Cubans are no strangers to Western sanctions and aggression. Around 72% of Cubans live below the poverty line. “You can be a nuclear physicist and still die of hunger here,” one man told Politico, adding that he could not even afford toilet paper on his salary. Food insecurity remains a serious problem. GDP is expected to grow by 2% this year, but remains eight percentage points behind pre-pandemic levels. Desperate Cubans are now signing up to fight alongside Russian soldiers for citizenship and the opportunity to earn a living wage.
The Soviet Union helped Cuba during its 1959 revolution. Cuba and the Soviet Union paired up to fight in Angola as well. Cuba has remained neutral amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and basically has nothing to offer either side besides fighters. Putin announced in November 2022 that anyone wishing to fight for Russia would receive fast-track naturalization. The average salary in Cuba as of 2020 was about $9,500. One person told Politico they were offered a one-year teaching contract to aid troops in language exams for $2,100 per month plus a $2,000 sign-on bonus.
However, defecting to Russia is highly illegal. Recruiters have been arrested for running what the Cuban government deemed a “human trafficking network” to recruit new soldiers. These recruiters are seemingly looking for anyone as military experience is not a requirement. Worse, some news outlets are reporting that many Cubans have been tricked into joining the Russian military after being promised work away from the warzone.
Either way, can you blame them? The desperate people of failed Communist nations are literally starving and most men would do anything for their families. Nothing is fair during war and Russia is looking to recruit men from the most vulnerable nations to fight as they need to increase their military by at least 1.15 million service members.