Donald Trump may be incapable of doing anything good for the United States but he keeps delivering a bountiful windfall to Beijing and Moscow. As Trump tears down or undermines traditional alliances abroad, China and Russia move rapidly to exploit opportunities.
Now Moscow is turning to Havana. Trump wants to give Cuba the cold shoulder. Putin doesn't mind. All the more good pickings for Vlad & Company. For starters Russia is planning to reactivate its massive electronic eavesdropping facility closed by Putin himself in 2001 to cut costs.
And this time the Russia-Cuba deal won't be about cheap cane sugar and rum. This time Russia is looking to help Cuba exploit its offshore oil resources.
In 2014, Russia forgave 90 percent of Cuba's debt. The remaining $3.5 billion is supposed to be settled by giving preferential treatment to Russian investments on the island.
Thus Rosneft is involved in the modernization of Cuba's largest refinery in Cienfuegos, even through Venezuela has drastically reduced its oil deliveries. Instead of 100,000 barrels a day, Caracas is currently only delivering about 55,000 barrels a day to the Caribbean island. Against this background, Cuba has also extended test drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Unsurprisingly, Russian companies are also involved in this initiative.
In September, both countries signed a whole package of agreements, including in the energy and railroad sectors, while other agreements cover food production and the textile industry. In addition, Russia is suppling trucks, buses and elevators. The island also expects around 100,000 Russian tourists this year.
Russia also signed an agreement at the end of 2016 to modernize Cuba's armed forces. And reports keep appearing that Russia could again open a military base on Cuba. However, this seems unlikely since Havana is still interested in a stable relationship with the US.
"Cuba is trying to diversify its relations," says Richard Feinberg, an expert on Latin America at the Brookings Institution. "As closer economic relations with the US are not likely to occur in the coming years, one has to look for alternative allies, especially strong countries such as Russia and China can offer favorable payment conditions."