The Cuban Deal Crisis

We have a crisis in Cuba. Not one involving missiles (at least not yet), but one involving a lack of a deal. It’s been 3 years since Castro died and 8 years since Raul took over, and yet we seem no closer to a deal. Cuba is still the only place Americans are specifically banned from visiting, even for tourism, and although there are ways around it, the influx of people that started under the Obama administration has since died down.

Congress is challenging the ban, but it’s likely to go nowhere, given a split House/Senate and a lack of media coverage on the issue. One person that is paying attention is Vladmir Putin, and Russia has been working to increase military ties with the island nation. Ironically, with the end of the INF treaty, we could see renewed interest by the Russians in placing missiles in Cuba and Venezuela in response to US troop increases in Poland and Romania.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. While we’ve been at a standoff in Venezuela, a deal in Cuba is possible. It’s been enough years that the hardliners on both sides have died off. Cuba’s economy is not doing well, and Russia doesn’t have the cash or economy to offer a deal like the US can. A US deal with Cuba would deny Russia access to ports that they could safely operate Naval vessels, such as the Gorshkov-class Frigate that carry land-attack cruise missiles.

Perhaps that is the way we are headed. President Trump’s recent crackdown on Cuba travel might be intended to place the country in a more desperate situation to spark negotiations. He doesn’t like to negotiate unless he is in a good position, and the Obama travel relaxations were freebies with no conditions attached. Getting a Cuba deal, on top of a deal with North Korea and (maybe) Iran, would be quite a crowning achievement.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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