Vladimir Putin sets sights on Cuba as Trump's war of words with Havana backfires

HAVANA, Aug. 14th When former Secretary of State John Kerry officiated the reopening of the embassy

that had been closed for 44 years, it was seen as a landmark shift in relations between Cuba and the US. The two countries severed ties following Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959 and Havana’s subsequent alliance with the Soviet Union.

The 2015 ceremony – labeled “historic” by Mr. Kerry – was initially thought to be the start of thawing relations, but aggressive policy from US President Donald Trump appears to have reversed any diplomatic progress.

At the time, the global mood was positive about a future relationship between the two countries.

BBC’s Jon Sopel said: “On both sides, US-Cuban relations are entering a new era, and though there will be difficulties ahead and fresh misunderstandings, for those who had brought this restoration of diplomatic relations about, today was one to savor in the Caribbean heat.”

Even Cuban President Raul Castro, who, alongside brother Fidel, had vehemently opposed US imperialism and global policy, spoke of his optimism.

He claimed: “A new stage will begin, long and complex, on the road toward normalization.

At the time, the global mood was positive about a future relationship between the two countries.

BBC’s Jon Sopel said: “On both sides, US-Cuban relations are entering a new era, and though there will be difficulties ahead and fresh misunderstandings, for those who had brought this restoration of diplomatic relations about, today was one to savor in the Caribbean heat.”

Even Cuban President Raul Castro, who, alongside brother Fidel, had vehemently opposed US imperialism and global policy, spoke of his optimism.

He claimed: “A new stage will begin, long and complex, on the road toward normalization.

It is believed that the effect of the sanctions forced Cuba to approve economic reforms which opened up the economy slightly.

This, in turn, could have led to Havana being forced onto the negotiating table.

2015 could have been the high point of US-Cuba relations, however, due to Trump’s hawkish policy on the Caribbean island.

June saw a tightening of travel restrictions on Cuba as cruise ships were banned from visiting the island.

His aim – to fully bring down the Cuban government and communist system – hasn’t worked, according to Latin America expert Christopher Sabatini.

He said last month: “For decades, the Cuban autocracy has been a nagging reminder of United States impotence in rooting out Communism.

“This pressure has always come with tough talk from Republicans, who like to claim that the Castro government’s time is up.

“John Bolton, the national security adviser, is the latest hawk to spew this empty rhetoric.

“Yet more than 58 years of isolating Havana has shown that the strategy doesn’t follow any logical theory of regime change.”

There is also a concern in Washington over Cuba’s growing relations with US adversaries such as Russia and Iran.

Moscow sent shockwaves through the Trump administration in June after sending their best warship into Cuban waters.

Last week Iran’s official press agency sent out a statement reaffirming their strong ties with Havana.

It read: “The two countries of Iran and Cuba reestablished their diplomatic ties on August 8, 1979, and Cuba was among the first countries that recognized the Islamic Revolution.

“During these forty years, the two countries backed each other overwhelmingly and expanded their amicable ties in various fields such as biotechnology and health.

“Cuba attaches great importance to its relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran and recognizes Iran’s inalienable right for the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

“The statement notes that the Cuban government strongly condemns the imposition of US unilateral sanctions on Iran which contravenes international rules and regulations.”

(https://www.express.co.uk)