Moscow Accuses Trump of Returning to Cold War-Style Rhetoric on Cuba

By Patrick Goodenough | June 19, 2017 | 4:25am EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in Havana in December 2000. Castro was succeeded by his brother, Raul, in 2008 and died last November. (Photo: The Kremlin)

( – Russia has accused the Trump administration of a return to “Cold War-style” rhetoric in rolling back some of its predecessor’s policies designed to normalize relations with communist-ruled Cuba.

“The new course announced by the U.S. president towards Cuba returns us to the already almost forgotten rhetoric of the Cold War style,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday, reacting to President Trump’s executive order signed in Miami two days earlier.

The ministry said Moscow stands against a policy of embargoes, sanctions and blockades, and that the U.S. approach over five decades had been shown to be futile.

It said President Obama’s openings towards the island nation had been seen as a recognition of the failure of the previous approach – rather than a “manifestation of goodwill of individual politicians.”

“Now it turns out that the anti-Cuban discourse is still in high demand.”

Trump on Friday announced a tougher approach to the Castro regime, rolling back Obama’s easing of restrictions on some travel and commercial activity while leaving intact the policies on family visits and remittances.

The embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open and operational, but the U.S. will revert to its customary stance on opposing U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemning the 57-year-old U.S. embargo.

The annual ritual in New York has seen the resolution pass by large margins every year since 1992, with the U.S. and Israel alone voting no in recent years. That changed last October, when the Obama administration for the first time controversially chose to abstain.

In its reaction Sunday, the Russian ministry said the votes in New York each fall illustrate “the international community’s position on Cuba,” and said the Trump administration should “listen.”

In a speech before a supportive Cuban-American audience, Trump tied the policy changes to Havana’s poor human rights record.

“Put an end to the abuse of dissidents. Release the political prisoners. Stop jailing innocent people,” he said in comments directed at the regime.

“Open yourselves to political and economic freedoms. Return the fugitives from American justice – including the return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard,” he added, in reference to the Black Liberation Army activist who was granted asylum in Cuba in 1984 and remains on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorists” list.

A White House factsheet listed four main objectives of the Trump changes, including, “hold the Cuban regime accountable for oppression and human rights abuses ignored under the Obama policy.”

The Castro regime hit back at the criticism, calling Trump’s decisions “ill-advised” and charging that the United States was in no position to preach to others about human rights.

Echoing arguments frequently repeated by Cuban diplomats at the U.N., the foreign ministry in a statement touted Cuba’s achievements in areas including health, peace and development, while pointing a critical finger at issues in the U.S. such as police shootings, racial discrimination and salary inequality; and policies abroad including military interventions in the Middle East

“The United States are not in the condition to lecture us,” it said, adding that Cuba has signed up to 44 “international instruments on human rights” compared to just 18 in the case of the U.S.

The foreign ministry said any U.S. strategy aimed at applying pressure to bring about change to Cuba’s political, economic and social system would fail.

Cuba would “continue the respectful dialogue and the cooperation in matters of common interest,” it said.

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