There might be another Cuban missile crisis on the horizon | Opinion

In 1962, the Soviet Union surreptitiously introduced nuclear missiles into Cuba bringing the world close to a nuclear holocaust. The United States blockaded Cuba and forced the Soviets to withdraw their missiles. After several tense days, the crisis was over.

The Soviets sought to change the balance of power in the world, including forcing the United States to withdraw its missiles from Europe and guaranteeing the security of the Castro regime. If successful, the Soviets would have emerged as an equal or greater power than the United States, with unsurpassed prestige in the Third World.

Now the Russians are warming up their relations with Cuba again. A series of meetings between prominent Russians and Cuban officials this year shows the Kremlin’s desire to re-establish its presence on the Island.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his commitment through a series of agreements in June, during Cuba’s Prime Minister Manuel Marrero’s visit to Moscow. The agreements include oil supplies, wheat sales and the reestablishment of flights between Russia and Cuba. The Kremlin finalized a loan for Cuba’s steel factory and pledged to finance the completion of three new thermoelectric plants using Russian technology.

Russian also agreed to purchase and develop thousands of acres of Cuba’s agricultural land, develop a hotel and shopping mall, modernize Cuba’s industrial complex and provide arms and equipment for its military and police.

For its part, Cuba will lift tariffs on Russian imports, allow Russian banks to operate on the island and establish mechanisms for the exchange of currency.

While this new understanding between the two countries seems benevolent and focused on helping the Cuban economy, there is the underlying threat of close military relations. The growing number of Russian naval vessels visiting Cuba, especially nuclear submarines, will create an international crisis and force the United States to react.

In 1962, Soviet missiles were planted on Cuban soil. This time, Russian nuclear submarines will be more difficult to track and to eradicate in the ocean’s depth.

A Russian naval presence close to U.S. shores provides the Kremlin with an advantageous position in case of a conflict and will allow Russian submarines and their crews to spend time on shore, check their weapons, etc. Russian vessels’ eavesdropping capability will supplement and enhance any equipment the Russians may place in Cuban soil. For the Russians, this is win-win.

Agreements with Russia on military issues followed the head of Russian security forces Nikolai Patrushev’s visit to Cuba in February. He’s the head of Russian security forces. The visit was dedicated to discussions of internal and external Cuban security.

Referring in part to the U.S. support for Ukraine, Patrushev emphasized in Cuba that, “The U.S. is trying to create a global colonial empire where only the voice of the West will be heard.” He added, “Many people talk about so-called neo-colonialism, the method remains the same: political suppression and military blackmail, financial enslavement and aggressive propaganda.”

Despite the high cost of the war in Ukraine and economic sanctions, Russian officials emphasized they are committed to Cuba. “Cuba has been and remains Russia’s most important ally in the region,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said while meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Gen. Alvarez Lopez Miera, in June in Moscow. “We are ready to render assistance and to lend a shoulder to our Cuba friend,” Shoigu said.

Jaime Suchlicki is director of the Cuban Studies Institute, a non-profit research group in Coral Gables, Florida. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro & Beyond.