Cuba and Russia are cozying up to each other again, after drifting apart a bit in the post-Cold War era. Host Marco Werman discusses Cuban-Russian relations with Sergei Khrushchev, the son of former Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev and a Senior Fellow in International Studies at Brown University now.
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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman, and this is The World. Cuba's president says he's â€œvery happyâ€ with the way his talks with Russian leaders went during the past few days. Raul Castro met with officials in the Kremlin on Friday, and with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today. Cuba and Russia were key allies during the Cold War. Their relationship has frayed somewhat during the past two decades, but the two countries appear to be cozying up again, at least politically. Putin says he hopes economic ties will follow suit. Sergei Khrushchev is Senior Fellow in International Studies at Brown University. He is also the son of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Sergei Khrushchev, what is Russia offering Cuba now?
SERGEI KHRUSHCHEV: I don't think that Russia offering anything serious to Cuba, because Russia lost Cuba in early 90s. It was not ideological, it was economical. But Russia trying now to restore some relations, so they opened up some cooperation in they selling them passenger airplanes that nobody want to buy, some Russian trucks, oil, grain, and credit for $20 million dollars.
WERMAN: How would you say Russians and Cubans view each other? Do they see each other in kind of stereotypical tones?
KHRUSHCHEV: I don't think they see each other in stereotypical tones because Russia now became more anti-Communist than any European country, and Cuba's still under the Communist ideology. I think they try to just restore as much as they can restore there, and it will be just one of the other countries in this area where Russia tries to be involved.
WERMAN: What was your father's opinion of the Castros?
KHRUSHCHEV: For my father, he was like his [INDESCERNIBLE] to the past. He told when we fought in the Soviet Union and the Civil War, I was the same age. And he looked at him as the same person that was defending his country, their independence. In the case of the United States, it was all the time trying to decide the fate of the Cuba.
WERMAN: As you've read some of the coverage of Raul Castro's visit to Russia this past weekend, I'm wondering how much of a sense of deja vu you had to Fidel Castro's trip back when your father was a Premier of the Soviet Union?
KHRUSHCHEV: No. It was very different, because when Fidel Castro came to the Soviet Union, it came the hero. It was like the David who defeated the Goliath, you know? This Bible hero. And he became the hero who defended his country against the United States.
WERMAN: Yeah. It's not David and Goliath anymore.
KHRUSHCHEV: Now, he is just one of the important visitors, and not so many people remember what was happened 50 years ago.
WERMAN: But they went to some of the same sites, anyway.
KHRUSHCHEV: I watched him on the same hunting area near Moscow [INDESCERNIBLE] where he was before, and where my father hosted Fidel Castro and they hunted together and they drank some vodka. And I think they Raul was there. So I think that everything it is for better because the good relations between countries just it is in the interest of the whole world.
WERMAN: It seems that some rituals of the Russian-Cuban relationship don't ever fade away, and one I can think of is Raul Castro's request to eat some salo.
KHRUSHCHEV: Yes. Russians like to eat salo. They like bread and the piece of fat or salo on the top with some garlic and salt.
WERMAN: Right. We should explain for our listeners that salo is kind of the Russian equivalent of a Cuban pressed sandwich â€“ grilled lard on rye bread.
KHRUSHCHEV: Yes. It was not â€“ maybe it was not lard, I will say. It was just fat, but you can translate such way too.
WERMAN: Okay. Sergei Khrushchev, a Senior Fellow of International Studies at Brown University, thank you very much for speaking with us.