I was, of course, delighted when Barack Obama announced the sudden and dramatic imprvement of relations between the United States and Cuba.
As for pretty much everyone else, the news seemed to me to come out of the blue; I hadn’t been aware that Obama had previously been interested in Cuba. Indeed, I’m not really aware of any previous statements from him about the issue.
Reading through the news reports, I see a curious absence: any suggestion of an answer to the most obvious questions – Why? Why now, after so many decades? Why now, when Obama has so many other pressing issues before he leaves office?. Even more interesting, there’s no indication that anyone in the mainstream media has pursued these questions with any great effort.
I have a theory about this. See what you think…
It seems that the process began with a meeting between President Obama and Raul Castro in April 2015, at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
The announcement that the two countries would re-open embassies in each other’s capitals came somewhat under two months later, on July 1st 2015. This would seem to be extraordinarily fast for such a dramatic and unprecedented diplomatic shift. Why? Why so fast?
Ultimately, I think this is the reason. Not the specific use of cruise missiles based in the Caspian to strike ISIS in Syria (that didn’t happen till later, in December 2015), but the capability of Russia’s contemporary missile force.
What do I mean? My belief is that the US rapprochement with Cuba was triggered in the most urgent manner by events in Ukraine.
Take a look at this timeline of events in Ukraine from the Telegraph, and note:
5th February 2015
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, travels to Kiev for talks amid debate over whether the US should arm Ukrainian government forces. Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel announce a surprise “new peace initiative”
At the start of February 2015, the Ukrainian armed forces were in full retreat, and the militias of the rebel Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics were storming forward with victory after victory. John Kerry was in Ukraine talking about direct US intervention in Ukraine by supplying arms to the routed Ukrainian forces.
This was a critical moment. What could Russia do? This would have been a step way beyond anything they could have accepted, and I believe that they would have upped the ante in response. I strongly suspect that they told Washington that if US arms arrived in Kiev, then Club-K cruise missiles would be installed in LOURDES, and I don’t mean the pilgrimage destination in France. Rather, it’s the Russian base in Cuba; their equivalent of Guantanamo.
Inherited by the Russian Federation from the USSR, the LOURDES base was mothballed in 2002… but re-activated in mid-2014, when events in Ukraine were heating up. Bear in mind that the Club-K missiles can be launched from a shipping container; this is not a system that needs a huge infrastructure build-up.
Is it so unlikely that the Russians would threaten the US with the placement of cruise missiles in Cuba? Of course not. It’s well-known that they regard the presence of NATO on their own borders as a direct threat; they would simply be pointing out that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
How would the US respond to this? After all of their rhetoric justifying the presence of NATO in the Baltics, Poland, and – in principle – in Ukraine, there would have been no legal or moral leg for them to stand on.
Thus, a deal offered to Cuba: refuse permission for the Russian missiles, and we’ll end the embargo. What else could they have offered? The Cubans would have held all the cards in this situation. And to mollify the Russians, the Minsk agreements.
Like all the best conspiracy theories, this explains a number of odd events and coincidences. It explains why the Western press apparently didn’t dig into the reasons for the sudden US volte-face over Cuba. It explains why the US suddenly de-escalated in Ukraine, and let the Europeans take the lead.
What do you think?