US President Obama has been working to normalize relations with Cuba, and his possible move to remove Cuba from the US designation as a state sponsor of terrorism might facilitate an ever closer relation with the country (The New York Times 4/10/2015). Recent diplomatic shifts are quite a contrast from decades of US policy of political and economic isolation against the socialist regime that jailed political dissidents.

If this current trend continues, then new opportunities are available for both Americans and Cubans, including economic, academic, and cultural cooperation between the two countries. Initially, the short term economic gain in Cuba might be driven by tourism, but due to good medical and educational infrastructure in the country, there is a good possibility of economic diversification with good leadership.

Removing economic and political isolation ought not to be seen as Obama simply conceding to the Cuban regime. The US President needs to make sure that the future partnership with Cuba not only brings opportunities to the US in terms of cooperation on terrorism and other international issues but also the partnership would bring domestic change that would lead Cuba to another liberal democracy.

There are still risks for the US. Cuba might simply take new the economic and political opportunities to only strengthen the regime and continue to jail political dissidents and make no changes in the totalitarian structure of the country. As mentioned with the Iranian nuclear negotiations (DS NETS 4/5/2015), the longer Cuba takes advantage of the open economy with the US, the more it becomes dependent on the US. If Cuba does not make necessary domestic changes in the country, the US simply can leverage the economic influence on Cuba to incentivize directly to make positive democratic changes to the country.

If President Obama can make significant progress on both Iran and Cuba before the end of his presidency, then he might have sealed his foreign policy accomplishments. The upcoming Presidential election debates on foreign policy would be interesting to watch as the global politics finally shifts little by little.


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