Cuba’s Approach to Sanctions Imposed on Russia

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Latin America, which the United States of America (USA) tries to present as its backyard, has faced many protests, revolutions, and coups in the historical process. While the U.S. keeps the states that are moving away from its influence under control with coups and military interventions; and against the states it cannot control, it has imposed and is imposing harsh sanctions. In this sense, the aim of the Washington administration is to overthrow the administrations weakened by the sanctions through social protests. Cuba is the country that has been subjected to the harshest and longest US sanctions in Latin America.

Within the framework of recent developments and wars in the world, US sanctions are being discussed again. Especially with the Russian-Ukrainian War, the Western World, especially the United States, is imposing harsh sanctions targeting the Moscow administration. Russia’s war against Ukraine is not supported by much of the world; It is seen that the sanctions applied directly affect the global economy, politics, and security as well as Russia. Cuba is also one of the states that are adversely affected, albeit indirectly, by the sanctions imposed by the United States.

Cuba has been ruled by leftist ideology since the revolution of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1959. For this reason, it has been exposed to the interventions of the United States in various periods. However, Washington, which has failed to change the administration in Havana, has imposed harsh sanctions. Cuba, which is now seen as the “indestructible fortress” of the left revolution, managed to survive despite the sanctions thanks to the support of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

As the end of the Cold War approached, aid from the Soviet Union to Cuba began to decline. The dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War contained two main messages for Cuba. First of all, there would be no superpower to support Cuba in the face of the ongoing US sanctions. Undoubtedly, this situation caused Cuba to be under significant economic pressure and the Havana administration had to take liberalization steps, albeit to a limited extent. Secondly, the dissolution of the Soviet Union meant that Cuba isolated in the world and in international politics.

By the 2000s, there have been important developments in world politics for Cuba. First, Russia, which is beginning to gain strength again, has begun to support Cuba. Secondly, the First Left Wave, which was on the rise in Latin America, enabled Cuba to acquire new partners in the regional conjuncture.

These developments have revealed that the dynamics in the world have developed in a way that is contrary to the interests of the United States. Because Russia has established contacts with various countries in order to rebuild its influence in the sphere of influence inherited from the Soviet Union and has also turned to Cuba in this context. By 2013, Russia had restored 90% of Cuba’s Cold War-era debt; that is, it canceled $32 billion.[1]

In the face of this, it is seen that the US has softened its attitude towards Cuba. Especially during the reign of former US President Barack Obama, relations with Cuba entered the process of normalization and sanctions targeting the Havana administration were eased. However, Donald Trump has followed the opposite policy and relations have again become tense. In fact, the US continued the sanctions against Cuba during the Covid-19 outbreak. Despite the US sanctions, Russia was one of the countries that sent aid to Cuba.[2]

In this context, the Cuban administration openly adopts an attitude that supports Russia in the developments in international politics. On the eve of the Russian-Ukrainian War, the Cuban Foreign Ministry announced in a statement that the expansion of the borders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) towards Russia was a threat to Russia’s security and international peace.[3]

As can be understood, it is not possible to say that the Russian-Ukrainian War led to any change in Cuban policies. The Havana administration strongly condemned the sanctions imposed by the Western World on Moscow on the grounds of war and announced that they would not participate in the sanctions.[4]

A year after the war, Cuba continues its policy. In a statement on March 15, 2023, Cuba’s ambassador to Moscow stressed that Havana would not participate in the Western-centered sanctions despite the pressure of the Washington administration.[5]

These sanctions have adversely affected Russia politically and militarily, especially in terms of economy. This situation actually means that Cuba will also be adversely affected. Because it can be said that Russia, which seems determined to continue the war it is waging in Ukraine, has reduced the aid it sends to other parts of the world. In particular, Russia’s emphasis on an Asia-centered policy has reflected negatively on Cuba. Havana, on the other hand, continues to support Moscow despite all the difficulties.

As a result, Cuba condemns the sanctions both because of its ideological perspective shaped by anti-US sentiment and because it is negatively affected by the sanctions imposed on Russia. In addition, the Havana administration is aware and has been experiencing this for a long time that Washington uses sanctions as a weapon because it has been subject to sanctions for a long time. For this reason, while opposing the sanctions against Russia, it also sends the message that it wants the sanctions imposed on it to end. It can also be said that Cuba wanted to show its historical gratitude towards Russia. Therefore, the sanctions have once again demonstrated the importance of Russia for Cuba and have shown that strong relations between the parties continue despite everything.

[1] Mark Lammey, “Russia Ratifies $35Bln Debt Write-Off for Cuba”, The Moscow Times,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[2] “Russia Sends COVID-19 Aid to Cuba-Defence Ministry”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[3] Laura Gamba Fadul, “Cuba Backs Vladimir Putin in Ukraine Crisis”, Anadolu Agency,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[4] “Cuban President Rejects Sanctions Against Russia”, TeleSur,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

[5] “Посол подтвердил неизменную позицию Кубы по отказу от санкций против РФ”,, (Date of Accession: 17.03.2023).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.