Barack Obama is often said to have a modest legacy in foreign policy. He has thought hard about that with opening up to Cuba. Fifty years after the beginning of the embargo, the Russians have finally lost.
The sugar and cigarette island, Cuba, is almost in sight of the United States, and yet, for more than half a century these neighbor’s relations were freezing cold, as if they were traveling to different planets. The hostility extends far back into religion and history, mostly to the time of the Spanish-American War, as the U.S. Navy-enclave, Guantanamo, attests to this day.
The high point of mutual hostility came after the communist firebrand Fidel Castro seized power, and in 1959 [when] his guerrillas fended off the bloody CIA-organized landing of exiles in the Bay of Pigs.
This was followed by the invitation of the authorities in Havana to the Soviet leader to station their nuclear mid-range missiles on the tropical island. As the American President John F. Kennedy categorically demanded the withdrawal, this political and military showdown led the world to the brink of the abyss, and back to the era of bipolarity, coexistence and arms control. For 10 days, Cuba was the catalyst of world history. After that, the tropical island remained Russia’s semi-colony, until [the Russians] ran out of money, [as did] Cuba, whose regime has been expensive.
Now hanging in the reopened embassy is the stars and stripes of the United States. The history, however, has long term effects. Before commerce and trade is normalized, it is necessary to clear the embargo. Washington relies on the power of the economy, Raul Castro on the violence of dictatorship. The winner, without firing a shot, but also with the help of Pope Francis, is the U.S. President Barack Obama. Among the losers, a thousand miles away, is the man in the Kremlin.
In the record of his term of office, Obama had to contend with a difficult legacy. Russia’s return to the world stage and the re-emergence of China would be his challenges in world politics. But where the end of the world once threatened, he triumphed diplomatically. Dollars, digits and democracy will do the rest.