It is hard to overestimate the importance of Latin America, and Cuba in particular, for Russia. Commenting on the results of Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev's August 2008 visit to Cuba, Andrei Klimov, deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the State Duma, said Russia, as a major power, needed to maintain its economic and security presence in Cuba.
In mid-September Moscow and Havana negotiated joint space projects. Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian Federal Space Agency, said the sides had discussed the possibility of setting up a Cuban space center with Russian assistance.
Perminov said both countries had discussed the implementation of agreements reached by the Russian-Cuban intergovernmental commission two months ago. "This primarily concerns the drafting of a cooperation agreement on civilian space programs, another agreement on the Global Navigation Satellite System and navigation support on Cuban territory," Perminov said.
The proposed Cuban space center will process data received from Russian remote-sensing and navigation satellites. "We also plan to jointly use orbital telecommunications networks," Perminov said.
Cuba, which at one time implemented an ambitious space program, retains the required infrastructure for resuming large-scale space research.
Several dozen Cuban agencies, including the Research and Development Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy, the Institute of Meteorology and the Fundamental Technical Research Institute of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, were involved in the national space program.
In the mid-1960s Moscow and Havana launched a space-physics project, obtaining new data on the upper ionosphere with the help of Soviet satellites. A tracking station, built near Santiago de Cuba in 1967, made it possible to observe high-orbit Soviet scientific satellites.
Cuba, an insular state, has to expand orbital telecommunications networks linking it with the rest of the world. In 1973 the Caribe space-communications station was completed 40 kilometers from Havana, becoming part of the InterSputnik network that comprised the socialist bloc's telecommunications satellites.
Soviet weather satellites and remote-sensing satellites facilitated Cuban agricultural programs.
Both countries also worked closely in manned space missions. Cuban specialists helped assess crew compatibility and the adaptation of cosmonauts to work-and-rest routines aboard orbital stations.
In September 1980 Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez became the first Cuban cosmonaut and the first person from a country in the Western Hemisphere other than the United States to travel into Earth orbit, spending about eight days aboard the Soviet Salyut-6 station.
The Cuban space-research experience, plus up-to-date Russian technical achievements, will help both countries implement advanced space programs.
(Andrei Kislyakov is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
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