CubaBrief: Putin invades Ukraine. Backed by the Castros in Cuba, Maduro in Venezuela, Ortega in Nicaragua and Assad in Syria. Havana blames USA.

Vladimir Putin violated Article I Section 2 of the UN charter when he invaded Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin unleashed a three-sided Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and “warned the international community that intervening would lead to “consequences you have never seen.” Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are being killed by Russian invaders.

Article I Section 2 of the United Nations Charter states:

” To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;”

Vladimir Putin’s full scale invasion of Ukraine, a democratic country with a people who have chosen to be Ukrainians, and have a history that stretches back centuries, is not only a crime against the people of Ukraine, but a violation of Article 1 Section 2 of the UN Charter.

The Russian dictator’s own statements reveal a desire to restore the Russian empire.

Kenyan Ambassador Martin Kimini in his statement before the UN Security Council, citing Africa’s own experience with colonialism and empire, made clear his country’s opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Just hours after Ukraine was invaded, Taiwan’s air force scrambled to warn off nine Chinese military aircraft that had entered its air defense zone. If Vladimir Putin is not called to account, further aggression will be committed around the globe.

For the moment, Putin is diplomatically isolated, although “Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Syria supported the Russian recognition of independence for the occupied regions in Luhansk and Donetsk,” reported Euronews.

Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian targets

Cuba and Syria are on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors, and Venezuela should be added to that list for narcotrafficking and the Soles Cartel, and harboring Middle East terrorist groups. Nicaragua, under Daniel Ortega, has back slid into a full blown dictatorship that murders students and journalists. These are natural Putin allies, because all four have a history of outlaw behavior.

Vladimir Putin meets with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Díaz-Canel outside Moscow on October 29, 2019. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Still Havana goes further than the others.

The Castro regime on February 23, 2022 blamed America for the crisis, and “urged the United States and NATO to respond ‘seriously and realistically’ to Russian demands for ‘security guarantees’ and called for a diplomatic solution as tensions over Ukraine reach fever pitch.”

With regards to Russia, this is not Havana’s first rodeo.

It is important to revisit the historical record. The Castro dictatorship backed the Russian invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Afghanistan in 1979.

Havana has long coordinated military and diplomatic efforts with Moscow.

“Castro’s apologia for the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968,” according to Charles Lane in The Washington Post was evidence that Castro was no liberator.

Cuba was one of nine non-aligned nations “that approved the Afghan invasion in a vote at the United Nations.” Despite this, in 1980 Fidel Castro was chairman of the 85-nation “nonaligned” bloc, but the reality continued to be Havana coordinating with Moscow.

Reporters without Borders activists demonstrate in Berlin in 2009 with images of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and Novaya Gazeta journalists Anastasia Baburova and Anna Politkovskaya. Photograph: Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images

Putin has a long track record of criminal behavior: poisoning and killing opponents and journalists, and turning Russia back into a full autocracy following an all too brief political opening.

However, the Castro regime, a close Russian ally, does not shy away from committing state terrorism.

A high profile and well documented example occurred in 1996.

On February 24, 1996 at 3:21pm and 3:27pm two Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down by two Cuban MiGs over international airspace killing four.

Two more MIG’s chased a third plane to within three minutes of downtown Key West, but the third Brothers to the Rescue plane returned and provided critical information on what had occurred.

In Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, 996 F.Supp. 1239 (S.D.Fla. 1997), a federal district court awarded the families of three of the four occupants of the “ Brothers to the Rescue” planes shot down by Cuba in 1996 a total of $187.7 million in damages against Cuba.

The February 24, 1996 shootdown was a premeditated act of state terrorism by Havana.

Jose Basulo (with blue shirt), Rene Gonzalez (seated), Juan Pablo Roque (standing)

Two Cuban intelligence agents (Rene Gonzalez, and Juan Pablo Roque) infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue, providing information to the Castro regime on the group, disinformation to the FBI, and their Cuban spy ring leader, Gerardo Hernandez warned the two infiltrated agents not to fly during a four-day period that included the day of the premeditated attack. Six days before the attack a Cuban pilot saw Cuban MiGs rehearsing the shoot down.  

The fictional character Sancho Panza observed in Miguel de Cervantes’s novel Don Quijote, “Tell me what company you keep, and I will tell you who you are.” Policymakers should take that into consideration when looking at Russia, Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Euronews, February 24, 2022


What’s really behind Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?

By Aleksandar Brezar & Orlando Crowcroft

Russian President Vladimir Putin – Copyright Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Europe woke up on Thursday to the news that Russian troops had advanced into Ukraine, as Vladimir Putin warned the international community that intervening would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law, broke off diplomatic relations with Russia and said that Ukraine had a millions-strong army ready to defend the country. He called on the international community to prepare an anti-Putin front to force Russia out of Ukraine.

European Union leaders will meet in Brussels later this evening after European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen promised severe sanctions on Russia. US President Joe Biden, who warned of a possible invasion for weeks, said he was meeting G7 leaders later on Thursday.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland agreed to hold consultations under NATO’s Article 4, which members of the alliance can do when they feel the territorial integrity or political independence of an ally is threatened, even when the ally is not a NATO member.

Putin has claimed that the invasion is intended to defend the populations of the occupied territories in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics, which claimed independence in 2014. On Monday, Putin formally recognised the independence of the two territories.

Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitro Kuleba said on Thursday morning that “this is not a Russian invasion only in the east of Ukraine, but a full-scale attack from multiple directions”.

But it was on Monday that Putin appeared to give an insight into his own beliefs about Ukraine and its links with Russia and the Soviet Union.

What does Putin think about Ukraine?

He claimed that Ukraine, an independent state of 44 million people and Europe’s largest country, was an artificial invention created by the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian revolution.

“Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia,” he said. “Lenin and his associates [severed] what is historically Russian land.”

Historians and experts on Eastern Europe branded it “incoherent”.

“It was illogical, revisionist hodgepodge,” said Tom Junes, a historian at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Junes said the speech was an apparent attempt to further scare Ukrainians.

People wave Russian national flags celebrating the recognising the independence in the centre of DonetskAlexei Alexandrov/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press.

Did the Soviet Union ‘invent’ Ukraine?

Ukrainians argue that the origins of their state dates from a millennia before anyone had even heard of the Bolsheviks, back to the Kyivan Rus’ and the acceptance of Christianity by Prince Volodymyr in 988.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the Ukrainian historian, has traced a clear thread between that state and those that eventually followed, such as the Hetmanate in the 17th century, and the Cossack kingdoms, said David Marples, a professor of Russian and East European history at the University of Alberta.

Ukrainian language and culture were suppressed in later periods prior to 1917, such as when Ukraine was under the yoke of Poland and Tsarist Russia.

But contrary to Putin’s claims, there were few Bolsheviks in Ukraine in 1917 and the period from 1918 to 1920 — after the withdrawal of the German army — was one of “total chaos”.

“There were about eight different governments before the Bolsheviks were able to occupy it. Even then, they established the capital at Kharkiv because Kyiv was not secure,” Marples said.

A view of the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, 24 February, 2022AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

In the early Soviet era, Ukraine was given more autonomy and restrictions were lifted on the Ukrainian language.

“In much of what Putin is saying — and this seems to be a pattern for a while — there are some elements of truth which he cherry-picks and mixes in with a nationalist reading of history,” said Junes.

But the fact that the Soviets at times gave more rights to Ukrainians does not equal inventing them, Junes added.

Additionally, Ukrainians were among the victims of Stalinist Russia, with the 1932-33 Holodomor famine killing between four and seven million people and significantly altering the demographics of the country.

Ukrainian communist deputies were forcibly moved to central Asian republics in 1930 and imposed Russification of the territory saw crackdowns on the Ukrainian language and culture under Stalin and later under Ukrainian Communist Party First Secretary Volodymyr Shcherbytsky.

Putin said during his speech that Ukrainians that reject the Soviet role in Ukraine were being “ungrateful”.

“Even on a factual level, this statement is wrong. The public debate on the Soviet past is often politicised and misconstrued not allowing room to understand the complexities, but Putin is taking distortion of the historical past to the next level,” Junes said.

Where are the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and why do they matter?

Claims made by Putin in his hour-long speech almost overshadowed his subsequent recognition of the independence of the two breakaway Ukrainian regions in the Donbas, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

It followed a vote by the Duma for Putin to recognise the two Russian-controlled regions, which in 2014 declared independence after the Russian annexation of Crimea.

The war between Ukraine and the separatists has since claimed around 14,000 lives, despite the ceasefire that followed two agreements in Minsk, Belarus.

Demonstrators sing the national anthem during a protest in Odessa, UkraineAP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Putin’s speech is the first time that Moscow openly admitted its involvement in the war, and the Duma’s approval of Russian military forces in the region ends any plausible deniability of the Kremlin’s complicity, Junes said.

“After eight years of denying their role in Donbas, they have finally stepped up and admitted that they are involved,” he said.

So, why does Putin say the things he says?

For Putin, Ukraine is the final piece of the ‘Greater Russia’ dream, which also includes Belarus.

But while Belarus’ strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko is a close ally, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have often been fraught since its independence in 1991 — reaching their peak in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea.

His claims about the history of Ukraine are part of a wider trend of historical revisionism across Europe, as right-wing governments and movements reinterpret history to fit new political narratives and bolster support.

But in practical terms, Putin’s greatest bugbear to achieving his goals has been NATO and its extension eastwards into what he considers to be Russia’s sphere of influence.

German Bundeswehr soldiers of the NATO enhanced forward presence battalion near Vilnius, LithuaniaMindaugas Kulbis/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press.

Putin has insisted that NATO non-expansion be formalised in a signed agreement, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said this accord could even include Romania and Bulgaria leaving the alliance.

Who supports Putin?

So far, only Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Syria supported the Russian recognition of independence for the occupied regions in Luhansk and Donetsk.

The EU was quick to dole out sanctions against Russia’s political leadership, including the likes of Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, announcing the full list on Wednesday night.

The US President Joe Biden issued another wide-ranging set of sanctions, targeting Russia’s sovereign debt and major financial institutions, as well as the country’s elites and their family members.

Germany also put Nord Stream 2’s approval on hold, blocking the €10-billion Russian-owned pipeline project indefinitely.

What do we have in return for these crippling sanctions?

Alexey Kovalyov

Investigative editor, Meduza

Do Russians agree with Putin?

Marples said that, unlike the annexation of Crimea in 2014, “few in Russia care about the DPR and LPR”.

Alexey Kovalyov, an investigative editor at Meduza, said many Russians were shell-shocked by Putin’s speech on Monday.

“We knew something was coming, something heavy, and it was the same uneasy feeling that we felt eight years ago — this kind of fatalistic resignation in many people where you know that things are going to get a lot worse than they already are,” he said.

Donetsk and Luhansk regions watch Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address at their temporary place in Rostov-on-DonAP Photo/Denis Kaminev

The sentiment in Russia is a far cry from the patriotic wave that swept many in the country in 2014, he said.

“Eight years ago, there was a lot of this uncanny, jingoistic patriotic rhetoric that was just shouting in your face about how great Russia is. There were stalls in the streets where people would sign up as volunteers [to fight in Donbas], or collection boxes with people pitching in money for their brethren in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

“There’s nothing of the sort now. People don’t care much about it.”

AFP, February 24, 2022

Cuba calls for US, NATO to address Russian demands


Ukrainian servicemen are seen at a position on the front line with Russia-backed separatists near the town of Schastia, near the eastern Ukraine city of Lugansk, on 23 February 2022.AFP

Cuba on Wednesday urged the United States and NATO to respond “seriously and realistically” to Russian demands for “security guarantees” and called for a diplomatic solution as tensions over Ukraine reach fever pitch.

Havana in a statement pointed to what it said was the United States’ “determination to impose the progressive expansion of NATO towards the borders of the Russian Federation” which it said constituted “a threat to the national security” of its ally.

“We call on the United States and NATO to address seriously and realistically the well-founded demands for security guarantees from the Russian Federation, which has the right to defend itself,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Cuba last week hosted Russia’s deputy prime minister Yury Borisov, who had previously visited Venezuela and Nicaragua, two other allies of Russia in Latin America.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s Duma or lower house of parliament, is to visit Havana later Wednesday.

Russia has amassed troops on the border with Ukraine, demanding guarantees that NATO will not expand its alliance eastward.

The Cuban statement said the United States — which has maintained crippling sanctions against the communist island nation for six decades — “has been threatening Russia for weeks” and “manipulating the international community” with an “anti-Russian propaganda campaign.”

A month ago, the leaders of Russia and Cuba held telephone talks to boost their countries’ “strategic association” and coordination on the international stage.

This came after Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, in an interview in December, did not rule out Moscow sending forces to allies Venezuela or Cuba if diplomacy over Ukraine failed.

US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan has described the remarks as “bluster.”

In Caracas, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday also expressed support for Russia.

“Venezuela announces its full support for President Vladimir Putin in the defense of peace in Russia, in the defense of the peace of the region,” he said in a meeting with ministers broadcast on TV.

And Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega on Monday accused the United States and Europe of “using Ukraine to provoke Russia,” which he said was merely “demanding security.”

The United States and the then-Soviet Union are considered to have come closest to nuclear war in 1962 when Moscow deployed ballistic missiles to Cuba, setting off crisis diplomacy.

While Washington increased sanctions at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting accusations of “cruelty” from Havana, Russia sent medical equipment and food.

On Tuesday, the Duma ratified a plan to restructure Cuban debt of $2.3 billion as the island nation battles its worst economic crisis in 27 years.

From the Archives

The Washington Post
, November 30, 2016

Castro was a false liberator

African Union Commission Chair Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma speaks during a memorial service for Fidel Castro. (Themba Hadebe/Associated Press)

By Charles Lane

November 30, 2016

Say what you want about Fidel Castro, in Africa he was a liberator. His aid to the South African anti-apartheid struggle will forever be remembered as a grand stroke of moral leadership, in great contrast to American policy.

That’s the theme of various sympathetic postmortems for the Cuban dictator, who died at 90 on Nov. 25.

Castro’s detractors express an “American-centric” view, the New York Times’ Pentagon correspondent, Helene Cooper, noted Sunday on “Meet the Press”: “The Castro that I grew up knowing as a child growing up in Liberia was a Castro who fought the South African apartheid regime that the United States was propping up.”

To be sure, it would be hard to exercise unchallenged rule over a country for nearly half a century without doing anything admirable. So stipulate that Castro’s Cold War-era backing of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, and his army’s war against South African troops in nearby Angola, belong on the plus side of history’s ledger.

Whether that mitigates Castro’s apologia for the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, his alliance with, and expressed admiration for, the East German builders of the Berlin Wall, or his support for Moammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela — not to mention the disastrous results of communism in Cuba itself — is a thornier question, however.

Answering it would require broader examination of Castro’s Cold War record in Africa, to include the eastern regions of the continent, where Cuba intervened militarily on behalf of the Ethio­pian dictator, Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, in the 1970s.

Mengistu participated in a successful military coup against the U.S.-backed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, eventually seizing power on Feb. 3, 1977, by massacring his rivals in the officer corps.

Castro admired this bloody deed as a preemptive strike against “rightists” that showed “wisdom” and cleared the way for Cuba to support Mengistu “without any constraints,” as he explained to East German dictator Erich Honecker in an April 1977 meeting whose minutes became public after the fall of European communism.

Castro hatched a plan to steer Ethi­o­pia into the Soviet camp in alliance with two Soviet-backed neighbors, southern Yemen and Somalia. However, Somalia’s dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, balked. He saw the upheaval in Addis Ababa differently: as an opportunity to seize Ethi­o­pian territory long inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

Somalia invaded this arid region, known as the Ogaden, in July 1977. Castro responded by sending 17,000 soldiers (armed and transported by Moscow) to save Mengistu and punish what was — as Castro correctly pointed out — a clear violation of international law by Siad Barre. Never mind that, to Somalis, Ethiopia’s borders were those of Haile Selassie’s defunct empire, which had split their ancestral land and enjoyed international recognition only due to Western imperial machinations.

At the time, President Jimmy Carter was pursuing better relations with Havana and even considering an end to the U.S. embargo. Cuban military intervention in Africa, predictably, made it impossible for Carter to pursue the opening. Castro didn’t mind that, either.

By March 1978, the Cubans had ousted the Somalis — and then stayed to deter Somalia (now armed by Washington) from trying again. With the Cuban forces watching his back, Mengistu wrapped up his bloody campaign of domestic repression, known as “the Red Terror,” and sent his own Soviet-equipped, Cuban-trained troops to crush a rebellion in Eritrea.

The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethi­o­pia until September 1989; they were still on hand as hundreds of thousands died during the 1983-1985 famine exacerbated by Mengistu’s collectivization of agriculture.

Abandoned by Havana (and Moscow), and facing a rebellion, Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe in 1991; dictator Robert Mugabe, another close friend of Cuba, granted him asylum.

Today, of course, the Horn of Africa remains tumultuous. Somalia is a failed state, which not even 25,000 U.S. troops could stabilize in the early 1990s. In Ethio­pia, Mengistu’s successors cooperate with the United States against terrorism, and the United States, in return, mostly tolerates their human rights abuses.

Looking back, it’s hard to see what lasting benefit, if any, Castro’s intervention achieved, though the sacrifice of Cuban blood and treasure 8,000 miles from home was certainly permanent.

What’s impressive, rather, is the senselessness of it all. Cuba brought no more order out of chaos in the Horn than the other, larger foreign powers — from the British Empire to Mussolini’s Italy to Barack Obama’s America — that have intervened over the centuries.

Perhaps Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, the soldier who actually led Cuba’s troops in the Ogaden (and, later, Angola), could find a moral to the story.

Alas, this hero of Cuba’s African wars died in 1989. Fearing that the popular general could become a political rival, Castro ordered him arrested and tried on trumped-up treason and drug charges — then shot at dawn.

The Washington Post, March 28, 1980

Cuba Offers Mediation In Afghanistan Crisis

By Dusko Doder

March 28, 1980

The Cuban foreign minister ended a surprise visit to Pakistan yesterday after offering President Fidel Castro’s mediation in the Afghan crisis in an apparently Soviet-backed move to help ease nonaligned and Moslem criticism of the Kremlin.

Details of Castro’s offer were not disclosed. But analysts here suggested that the Cuban leader, acting on behalf of the Kremlin, sought to mollify Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, who played a key role when an Islamic foreign ministers’ conference in January condemned the Soviet invasion and proclaimed an effective boycott of the Soviet-backed Afghan government.

U.S. officials said the mission of Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca was designed to salvage some of Cuba’s standing in the nonaligned movement. Cuba was among nine non-aligned nations that approved the Afghan invasion in a vote at the United Nations. The current chairman of the 85-nation nonaligned bloc is Castro.

Before visiting Pakistan, Malmierca visited the Soviet Union and Afghanistan, presumably to coordinate Castro’s diplomatic approach.

A Pakistani spokesman said Malmierca, who carried Castro’s message to Zia, conferred with the Pakistani president and his top foreign policy adviser Agha Shahi during his two-day visit to Islamabad.

Analysts here said the Cuban move appeared to be aimed primarily at encouraging a dialogue between Afghan leader Babrak Karmal and Zia before the next conference of Moslem foreign ministers that is to be held in Pakistan next month.

These analysts said that Moscow and Havana may be seeking to exploit Pakistan’s “wavering” following Zia’s rejection of an American offer of $400 million in economic and military assistance extended after the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Pakistanis initially maintained that the U.S. aid package was insufficient and sought more money.Later they insisted that it would not be prudent for Pakistan to depend for its security “on any single power” and stressed instead Pakistan’s nonaligned credentials.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry officials said Castro’s message to Zia outlined the Cuban leader’s desire to “serve the cause of peace and contribute toward a political solution of the problems which have arisen” following the invasion of Afghanistan.

Following Malmierca’s departure, Shahi told reporters that his government’s position “is based on the resolution adopted” at the January meeting of Moslem foreign ministers.

Apart from unanimously demanding an immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops, that conference also suspended Afghanistan’s membership in the Moslem group, leaving it virtually isolated except for the Soviet Bloc countries.

There was no information about the contents of Zia’s reply to Castro, which was handed to Malmierca before his departure. But the talks between the Cuban official and Zia were described as useful.

Since the soviet invasion, Moscow’s relations with Pakistan have deteriorated rapidly and the Soviets have accused Zia’s government of helping Afghan rebels in collusion with the United States and China.

A rebel organization in Pakistan yesterday claimed that Afghan insurgents have raided a government jail in the northeastern province of Kunduz and freed about 1,200 prisoners.

The Islamic Party’s statement said the raid was organized because several prominent rebel leaders in the jail had been scheduled for execution.