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The resolve by the West to challenge Vladimir Putin’s Leninist war against Ukraine and consequently, the democratic order, appears to be gaining momentum. The will and determination of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and its valiant people to remain free and independent, has pushed the Free World into getting more proactive in its solidarity with the besieged nation, albeit painfully slow. The results from this epic shift in moral positioning and strategic engagement by the world’s democracies has for years been indifferent and wimpish. Now there are attractive opportunities for liberation processes to unfold in socialist dictatorial regimes in the Americas.
On Tuesday, March 8, President Joe Biden announced that the United States was “banning all imports of Russian oil and gas energy.” The United Kingdom’s Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also declared on the same day that his country would “phase out imports of Russian oil in response to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine by the end of the year.” Poland added to the day’s big news when it reversed course and agreed to supply Ukraine with M-29 Soviet-era fighter jets. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that they could be provided “immediately and free of charge.”
Putin’s rise to power was significant in not just burying the nascent Russian democracy. It signaled a slow return to the former Soviet Union’s imperialistic overtures. This has been specifically the case in Latin America. Cuban communism, a formidable agent and operating base for international socialism at the service of the USSR from its onset, developed a parasitic dependency on Soviet subsidies at the tune of $2 billion annually. When the Kremlin’s 6,000 combat troops stationed in Cuba left in 1991, the relationship entered a comatose phase. It all began to change with Putin from 2000.
The Castro communist regime and its socialist satellites, particularly Venezuela and Nicaragua, share a symbiotic relationship. The fall of Soviet communism produced a new continental dictatorial model which was developed in 1990 at the São Paulo Forum, of which Havana is its architect and overseer, and Venezuela its principal financier. Putin’s autocratic reconstruction of post-Soviet Russia shares many characteristics with the Castro-invented São Paulo Forum despotic prototype: rigged voting schemes which include an irrelevant and powerless “opposition”; a mixed economy with crony and state capitalist partners; brutal repression and state terror as policy; no rule of law; and a less-ideologically pronounced political discourse. Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia are clear examples in Latin America of this despotic model.
The Putin regime, upon its consolidation, immediately sought to reestablish its presence in the Western Hemisphere. The preeminent role that the Castro dictatorship has played in communism’s post-Soviet mutation, assured Havana that Russia would be interested in collaborating with its historical subversive partner in the continent. Intelligence collaboration between the two tyrannical regimes and Castroism’s protégés, was a given. The 2017 opening of a mammoth Russian electronic intelligence-gathering facility near Managua, part of Putin’s Glonass GPS spy network, was consistent with the alliance that had been reforged.
Putin’s Russia has been especially diligent in its cyberespionage operations. The Havana Syndrome, the suspected malady side effect of high-intensity microwave radiation used for distance espionage, and which has inflicted hundreds of American diplomats and their families, has the fingerprints of the former KGB spymaster’s regime. The presence of the Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov CCB-175, anchored blocks away from where the American delegation was staying as the 2015 diplomatic reestablishment talks between the Obama administration and the Castro regime were going on, made evident that Putinism was a filtered down version of the Soviet hegemonic mode of operation.
In 2014, Putin “forgave” Castro communism’s $30 billion Soviet-era debt. Unfazed by the Cuban Marxist dictatorship’s delinquent borrower history, Russia extended to the island granted loans totaling $2.3 billion, between 2009 and 2019. Putin’s puppet legislative body, the Duma, recently deferred the Castro regime’s payment of said debt until 2027, given its stated inability to pay. In other words, Russia has continued its finance of the Americas’ continental socialism.
The Russian financial system serves communist Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua as a mechanism for avoiding American sanctions. Putin’s banks have been used to make payments abroad, for example, by Maduro regime enterprises to European companies, after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan dictatorship. It is also likely, additionally, that they are used for laundering money from drug trafficking, a profitable business for Marxist regimes and movements in the Western Hemisphere.
The American decision to bar 13 of Russia’s main banks from having access to the Swift network, which is commonly used between financial institutions for international transactions, will impact adversely the continent’s socialist regimes. Juan González, National Security Council Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs (NSC) for the Biden administration, stated, “The sanctions on Russia are so robust that they will have an impact on those governments that have economic affiliations with Russia.” The Colombian-born NSC official who formerly worked for the Obama administration, added, “So Venezuela is going to start to feel that pressure, Nicaragua is going to start to feel that pressure, just like Cuba.”
The United States and the Free World has a golden opportunity to “kill two (or more) birds with one stone.” Considering that the “birds” in question are the ruthless tyrannic regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia (potentially), the war to help Ukraine, can also help foster freedom here in the Americas. The Biden administration has the unique opportunity to do what is right. Stopping Putin in Europe could yield some wonderful dividends for the enslaved peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.