The U.S. has decided to end its decades long standoff with Cuba; the same Cuba on which the U.S. has kept its sanctions imposed for more than five decades. Why did such sudden change happen in the U.S.’s “Cuba policy”? The U.S. is no other nation state. It’s an ideological state, whose ideology is core capitalism. A core capitalist state like the U.S. would not step away from its firm stand unless it benefits from such move in multiple ways and in great quantities.
While much analysis has been made and many writings are published on the “economic reasons” of the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, less has been talked-about on the “political reasons” that led the U.S. and Cuba to agree on normalization of relations. It seems the following political considerations have pushed the U.S. to come into the decision to normalize relations with its adversary Cuba:
- The U.S. cannot be at odds at the same time with too many opponents, which includes Brazil, China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Al-Qaeda and other militant groups;
- The U.S. cannot afford to let its adversaries to continue to grow their influence on Cuba;
- The U.S. cannot afford to let countries like Cuba to slip into the Sino-Russian political orbit, aiding the making-process of a Sino-Russian capitalist global order;
- The U.S. wants to neutralize the anti-U.S. perception prevailing across the Latin region;
Too many adversaries for U.S.
The U.S. is engaged in a global rivalry with China— a much known fact of today’s global reality. Although the rivalry has been mostly in economic arena so far, this rivalry is slowly extending to an overall rivalry. At the same time, the U.S. has been imposing economic sanctions on Russia, whose stable existence in Eurasia would mean end of the U.S. hegemony in Europe and ‘no entry’ for the U.S. in Central Asia. Moreover, as alleged by some Latin and African analysts, the U.S. has been, for quite a long, trying to destabilize both Brazil and South Africa internally in order to facilitate a regime change as they are becoming more and more anti-U.S.
At the same time, the U.S. has been maintaining sanctions on Cuba, North Korea and Iran for decades, pushing these countries towards a greater cooperation with its rivals— China and Russia. Moreover, quite often the U.S. has found itself fighting the religious militants, such as Al-Qaeda, almost alone with comparatively little help from its allies. Since the U.S. suddenly realizes that it is not possible to shoulder the burden of maintaining odd relationships with too many adversaries, the U.S. is now trying to pick and choose which adversarial entities should be deal with now, and which ones should be neutralized. Therefore, it seems Cuba has perhaps fallen in the neutralization category and the U.S. is attempting to make peace with this small Latin country.
U.S.’s adversaries in Cuba
The standoff and confrontational environment between the U.S. and Cuba has only helped U.S.’s adversaries like Brazil, China, Russia and Venezuela. The distance between these two neighbours has paved the way for the then Soviet Union and now Russia to establish a moderate grip on Cuba. Russian ships are frequent visitors to Cuban ports. Russia announced deals to invest in Cuba’s offshore oil industry and has already begun oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico after signing a deal with Cuba.
Venezuela’s anti-U.S. sentiment is very well known, and the distance between Cuba and the U.S. has only brought Cuban and Venezuelan regimes closer. While the U.S. maintained the distance, Venezuela and China became the largest trading partners of Cuba. China has been increasingly active in the Latin region, including in Cuba, funding development and expanding trade agreements. Brazil, with an anti-U.S. sentimental regime, has been among the countries most involved in Cuba, with a giant Brazilian construction corporation handling the expansion of the port and free trade zone at Mariel.
While the U.S. stands by idly with regard to Cuban affairs, its adversaries are gripping the small Latin country into their political orbit — a reality that has pushed the U.S. to normalize its relations with Cuba. The U.S. realized that it has a lot to gain from the normalization than the standoff situation. Therefore, through the normalization of relations, the U.S. wants to undermine the influence of its adversaries in Cuba and wants to bring the small Latin country into its sphere of influence.
Countering a Sino-Russian capitalist global order
China is in rivalry with the U.S. regarding the major campaigner-ship of the current capitalist global order. From China’s recent moves, it seems that China, alongwith Russia, is engaged in reshaping the global order to replace the U.S. as the major campaigner of the current order. For the U.S., keeping countries like Cuba as adversaries would push them to slip entirely into the Sino-Russian political orbit paving way for the inception of the Sino-Russian capitalist global order. The U.S. simply cannot afford to let such a catastrophe to happen. Therefore, through the normalization of relations, the U.S. wants to restrain Cuba from joining, in full capacity, the Sino-Russian political orbit.
Neutralize anti-U.S. sentiment
The sanction policy of the U.S., over the years, has not proven effective in changing things inside Cuba. The U.S.’s attempts to isolate Cuba, both commercially and diplomatically, has not worked at all. It has failed to remove the Castro brothers, and even worse, has strengthened anti-U.S. sentiments in Cuba. The normalization of relations would only bring benefits for the U.S. and would turn the anti-U.S. sentiments of the Cubans into a positive one.
The anti-U.S. sentiments have also been hyped in the rest of Latin America for different reasons; one of these reasons being the giant U.S.’s attitude towards a weaker and smaller neighbour like Cuba. Most of the Latin regimes always feared that friendship with the U.S. may bring imperialism at their doors, and they, therefore, never went ahead for friendship with the U.S. Their mistrust was validated by the U.S.’s attitude with Cuba. Moreover, over the years, the people to people connections within the Latin region has made people of other Latin countries to become more and more sympathetic towards Cuba and to grow feelings of hatred towards the U.S. Now, only if the mighty U.S.’s decision ‘to end sanctions on Cuba’ could bolster U.S.’s image and resurrect its influence in the region!
Restoration of relations between Cuba and the U.S. should not only focus on ending sanctions, but should also be followed by steps like the withdrawal of U.S. naval base from the Guantanamo. Without such steps, the U.S. would not be able to restore its image against the anti-U.S. sentimental people living across the region who uses these issues to depict the hypocrisy of a superpower that punishes a small country while cozying with repressive regimes elsewhere.
Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst, and writes on Middle Eastern, greater Asia-Pacific & European geopolitics. Also a campaigner for environmental and social awareness, Bahauddin Foizee occasionally writes on environment and refugee issues.