Cuba-U.S. Relations Continue Cold War Thaw

Hira Humayun '17 Contributing Writer 

In Dec. 2014, Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced that the longtime foes, Cuba and the United States, would restore diplomatic relations, severed in 1961. Almost one month later, on Jan. 26, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro - under whom U.S. - Cuban tensions were arguably at their peak - gave his nod of approval at this restored tie. Castro advocated the mending of relations in order to achieve peaceful coexistence between the two countries, but mentioned that he remains skeptical of U.S. intentions. Castro expressed, “I don’t trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts.”

Ideological differences during the Cold War, in addition to the nuclear question, were perhaps the biggest factors that had initially driven a rift between the two countries. This gave rise to economic tensions, including an economic embargo, as exemplified by Fidel Castro’s earlier statements blaming the United States for Cuba’s economic problems. However, by restoring ties despite distinct ideological differences, the two countries may be able to reach resolutions regarding matters such as economic development and nuclear non-proliferation, in ways they were previously unable to.

When U.S.-Cuba relations were severed, both agricultural industries suffered under an embargo. However, with the newly mended relations comes the possibility of that embargo being lifted, thus improving conditions for the agricultural sectors of both countries.  Mending relations with Cuba also has implications for the United States’ relations with other Latin American countries, as it demonstrates  its openness to engaging in partnerships with countries regardless of their ideological bend.

The United States has shown that its relations with communist countries, such as China, are no anomaly in its foreign policy pattern. Despite the communist inclinations of Chinese political systems, the United States has found common capitalistic ground in China’s recent economic reforms supporting free markets. Similarly, despite Cuba’s political and ideological bend, the United States extends its diplomacy to the country which is also embracing economic liberation. Allowance of inter country banking, liberalized real estate markets and increased trading of consumer goods prove that the economic ties established through the propagation of capitalism will certainly be mutually beneficial to both economies. Cuba’s private sector has already risen to encompass 20 percent of the total workforce, something capitalist countries look favorably upon.

Increased trade and relaxed travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba seem likely following the restoration of diplomatic ties. In terms of coming to some sort of consensus regarding security, environmental issues and the intricacies of trade agreements, no concrete action will be taken overnight -- or perhaps even in the near future. Congress will have to deliberate on many bills regarding the terms of trade agreements with Cuba. Issues in other sectors, such as security, may come far later, and there is a possibility that the countries may fail to reach consensus.

However, the mending of a relationship with Cuba is a big step for both countries as it paves the way for countless opportunities for dialogue. This tie has the potential to even facilitate conversations that may lead to further consensus and more agreements regarding issues that have previously never been touched upon by the two countries together. Although at this point nothing can be said for certain about the future of United States-Cuba relations, the door is unquestionably open for valuable possibilities.