The legendary mastermind of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, died at an age of 90. Since 1959, he was the perennial thorn in America’s side: a politician who at the height of the Cold War cultivated close ties to Moscow in America’s backyard.
CCTV’s Daria Bondarchuk reports on the Russian view of Cuba’s iconic revolutionary, and for decades Moscow’s best friend in the Western Hemisphere.
Fond memories of former Cuban leader Castro in Moscow
Fidel Castro’s special relationship with Moscow led to a longstanding Russian military presence just 150 kilometers (93 miles) from America’s borders. But back in 1959, the former Soviet Union was slow to embrace him. Nikolay Leonov, Castro’s translator during his visit to the Soviet Union, says Russians were at first suspicious of Fidel.
After the failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion in 1961 by Cuban exiles backed by the U.S. Central intelligence Agency, the close ties between Moscow and Havana got even closer.
Tensions rose dramatically in 1962 after the Kremlin installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. The secret plan: “Operation Anadyr” deployed bombers, troops and intermediate-range missiles that put the majority of the continental United States within range of Soviet nuclear warheads.
Washington ordered a naval blockade of Cuba until Moscow removed the missiles, bringing the world to the brink nuclear war.
At the eleventh hour, both sides backed down. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev withdrew Russian missiles from Cuba after U.S. President John F. Kennedy agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
Moscow rushed to apologize, inviting Castro for a state visit to Moscow. Khrushchev did whatever he could to make amends.
While Havana’s economic and military ties with Moscow kept getting stronger, Castro predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, which happened in 1991.
This left Cuba isolated the only Communist county in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba lost its Russian lifeline, while U.S. trade embargoes squeezed the Cuban economy.
Despite various broken promises, Leonov says he heard Fidel say that Cubans will always be grateful for Russia’s support.
Fidel Castro saw the Berlin Wall go up and come down. He outlasted 11 American presidents, and, according to the U.S Congress, at least eight U.S. attempts to assassinate him.
He weathered the collapse of his chief benefactor, the Soviet Union. A revolutionary from a wealthy family, a Communist raised a Roman Catholic.
While historians on both sides of the old “Iron Curtain” will debate his Cold War legacy for years to come, one thing is beyond dispute: Fidel Castro was a survivor.