Cuba and US Foreign Policy

Strategic Culture
by Leonid SAVIN

On December 17, US President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. He and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call on the opening of embassies in each other’s countries. The two leaders made the announcement in simultaneous televised speeches. It happened after 18 months of secret talks as the Vatican facilitated the deal. (1)

According to Washington, the change in US policy means that «the President is taking the next steps to renew our leadership in the Americas, end our outdated approach on Cuba, and promote more effective change that supports the Cuban people and our national security interests». (2)

US spy Alan Gross was freed and flew home in a US military aircraft. Havana let go three out of five Cubans who were to serve long-term and life prison sentences for refusing to make deals with the US government. In reality the swap was initiated by Cuba but American media outlets paint it as a Washington’s achievement. Obama was happy to announce that Gross would be home for Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights, but some believe that «Alan Gross’s hapless mission to Cuba was proof of a dysfunctional, sclerotic, and mindless policy». (3)

Rolando «Roly» Sarraff Trujillo is another CIA agent to be set free after he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Cuba has agreed to release 53 alleged political prisoners from a list of names provided by the United States. 

The shift in the relations between Washington and Havana gives rise to speculations related to Russia-Cuba ties. For instance, the Los Angeles Times writes «Better relations between the United States and Cuba also could undermine Russia’s expectation of Havana’s backing in political and diplomatic confrontations that pit the former superpowers against each other». (4)

The Washington Times believes that the US intelligence is concerned over the Russia-Cuba security agreement concluded in May 2014 establishing a joint working group between Russia’s Security Council and the Cuban Commission for National Security and Defense. The newspaper’s article says «The Russia-Cuba agreement was announced May 16 when a memorandum was signed in Moscow U.S. intelligence agency concerns that Russia is taking steps to follow through on plans to conduct strategic nuclear bomber flights over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, possibly with the help of Cuba and Venezuela». (5) Additional concern is explained by the fact that Venezuela for the past several years has been extending the main runway at the Maiquetia international airport near Caracas. U.S. officials believe the extension will allow Tu-95 nuclear capable bombers (Bear Hs), possibly equipped with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, to use the airfield. Since a long time ago the United States has been haunted by the nightmare of Russian strategic weapons deployed on Cuban soil. STRATFOR experts have warned that once deployed in Cuba Russian missiles and aviation could paralyze the US economy by blocking the Mexican Gulf – an important cargo transit water pathway. 

Jeffrey Mark Goldberg has recently described the trip to Cuba he and his family took in March 2014. They included into their itinerary the Bay of Pigs (la Playa Giron), the place where CIA-supported Cuban counter revolutionaries landed in 1961. Back then the operation ended in disaster. Goldberg writes that there was a tiny store near the beach that sold Pringles and Coke. One of his daughters made for the Pringles. «Look», she said, «we won», writes the author. (6) A country makes a contribution into the economy of geopolitical adversary by consuming its goods and services no matter how they get to the market. 

Michael J. Totten is an American journalist and author. His work appears in various publications, web sites and on his blog. That’s how he views the Cuba’s future on the pages of World Affairs, «Someday Havana will most likely recover as well. Every day I thought about what it would look like with no embargo and no travel ban, with free enterprise and political liberalism. Havana would be the jewel of the Caribbean and possibly even the hemisphere. It would experience an extraordinary boom in the tourism industry, some of it at the expense of Florida and Mexico. The path forward for Cuban prosperity is obvious: bring as many people as possible into the global economy, and specifically the American economy. The people want it, clearly. They’re sick to death of being cut off from the greater North American region they had always belonged to before Castro». (7)

Liberal exceptionalists have already put forward arguments to justify the new approach to Cuba hoping the United States will find a way to trigger changes in the country located in the vicinity of CONUS. (8)

The official White House statement says «U.S. engagement will be critical when appropriate and will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba and other measures aimed at fostering improved conditions for the Cuban people». (9)

It means nothing else but stating the Washington’s intent to interfere into Cuba’s internal affairs. The restoration of full diplomatic relations with exchange of missions significantly broadens the opportunities for such meddling. The United States has plans to export information materials and promote «humanitarian projects» using Internet communications for the purpose. At that Cuba is still called a «Communist regime» and «an island of dictatorship». It won’t take long till the attempts take place to organize protest actions against the Cuban government. 

It’s worth to note that STRATFOR experts use the example of Venezuela, the Cuban nearest and closest ally in the hemisphere, in their assessments of prospects for US-Cuba relationship. They believe that ultimately the Venezuela’s future will rely on global oil prices and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s ability to simultaneously manage unrest on the streets and counter challengers within the government. In fact, several hours after the U.S.-Cuba prisoner swap was announced, Maduro publicly said Venezuela would be willing to improve its stagnant political ties with the United States. (10)

There is one more point to be mentioned here. The White House official statement does not say there will be changes in relation to the status of Guantanamo naval base on Cuban soil. «There is no impact to Guantánamo from the changes announced today», the National Security Council spokeswoman, Bernadette Meehan, said on December 17. It was confirmed by U.S. Navy Captain John Nettleton, the base commander. (11)

James George Stavridis, a retired United States Navy Admiral and a former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Commander, US Southern Command, believes the warming of the bilateral relationship will inevitably add to the agenda the issue of closing the oldest and largest military installation in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. As he puts it, «Now that we are moving forward with plans to open up our relationship with Cuba, the issue of closing Naval Station Guantanamo Bay will quickly be on the table, pushed hard and fast by the Cubans». The Admiral says «For a variety of reasons, we should close the detention facility, but work hard to keep the naval station under U.S. control, despite what will be intense pressure from the Cubans desperately seeking to shut it down». (12)

(1) PETER BAKERDEC. U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing a Last Trace of Cold War Hostility. The New York Times. Dec. 17, 2014


(3) JEFFREY GOLDBERG. Good Riddance to a Ridiculous Cuba Policy. The Atlantic, DEC 17 2014.

(4) CAROL J. WILLIAMS. U.S.-Cuba thaw could erode Russian influence with Havana allies. LA Times, Dec. 18, 2014.

(5) Bill Gertz. Intel concerns about Russia-Cuba ties preceded Obama’s deal to dismantle sanctions. December 17.

(6) JEFFREY GOLDBERG. Good Riddance to a Ridiculous Cuba Policy. The Atlantic, Dec 17 2014.
(7) Michael J. Totten. Letter from Cuba: To Embargo or Not.

(8) Gordon Adams. The Liberal Fallacy of the Cuba Deal. FP, December 19, 2014.

(9) Fact Sheet on Steps to Chart A New Course in Cuba. THE WHITE HOUSE. Office of the Press Secretary. 17 December 2014.

(10) The United States and Cuba Begin Restoring Relations, Stratfor, DECEMBER 17, 2014.

(11) Carol Rosenberg. Guantanamo not part of U.S.-Cuban bargain. Miami Herald, 12/17/2014.

(12) James Stavridis. Opening Cuba and Closing Gitmo? FP, DECEMBER 19, 2014.

Strategic Culture