DEFENCE – RELATIONS WITH CUBA THAW AS THEY FREEZE ELSEWHERE
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
18 Dec 14. Remembering, I would have to say as if it were only yesterday, our personal fears that the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 would lead to potential nuclear conflict between the world’s two great superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, it is good to see that the US and Cuba have agreed to open formal talks with a view to restoring full diplomatic relations.
That the beginnings of what will of necessity be a long drawn out process reaching out to Cuba and that might eventually lead to stability the emergence of economic recovery and growth in what has been one of the world’s most enduring diplomatic hotspots is certainly to be welcomed with open arms. The hand of friendship offered to the Cuban authorities by the US appears to have been well received by those that run the communist state may but I am bound to doubt that US Congress will so easily approve, as it will need to do, the Obama ‘reproshma’ plan that has as its ultimate aim the lifting of trade, travel and financial sanctions on Cuba that have been in place for over 50 years. Indeed, given that Democrats will be staring at both Republican controlled Senate and House in Congress when the President brings forward the plan to lift sanctions on Cuba we may anticipate that the Obama administration will be given a very rough ride.
For Cubans, the start of what will of necessity need to be a protracted thawing process and that will also likely require a change in stance by the Havana administration on issues such as human rights as a perquisite for further progress we are left to hope that its ageing leadership will now recognise that the opportunities that Canadian and Vatican diplomats have brokered for the country to rise above the economic abyss is the right way forward for this impoverished nations and its people. Suffice to say that Cubans have lived in a state of hell since US sanctions were put in place all those years ago. There was little that their friends in the East could do to help. The US government was certainly right to do what it did in imposing sanctions on the Castro led nation and there can be little doubt that the Soviet challenge to world peace and stability during those difficult times needed to be matched with non-idle threats. Political brinkmanship may have been a big issue here but President John F Kennedy did all that was required to bring the world back from the brink of disaster.
While there are those that will see what the Obama administration agreed yesterday in the softening of stance in relations with Cuba to be being done out of weakness as opposed to strength does not mean that it should be perceived as being wrong to attempt to present a new way forward of working with the oppressed people of Cuba. But while caution remains advisable, none of this initiative can or should be allowed to change the need for all of us to be more vigilant than ever to the increasing geo-political tensions and threats that face us. The ‘Cold War’ does not end with the attempted restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. Sadly it still goes on with Russia.
As we look toward the emerging new year that we will soon enter with the situation in Ukraine worsening, with Syria continuing to be torn apart, with the challenge and conflict being engaged by ISIL in Iraq and Syria showing little sign of abating and with militant attacks on innocent people in Pakistan by the Taliban destroying lives we must be increasingly aware that the way of life enjoyed by so many people is being challenged by a minority determined to take the world back to the dark ages. Europe may be at peace but the world is not at peace with itself. The threats to peace, stability and harmony have never been greater and my fear is that they will increase.
For the UK the threats that we face might to the majority appear to be rathe