Friday, April 17, 2009

Cuba: Sphere of Influence?

The Obama Administration's recent engagement with Cuba has provoked outrage by those who, accurately so, portrary the Castro Regime as an authoritarian dictatorship that has accomplished little aside from keeping its citizens equally impoverished. Numerous motivations have been attributed to President Obama's "outreach" to Havana, however, from a geopolitical perspective, the move clearly underscores the strategic chess match between the United States and the Russian Federation.

The principal observation we will make about the Russian people is that they have a strong yearning to achieve global significance and eventual SuperPower status. In fact, Vladimir Putin has built an entire political career around his knowledge of this one fact alone! Although many independent nations emerged from the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Government considers itself to still have "special privileged interests" over these former Soviet-bloc countries. This mindset has manifested into Russian foreign policy that tends to become more aggressive as the Motherland becomes more wealthy. We have seen Russia lash out militarily at its small neighbor Georgia, shut down natural gas pipelines to the Ukraine in the middle of the winter, attempt to interfere with US plans to install missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland, and extend "strings attached" foreign aid to Armenia in a time of desperate need for that country.

We would propose that, while this concept of a regional sphere of influence has historically been the forte of Russian foreign policy, its attractiveness insofar as crafting a pragmatic approach to American foreign affairs is gaining appreciation. The fact is, Cuba's geographical location is strategically attractive for a wide array of military operations. More importantly, improved US-Cuban relations will symbolically expel Russia from a position of influence over the island.

Although the US and Russia have publicly "hit the reset button", behind the scenes there is geopolitical chess match taking place. We await the next move.
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