Strategic partnership in the making: Cuba and Russia plan long-term energy deal

Cuba’s Prime Minister Manuel Marrero (back left) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (opposite) in Moscow (Source: Twitter)

As reported by Russian media “Sputnik”, Cuba and Russia plan to start regular oil and fuel deliveries. The bilateral agreement envisages the delivery of 1.64 million tons per year from Russia’s state-owned Rosneft company, Prime Minister Marrero announced. The latter left last Tuesday for an extended state visit to the Russian Federation, during which he was received today by President Vladimir Putin.

“As you know, we have many problems, but we are aware that alternatives can be sought,” Marrero said at a reception hosted by the Cuban Embassy in Moscow. He expressed confidence “that new foreign exchange earnings and ways to boost the economy” would be found. “Our daily work is focused on moving forward and development,” Marrero said. During the meeting with Putin, the Russian President condemned U.S. sanctions against the island and reiterated Russia’s willingness “to do everything to ensure that our economic cooperation helps overcome these externally imposed difficulties”, a well-received signal for the Cuban delegation.

The visit included meetings of several working groups tasked with implementing previously agreed economic agreements. “Our energy minister was here and they, together with representatives of Rosneft, they did a very serious job in which we made progress on many issues,” Cuba’s prime minister said. The latest agreement is about “stable supplies” of oil to Cuba. Cuba’s electricity mix is largely based on oil, and Cuba also uses it to produce diesel, gasoline and kerosene at its own refineries.

Cuba’s economy is currently in the midst of a severe energy and fuel crisis. According to reports from the Reuters news agency, friendly Venezuela has recently increased its oil supplies from 45,250 to 58,100 barrels per day. The additional supply of 1.64 million tons should cover a good portion of Cuba’s basic consumption.

As part of the state visit, Marrero also attended a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union in Sochi, where the island has held observer status since 2020. For the upcoming legislature, Cuba will hold the temporary presidency of the body. On the sidelines of the meeting, Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin called Cuba a “key partner” in the region. Mishustin said the two countries’ relations are characterized by “friendship, solidarity and mutual respect.” “It is very important for us to revive cooperation in order to increase trade and investment, with a high priority given to long-term large-scale projects,” Mishustin said. For his part, Marrero condemned the sanctions imposed on Russia and criticized “the Russophobia that the West is trying to impose on the world, as well as the exclusion of Russia from international bodies.” Cuba is committed to a “just multipolar world order,” Marrero said.

Cuba and Russia have recently signed numerous agreements, and both countries speak of a “strategic partnership.” Among other things, Russia wants to boost Cuba’s tourism with half a million foreign guests. New resorts and hotel facilities are planned for this purpose. In addition, regular grain deliveries to secure basic supplies via the state-run “Libreta” procurement system have been agreed. Other agreements provide for the establishment of joint ventures for the sugar industry, the opening of a vehicle factory of the commercial vehicle manufacturer UAZ, a food and household goods business, and the interlinking of financial systems. After accepting Russian “Mir” cards in march, Cuba plans to allow ruble payments in restaurants and stores in the future to promote tourism and business contacts between the two countries. In addition, Cuba granted Russian investors special conditions, such as the lease of land for 30 years for usufruct and customs relief.

In 2022, the volume of trade between the two countries was 450 million, and in the first four months of this year there was a ninefold increase in the turnover of goods, according to reports by the Russian agency “Interfax.”

This article was first published on Cuba Heute, a German-language news portal.

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