –though not widely- to US sales of agricultural products to Cuba, the island has scaled up its importance in the US export market that sells foodstuff to Cuba for $600 million or more each year.

More recently, the US government added restrictions to these operations, bringing the flow down to a trickle, to the dismay of US agribusiness and shipping companies, but it has been all the same lifesaving to many small and medium US companies.

The stone in the shoe for Washington, however, seems to be the huge potential of oil reserves located deep offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, which the Cuban government has opened to foreign risk capital including US companies. Alas, the latter are forbidden by their government to take part in the rush.

Companies from near and far have concession parcels in the area. As far as China, Vietnam, India and Russia, close by like PDVSA and Petrobras and in-between like Norway and Spain have their share in this modern gold rush.

As world fossil fuel reserves are dropping fast, and powers like the United States invade countries with oil at the head of their arguments list, it is not hard to imagine the increasing pressure there will be surrounding the drilling in Gulf waters.

Let´s hope then for victory of peace and fair business over a cold war with scrambles, dirty deals, sabotage and aggressions. But then in Cuba, we are accustomed to that over the last 50 years.

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