CSMS Staff WritersThe world got a rare glimpse at Cuba’s revolutionary arm forces during an impressive military parade this morning, marking the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the revolution. This was its first military parade of this magnitude in a decade. Cuba, without a doubt, has one of the world finest army as it proved itself in Africa in Angola and in Ethiopia. It was the defeat of the Apartheid South African forces in Angola by a coalition led by Cuba that paved the way the independence of Namibia.Cuba, a small country of about 12 million people, does not have the might of a country like the United States. But being so close to the US and feeling constantly under threat, Cuba takes its defense matters very seriously.And the armed forces, led by Raul Castro, consider themselves the backbone of the revolution that has been in place for more than four decades. According to many analysts, for years Cuba made no purchase of new weapons but tried to maintain and repair what it had from before 1989 when the Soviet Bloc collapsed. Raul Castro has estimated the value of “donated” East Bloc weaponry obtained 1961-1990 at 30 billion dollars.But as of 2003, as the economy recovered slightly from the economic crash after 1989, Havana started spending a bit more on spare parts and some new items, citing a greater US threat under the current US administration.Among the priorities, artillery and missile units that are all self-propelled, as suggested by a Cuban study, which found that they would be harder for US aviation to locate and destroy, experts say.Cubans have upgraded old Soviet-made vehicles, tricking them out with cannons, special armor, guns, special maneuvering capacity, and other combat-ready assets to improve their firepower and self-protection abilities.A BMP armored troop transport vehicle for example has had an added turret and a gun to boot.BTRs, amphibian transport units, have been outfitted with ZU-23 double anti-aircraft cannon.Cuba’s military since the 1980s has anticipated a massive air war that could be launched by the United States rather than a ground invasion, which would likely cause massive casualties.Cuban military officials also have said publicly that they have studied recent conflicts in close detail, focusing on those in which the United States is involve, particularly in Afghanistan and then Iraq.”During drills carried out this week, Monday and Wednesday, 80 percent of the equipment that was on display was anti-air—anti-aircraft and anti-helicopter—as helicopters are the preferred US troop transport mode,” a retired military official said privately, among curious onlookers.Throughout this year, factories that normally turn out sugar cane harvesting equipment and other farm machinery were turned over to the Revolutionary Armed Forces.And the result was seeing on the parade with a message for the United States: Cuba, though short on funds, is still able to modernize on a shoestring, alongside its factories that make weapons and light vehicles.”We will show the new, moderate techniques, that we ourselves have modernized in military industry, Raul Castro said when he announced the parade which he has organized.After 1990, amid the gravest of economic crises, Cuba maintained that it did not import weaponry.Since 2003 however, given a green light for some new spending, Raul Castro has had talks with Belarus this year and signed a technical cooperation deal with Russia, technological heirs of the Soviets.For two decades, Cuba’s overarching military strategy “War of an Entire Nation,” has been to respond to a potential US invasion by spreading out forces and weaponry as broadly as possible, as the only way to compete with US technological superiority.Also see: Fidel’s health
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