Snyder: Opening relations with Cuba is the right move

Stephen Snyder

President Obama’s recent decision to move toward normal relations with the island nation of Cuba is the correct step for both nations. Despite the United States’ more than 50 year embargo, Cuba has seen little to no shift regarding its political structure.

The Cold War tensions and the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s made the embargo a logical and defendable decision, but as those wounds have healed, so must the United States’ connection with Cuba.

This seems the most opportune time to announce and pursue the renewed relationship as Russia, the old Cold War ally of Cuba, has seen inflation rates for the ruble inflate to as high as 17 percent, putting the country in a position where domestic concerns far outweigh international developments.

Opponents of the proposed policy, like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., believe that the decision will do nothing more than validate the current Cuban power structure.

“All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power,” Rubio said.

Believing that the embargo would lead to a change in the political structure requires a vivid imagination. Surely Sen. Rubio is aware that the Castro regime was in power before, during, and assuredly will be after the embargo.

Such notions rely on the embargoed nation needing American involvement in their economies. Nations that have been hit with sanctions similar to Cuba, like Iran and North Korea, have likewise seen little to no change in political power.

As for economic strains causing those political changes, nations like Iran have shown that they are more than willing to allow inflation rates continue to sky rocket, instead of succumbing to American demands. When regimes such as these are in place and the United States’ response it to restrict trade, those who suffer most are the common citizens.

The hope is that these common citizens will then demand change, possibly through revolution, but these hopes rarely materialize  and even far less frequently result in long-term change. Examples include the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the more recent democratic Green Movement, which followed the 2009 elections in Iran.

All of this evidence points to the fact that sanctions will not work in nations where the political regimes have proven that the economic welfare of their citizens is not an issue worth collaborating with the United States. These regimes often simply find European or Asian economic partners, regardless of the increase in costs.

The 54-year suspension of cooperation between the two nations has proved monumentally unsuccessful in changing the policies of Cuba, so what is the harm in taking a different approach?

According to CBS News, only 28 percent of Americans said that they disagreed with reopening relations with Cuba. Public support exists, so even if the renewed establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba does not result in political change, bringing both countries back to the same table is the correct decision and will hopefully yield more positive change than Cold War induced approach.