Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Prensa Latina News Agency, February 5, 2020
Question: What is your opinion of the new US punitive measures to toughen the embargo against Cuba that has been in place for almost 60 years?
Sergey Lavrov: We can see that US attempts to reformat the Latin American region in line with its geopolitical interests aim to overthrow the “undesirable regimes” in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The archaic Monroe Doctrine serves as the ideological foundation. In the run-up to the presidential election, the White House continues to ratchet up sanctions against those states which preserve their national independence, sovereignty and identity. This openly anti-human policy runs counter to the generally accepted principles of international law, including the UN Charter.
An overwhelming majority of members of the international community condemn and reject lifting the waiver on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, the ban on chartered and regular flights to all Cuban airports, except the Havana Airport, restrictions against transport companies cooperating with the island, numerous visa and financial restrictions and the campaign against Cuban doctors. The November 7, 2019 vote on the anti-blockade resolution at the UN General Assembly vividly confirms this.
I repeat: Washington’s sanctions against Havana prove that, in an effort to stifle the Cuban economy, the United States deliberately violates human rights, and ordinary people always suffer, above all.
We see the introduction of additional restrictive measures as a manifestation of Washington’s inability to break the will of the Cuban nation and to impose its own opinion and values. We emphatically reject these steps and stand in solidarity with our Cuban friends. We insistently call for the complete repeal of the financial and economic embargo, so as to ensure the country’s full-fledged socioeconomic development, implement the principle of the sovereign equality of states and guarantee the legitimate rights of the Cuban nation.
Question: Cuba and Russia are marking 60 years since resuming diplomatic relations. What can you tell us about the current state of political, economic and cultural cooperation between our countries in the run-up to the anniversary?
Sergey Lavrov: This year on May 8, we are marking the 60th anniversary of resuming diplomatic relations. This is an impressive span of time. We have achieved significant progress over these 60 years.
Today, Cuba is Russia’s priority partner in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our multidimensional collaboration, based on strong traditions of friendship and cooperation, and objective commonality of interests, is looking towards the future. Our mutual determination for strengthening the Russian-Cuban strategic partnership has been confirmed in the course of regular high-level and top-level contacts.
The history of our bilateral relations is inseparable from the name of Fidel Castro, the leader and creator of the Cuban Revolution, and genuine leader of the persevering and tenacious people of Freedom Island. His was a personality of global scale, without exaggeration. We specifically developed an itinerary that will honour the Comandante’s memory, including a visit to Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, where other fighters for Cuba’s independence also rest in peace. This has great significance for me because in the eyes of many generations of Russians Fidel remains an example of true service to one’s country and people.
It is symbolic that President of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez will visit Russia to attend the events marking the 75th anniversary of defeating Nazism. We see this as further confirmation of the brotherly ties connecting our nations.
Our bilateral and practical cooperation has many dimensions. Along with our Cuban friends, we continue to build a model for long-term mutually beneficial cooperation that is not affected by external conditions and focuses, among other things, on ensuring Cuba’s energy and food security. We appreciate the fact that Cuba’s leaders have assigned Russia a special role in modernising Cuba’s national economy and upgrading the country’s socioeconomic development model.
This direction was once again confirmed during the 17th meeting of the Russia-Cuba Intergovernmental Commission in September 2019 in Moscow. We are working on large joint projects in energy and metal production, transport infrastructure, developing IT, communications and space technologies, biopharmaceutics and biotechnology. Russia supplies railway and vehicle equipment. We are building a maintenance base for this as well.
Russia and Cuba are expanding cultural and humanitarian links, including education exchanges. Our country is a regular participant in the Havana International Book Fair, theatre and film festivals. Every alternate year Moscow and Havana host the weeks of Cuban and Russian cinema, respectively.
Every year, 100 Cuban students come to Russia to learn the Russian language, study Russian literature, and many other things. Cuba has the Pushkin Institute, a Russian language learning and testing centre at the University of Havana. Russian is taught as an optional class in two secondary schools in Havana.
Together, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Cuban capital. Havana also hosted St Petersburg Days. The golden dome of the National Capitol in Havana is once again showcasing its shining beauty after a renovation by Russian experts.
Russia and Cuba closely coordinate foreign policies. This coordination is based on adherence to the unshakable principles of international law, including respect for sovereign equality between states and non-intervention in their internal affairs.
We are optimistic about the future of Russian-Cuban relations which we value very much. We know that our Cuban friends approach these relations in a similar fashion.
Question: Russia believes the development of integration processes in Latin America to be very important. However, recently we have seen a trend towards restraining the activities or even eliminating such regional organisations as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). What do you think about this?
Sergey Lavrov: I agree that today the integration processes in Latin America are in a difficult phase. We can see a certain imbalance in regional integration building, not without interference from the outside. This is also true for UNASUR, because some of its members left to establish an alternative organisation, the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America (PROSUR). We proceed from the fact that the Latin Americans must be the ones to choose the most suitable forms of regional cooperation.
Russia is ready to develop mutually beneficial cooperation with all regional integration organisations. We have always spoken in favour of a united and politically and economically stable Latin America: this is the only way for the region to become a pillar of the emerging multipolar world. In addition, the high degree of unity and mutual understanding, and the ability to find collective answers to the topical challenges we face today have always distinguished Latin Americans.
We see the potential of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which we regard as a unique regional platform promoting a unifying agenda based on non-confrontation. We hope that with the help of Mexico, which is chairing CELAC, the Latin Americans will be able to overcome their internal differences based on the working programme adopted in Mexico City in January 2020. After CELAC overcomes these differences, we would be able to resume the Russia – CELAC dialogue mechanisms in a way that would suit our partners.
We also see good opportunities to expand cooperation with our regional partners in such areas as the aerospace sector, natural disaster prevention and relief (using the regional Russian-Cuban fire rescue centre located in Havana) and the establishment of a regional antimicrobial monitoring system (involving Mechnikov SA, the Russia-Nicaragua Biotechnology Institute Project), which are priorities for CELAC.