SHAFAQNA- The decision to restore US diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba, which President Barack Obama declared on December 17, made the main world sensation last Wednesday.
Russian experts polled by TASS do not believe that the real reason for mending relations with Havana is Washington’s recognition that the economic, trading and financial blockade has reached nowhere. The underlying reason for Obama’s unexpected decision is rather geopolitical, analysts say.
Throughout the decades of political confrontation between the United States and Cuba, Moscow and Havana invariably maintained friendly relations. In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law to ratify the agreement writing off Cuba’s $32 billion debt to Russia. After a while, it became known that Russia had received an opportunity to resume the operation of the radar at Lurdes, near Havana.
“In recent years, Russia kept building up its activity in Latin America. China was following along the same path. Washington could not but notice that. Nevertheless, the majority of Latin American states are economically and politically pegged to the United States much stronger than to Russia. Political scientists keep referring to these countries as the United States’ backyard. Cuba has been the sole exception. Now, after the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, it will stop being such an exception,” the director of the Institute of US and Canada Studies, Sergey Rogov, told TASS.
“The standoff between the United States and Cuba could not last indefinitely. It was bound to end sooner or later. Apparently, the White House decided that power in Havana is about to change hands. Fidel Castro retired a long while ago, and Raul Castro is advanced in years. Obama has made a decision to gain a firmer foothold in Cuba, although that step drew criticism not only from the Republicans, but also from some Democrats,” Rogov said.
“There are certain geopolitical considerations behind the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana. The White House initiative is expected to bolster the United States’ influence in Latin America. Cuba has survived despite the more than 50-year-long trading and economic embargo by the United States, and Washington’s refusal to recognize it annoyed the neighbors,” the dean of the world politics and world economy department of the Higher School of Economics, Sergey Karaganov, told TASS. “On the other hand, the right-wing group opposed to Havana has become marginalized with the passage of time. Many of its current members are grandchildren of Cuban emigrants. Washington has nobody to rely on in its attempts to weaken the Cuban regime,” Karaganov said.
“Many US politicians have long mulled the possibility of restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, but only Barack Obama, whose presidency is expiring in two years from now, has dared take the move. He has nothing to lose and this made him so bold as to do away with this anachronism — Cuba’s 50-year-long blockade,” Karaganov said.
“With this unprecedented decision, the United States hopes to strengthen its positions in South America, where the members of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) are opposed to the transnational companies’ hegemony. Besides, the most influential country in the region, Venezuela, has a close relationship with Cuba. Washington has apparently decided to give up pressures on Havana to opt for ‘soft power’. At this point, it is hard to predict how soon the US Congress may lift the trading and economic embargo from Cuba, but the first steps towards cancelling visas are being taken already,” the international research director at the Institute of Modern Development, Sergey Kulik, told TASS.
“It is very unlikely that the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba was prompted only by the awareness the sanctions are ineffective, contrary to what Obama said. Washington never makes decisions on the basis of just one reason, and always, on several ones, first and foremost, geopolitical — for the sake of tightening its grip on the world,” the analyst said.