14ymedio, Havana, January 31, 2024 — The visit to Havana of the Minister of Defense of Belarus, Víctor Jrenin, resulted in speeches, medals and many photographs, but no relevant agreements. In contrast to the discretion of the official Cuban press, the media of the European country have followed step by step the journey of the Belarusian entourage through facilities of the Armed Forces of the Island and have celebrated the “approach.”
Jrenin, who has been in Cuba since last Saturday, signed with his Cuban counterpart, General Álvaro López Miera, a “military cooperation document” similar to the one that, last June and after the uprising of the Wagner group of mercenaries against Moscow, both ministers signed in Minsk. The brief statement of the Belarusian military does not reveal any of the points of the agreement but is accompanied by a video of the ceremony.
López Miera decorated Jrenin on Tuesday with the Playa Girón* order, granted with the consent of Miguel Díaz-Canel, as shown on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian military. Jrenin received the distinction, which he attributed to the good “daily martial work of all the soldiers of the Belarusian Army” and promised to do “everything possible to guarantee peace and security.”
The highlight of the visit was Jrenin’s speech at the Máximo Gómez Academy of the Cuban Army, where he met with “cadets who studied in Minsk” – it is not revealed when – whom the minister “personally” invited to visit the Belarusian capital soon to “remember their years as students.”
In his press conference with Cuban journalists, Jrenin also did not reveal the reason for his stay in Havana and limited himself to emphasizing that the Island is “a strategic ally in the western hemisphere,” a phrase that has been interpreted as a geopolitical warning to the United States and other NATO countries.
About his “important partner” in the Caribbean, the minister added that Cuba and Belarus are “very similar countries” and “do not give up their objectives.” At one point in the speech, quoting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, he alleged that it was important for the armies of both nations to have good communication, since “military force has become the basis of political relations between countries. Therefore, it is important that the defense agencies build those relationships so that they meet the demands of our people, so that people feel safe,” he added.
Two months ago, the ministry headed by Jrenin announced that the Havana regime was interested in buying Polonez-M missiles from Belarus, with a range of 185 miles and a reputation for being “the most dangerous artillery system in Europe.” In a statement, it said that the acquisition of the weapons, actually manufactured by China, would be under negotiation outside a cooperation agreement with Minsk that Cuba’s military signed, during a meeting held in Havana. The Cuban authorities, in the meantime, remained silent on the subject.
The Belarus New agency (Belta) said at the time that this purchase of weapons was part of a bilateral plan that would be executed beginning this year.
Cuba has also been in the headlines after a senior Duma official alluded to the “need” to deploy nuclear weapons on the Island
In June 2023, after the Wagner Group’s rebellion against Moscow – which ended with the death of its leader, Yevgueny Prigozhin, under suspicious circumstances – López Miera made a trip to Moscow and Minsk. On that occasion, the agreement that both parties signed promised “ways” to develop and “intensify military contacts,” without going further.
Cuba has also been in the headlines this week after a senior official of the Russian State Duma – the lower house of the Parliament – alluded to the “need” to deploy nuclear weapons on the Island, in addition to Nicaragua and Venezuela, before the supposed threat that the United States and other NATO countries represent for Russia.
The comment has motivated multiple – and often nonsensical – analyses, but the truth is that Havana knows what geopolitical buttons to push when it comes to war rumors. A recent example was the transmission of the first part of a documentary about the underground arsenals of the Cuban Army. The Russian channel Zvezda showed the world, last December, missile launchers, war tanks and the day-to-day life of elite Cuban soldiers. The documentary, “unique” according to Russian propaganda boasts, never saw its second part released.
*Translator’s note: Referred to as “Bay of Pigs” by the United States
Translated by Regina Anavy
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