The end of Cuba’s isolation from the global policing fraternity after over a half a decade has opened the doors to a multitude of questions concerning the security of the country, the region, and its relations with the United States. Although not official until codified in legislation and approved by congress, the surprising change of events in December resulted from secret phone calls between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro. The agreement between the Presidents will, effectively, re-establish relations between the two countries and open the door to an important opportunity for the U.S. to revamp its relationship with the region.
The surprising turn of events contradicts the U.S.’s long-term policy of isolation for Cuba. The instigation of normalization will relax travel, diplomatic, and economic restrictions between the two countries. Further to the agreement between the two leaders, the end of Cuba’s isolation comes with the condition of release of Americans and dissidents from Cuban soil. As a part of the normalization, Cuba will also permit officials from the Red Cross and the United Nations to return to its soil. Not only this, but further to Cuba’s situation, the country’s status as a, “state sponsor of terrorism”, will now come under review from the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. The removal of such a status will have an impact on the sanctions that continue to be applied to Cuba.
Cuba’s developments with the U.S. come with potential benefits for both countries, the prospect of improving U.S. security in the region being one of them. In so far as to say, the normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S. has the potential to arm Cuba with an economic position in the region that will advance the U.S.’s strategic interests and help the U.S. to deal with regional security challenges. Moreover, the policy-shift is likely to expand Cuba’s participation in the regional economy and in doing so, it has the potential to encourage Cuba to collaborate with other countries in the fight against drug trafficking, human trafficking and illegal immigration. However, there is a feasibly volatile side to the situation, as the normalization of relations could see traffickers establish Cuba as a fertile base for transit to Florida and onwards. The potential for such a situation raises some serious questions for the U.S. and the management of such security issues. One must ask if the Cuban law enforcement authorities are prepared a rise in criminal endeavors, resulting from the end of its isolation.
Whilst the ramifications of the official normalization deal between the U.S. and Cuba will follow a congressional approval, all that is certain at this point is that the Obama administration’s policy-shift is one which has not only re-established diplomatic relations between the two countries, it has also fuelled Cuba’s re-integration into the economic, political, and strategic-security realm.