Economic Statecraft
The Strategic Importance of Cuba

Cuba has a role to play in the current hegemonic struggle between the West and the Rest. Russia and the BRICS should take advantage of its geostrategic and geopolitical position and act accordingly — Cuba’s salvation might mean the Multipolar Transition’s culmination, writes Emanuel Pietrobon.

Cuba is one of the most important countries in the world; one of the few that can really disturb the sleep of the United States. Geography makes this island geostrategic and whoever wants to challenge the United States must set foot on it.

Despite lacking in many natural resources, Cuba occupies a significant geographical position. Dividing Cuba and the United States is a strip of sea that can be flown over in just one hour by plane, which means that the island is the perfect staging ground for challenging the latter.

Geographical proximity can be a political advantage as well as a political risk, which is why the United States has historically gone to great lengths to gain control of this small island. Long before the Spanish-American War, which the United States started with a false flag attack, the sinking of its own ship, the USS Maine, American presidents have tried to buy Cuba twice.

The founding fathers were obsessed with Cuba. Thomas Jefferson tried to convince Napoleon to cede the island to the United States during the French takeover of the Spanish Empire. He didn’t succeed, but the idea of incorporating the island into America’s orbit did not die with him. Cuba had to fall under America’s dominion because, in Jefferson’s words, “the control this island would give us [the US] over the Gulf of Mexico, and the countries and isthmus bordering on it, would fill up the measure of [the American] well-being”. Today, nothing has changed: control of Cuba means the difference between total and truncated hegemony in the Caribbean and Central America.

The Cuban resources that nobody wants

In 1959, Cuba left the American sphere of influence and hasn’t re-entered since. Today Cuba, as it should be, belongs to nobody: Cuba belongs to itself. It is an independent country, whose government serves Cuban national interests, and this is why the US embargo is still standing.

Unable for reasons of image and also of public opinion to remake a Bay of Pigs Invasion or an Operation Urgent Fury, the United States has found in economic warfare a way to chronically incapacitate Cuba.

The embargo was not only launched to bring about regime change but also to prevent this island state from being economically successful. The first goal was missed, but the second was a direct hit. In any case, a way of putting an end to Cuba’s economic suffering does exist: its allies have to start concretely investing in its development, because the island has enormous potential.

Russia and Cuba are more economically complementary than they think. Cuba is mineral-rich but subject to a very harsh embargo which causes various problems; it impedes the importation and development of high technology. Russia is a mining power, which has the technology Cuba needs and is not afraid of being hit by US sanctions.

Economic Statecraft
Building a Resistance Economy – Lessons from Cuba
Emanuel Pietrobon
The Caribbean island country has been living under a US embargo since the early 1960s. With scarce natural resources, but a lot of creativity, the country not only managed to face economic isolation, but also developed some top-tier specialisations, writes Valdai Club expert Emanuel Pietrobon.

More in detail, Cuba has one of the world’s largest reserves of nickel and cobalt, although research suggests that its soil is likely to also contain chromium, copper, gold, manganese, iron and other minerals.

The two countries should cooperate in the development of Cuba’s mineral resources, as their extraction is essential in mitigating the impact of the embargo. If the United States were to threaten with sanctions anyone who buys Cuban metals, Russia could buy them from Cuba and then resell them, obfuscating their origins.

Western countries, including the United States, are deficient in nickel and cobalt, which means that Russian-Cuban cooperation in the sector could considerably increase their negotiating power with Washington. 

Cuba has enough resources to join the world’s most important mineral supply chains, and Russia has the technology to make this possible. This win-win partnership is likely to have a long-lasting impact on supply chains.

Cuba in a multipolar world

The embargo is the reason for Cuba’s chronic economic underdevelopment, which often takes the form of food and fuel shortages. If not addressed in time, this socio-economic stalemate might well lead to widespread content and be weaponised by Mongoose-style cognitive operations, with the revolutionary government failing as a result.

If Cuba falls, Russia and the other powers seeking multipolarism would lose a valuable ally, located in a strategic place, for the benefit of the decaying-but-stubborn Unipolar Moment. A BRICS collective intervention might deflect this worst-case scenario.

If the BRICS group really wants to challenge the G7’s global hegemony, it should take the first steps towards the building of a common foreign agenda.

Cuba is the place where the BRICS can show the world their potential and begin to dismantle the sanctions-based international order.

It is not a matter of ideology, but one of realpolitik. The BRICS, which is projected to become a super-cartel from 2024 onwards, might find in Cuba surprising food, energy and mineral opportunities, against the background of the interconnectivity it offers.

If the de-dollarisation of the world economy is truly one of the objectives of the BRICS group, then Cuba is the best place to deal with the power of American dollars and of American secondary sanctions. As a decades-old ally of Russia, China and Brazil, a partner of India and South Africa, and a friend to Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, Cuba is one of the few countries where the BRICS foundational goals and long-term interests converge.

Russia and the BRICS might support Cuba in several ways, from sanctions-proof barter to humanitarian cooperation. Some examples of this cooperation might be wheat-for-sugar and nickel-for-oil agreements, or BRICS investments in Cuba’s energy sector so as to tackle the blackout question and to take advantage of geography and climate to develop marine, wind and solar energy.

Cuba has a role to play in the current hegemonic struggle between the West and the Rest. Russia and the BRICS should take advantage of its geostrategic and geopolitical position and act accordingly — Cuba’s salvation might mean the Multipolar Transition’s culmination.

Modern Diplomacy
The Day After the Dollar
Emanuel Pietrobon
In a growingly multipolar world, where the United States is slowly ceasing to be the primary pole of power, it is not strange, but absolutely normal and physiological, to witness a worldwide process of reserve currency diversification, writes Valdai Club expert Emanuel Pietrobon.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.