Cuba is not as important a world power as Iran, but it, too, was forged in anti-American upheaval, its ideology is anti-American, anti-capitalist, and anti-liberal, and its elite bears long-held grievances against the United States. The U.S. trade embargo may not have driven the Castros from power, but it nonetheless expresses American opposition to the nature of Cuba’s government, and to the aims and practices of its rulers. President Obama’s thawing of relations with Cuba repudiates this traditional, bipartisan, moral stand in return for … what exactly? The truth is we receive less from the opening of Cuba than we do from our détente with Iran.
The United States, as a superpower, can afford to be magnanimous with nuisances such as Cuba. But that doesn’t mean we should indulge in the fantasy that the provision of economic and diplomatic stimulus to a decrepit communist backwater will bring positive consequences for the cause of freedom and democracy, and improve the political status of the Cuban people. Nor should we cling to the idea that engaging and trading with the Cubans will pacify them. America has been trading with China for decades. The Chinese are just as un-free as they were the day Apple built its first factory there—and indeed China is more powerful, its influence greater, its willingness to challenge the United States more robust than before. What will Cuba look like—how well armed and fascistic will it be—after 20 years of trade with America?
Cuba may be unimportant, for now, but Russia is not. It has repeatedly rejected President Obama’s desire for a “reset” in relations, and has opted for historical revisionism and territorial expansion. Not only has Vladimir Putin an entire global propaganda network to attack, defame, and inspire hatred of the United States, he has Georgia, Crimea, much of eastern Ukraine, and a nuclear stockpile too.