Envoy discounts linkage by U.S. of aid, Cuba ties

June 15, 1991|By Frank Starr | Frank Starr,Chief of The Sun's Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The new Soviet ambassador to the United States said yesterday that there will not be any radical change in Moscow's relationship with Cuba despite U.S. warnings that American financial assistance could founder over it.

"You don't like Cuba. . . . So what?" said Viktor Komplektov genially, at the first of what he said would be numerous news conferences since presenting his credentials Wednesday.

In spite of his sunny manner and generally cooperative message, the veteran diplomat seemed to indicate that Soviet foreign policy cooperation with the United States -- displayed recently in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Nicaragua -- would stop at Cuba.

Moscow's 30-year relationship with Fidel Castro has been strained since the advent of democracy and market economies in Eastern Europe, as the Cuban president holds tightly to orthodox Marxism.

While Soviet aid has declined from almost $7 billion annually in 1986 to about $5 billion in 1990, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has shown no inclination to abandon Cuba despite the lack of an internal reform movement there.

U.S. officials have warned that large-scale participation in an aid plan for the Soviet Union would require reductions in Soviet defense spending and support for Cuba.

Mr. Komplektov suggested yesterday that further reductions in Soviet defense spending would be appropriate. Noting that Defense Secretary Dick Cheney had pointed to reductions in the U.S. defense budget, he said, "I think that this is a very promising way for our country to go."

But he also said that "all these references to our help to Cuba are just hindering better relations between this country and my country."

Mr. Komplektov made light of remaining obstacles to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, saying that there were only five pages out of 500 that contained problems and that he expected a summit to sign the treaty could occur in July.

The ambassador also indicated that President Bush's offer this week to send additional teams of experts to help solve Soviet problems of agricultural distribution had been accepted.

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