Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 113

The large Russian delegation which arrived in Cuba last week is discussing ways to resume and complete construction of the Juragua nuclear power plant, a Soviet project frozen in 1991 for lack of funds. Nuclear energy deputy minister Yevgeny Reshetnikov and Atomenergoexport agency director general Viktor Kozlov, among others officials, claim that firms from Germany, Britain, Italy, and Brazil have recently joined Russian and Cuban enterprises in a consortium and will, by the end of this year, sign agreements on financing and completing the plant’s construction. The officials estimate the costs of completion at $750 million to $800 million. Prior to 1991, the USSR spent a reported $1.2 billion on the project, which envisaged the construction of two power generating blocks using Soviet-made VVER-440 reactors. (4)

Why Moscow might want to reactivate the project is far from clear. Russia alone can’t afford to finish the project. Foreign capital would be essential. Nor can Cuba contribute much. Cuba is already deeply in debt to Russia and, since 1991, has been unable even to service that debt. A barter deal seems out of the question because, under a just-concluded oil-for-sugar agreement, Cuba has committed most of its sugar to Russia through 1998. Russia´s sudden interest in Juragua has fueled speculation that it might have in mind one or more of the following: a) Cuban compensation in the form of free use of the Lourdes electronic surveillance station or some other military facility; b) a bargaining chip in the form of a perceived safety hazard near the Florida Strait which can be traded away for something in return from the US; c) pitting some major companies and their US-allied parent countries against the US if they breach sanctions against Cuba on such a sensitive project, particularly in the context of the US Congress’ Helms-Burton bill which penalizes countries trading with the Castro regime; d) a political demonstration designed as a "symmetrical" response to NATO’s putative expansion in the direction of Russia’s borders.

Three Knock on the EU Door.