From the Editors: Cuba Shifts Toward Obama

The bipolar world exists only in the fantasies of a few Russian politicians.

Barack Obama’s announcement about the normalization of relations with Cuba is a bold step in internal American politics, and a powerful symbolic gesture in international politics. In “normalizing” Cuba, America removes the country from its own list of rogue states, a list also adopted by much of the world.

The final lifting of the 1961 trade embargo on American goods to Cuba, and the restoration of full diplomatic relations, will take time. Nikolai Kalashnikov, deputy director of the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences, notes that Republicans in Congress could drag out the confirmation of an ambassador to Cuba. Republicans and Democrats are now competing for the 2 million-strong Cuban diaspora and the electoral mood of Florida.

Nevertheless, Americans will need to hurry. After Fidel Castro handed over authority to his brother Raul in 2008, the country began to change. When officials were forbidden from holding office for more than two consecutive terms, the younger Castro announced that he would quit after 2018. Cuba abolished exit visas, and ordinary citizens were allowed to buy cars and to lease and privatize housing. Moreover, the first foreign investors came to the island from Spain, China and Latin American countries to extend credit to small businesses. Cuba followed the Chinese and Vietnamese example, where the Communist Party does not interfere with liberalization of the economy and development of business. In Kalashnikov’s opinion, American entrepreneurs believe that they may be late to the privatization of Cuban property and the possible development of the Cuban region.

Officially, Washington lost the half-century battle and is taking a multitude of unilateral steps towards Havana. On the other hand, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Cuba did not pose a strategic threat to the United States. It is apparent that after the departure of the Castro brothers, Cuba will quickly return to the orbit of American influence, confirming that the bipolar world exists only in the fantasies of a few Russian politicians.

Vladimir Putin was in Havana recently in June, and wrote off 90 percent of Cuba’s debt to Russia. Talks on establishing Russian military bases in Lourdes remained talk. In Cuba, Russia is apparently losing one of its few rhetorical allies in anti-Americanism and its current partner in isolation. But couldn’t we simply seek economic cooperation with Cuba, and operate on a level playing field with the U.S., China and others? That would be good.

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