Monday, August 25, 2014

Cuba, all over again

Cuba, all over again
Staff Columnist

In 1978/79 when I was a grad student at the Kennedy School of Government
(now the Harvard Kennedy School) we were treated to the seminal work of
the then dean of that institution, Graham Allison's "Essence of
Decision." In it Allison used his discussion of the Cuban Missile Crisis
to explain, as a case study, models of government decision making. I
remember it well as I had served in that area and in that time of crisis.
As a lad (Ensign, Civil Engineer Corps) I served in the late '50s on the
West Indies islands of Grand Turk and South Caicos. We built there, and
elsewhere, Naval Facilities whose functions were mostly to listen –
listen for submarines of course. There is in that area of the Atlantic
deep water known as the Caicos Trench – through which submarines might
have entered the Gulf of Mexico. With the range of those years' missiles
it would have been possible to fire on the American heartland from the
Gulf, if not from the Atlantic itself. So the Navy listened. The Seabees
built the facilities on British Islands under terms of agreements left
over from WWII's Lend-Lease.
So I had become familiar with the islands, and their proximity to Cuba.
Now these were the days of Fidel Castro, a maybe visionary Cuban
revolutionary who was coming 'down from the mountains', the Sierra
Maestra. He was, I recall, the darling of many in the United States. He
came almost in triumph to the U.N. staying in the Hotel Theresa in NYC's
Harlem. Earlier we on those salt islands witnessed the rather primitive
'gun running' of weapons to the revolutionaries in Cuba using aircraft
from the U.S. to the islands for transfer to fishing boat to Cuba. Our
British hosts (Jamaican Constabulary) were unable to stop these efforts.
We were ordered not to interfere. I was fascinated with Allison's
descriptions of Russian involvement in Cuba which threatened our Nation
with ballistic missiles from Cuba.
"The Kremlin and the Castros are chummy again, and Moscow is offering
military aid." This reminder was published in "Putin Restores a Cuban
Beachhead" by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, The Wall Street Journal, Monday,
July 28, 2014.
Vladimir Putin visited Havana in July.
Ms. O'Grady writes, The Castros remain as paranoid, power-hungry and
pathological as ever. They may be economic fools, but they run a good
business making the island available to criminal governments, like Iran
and North Korea. Mr. Putin's Cuba trip reinforces the point. The old
Cold War villains are up to no good one more time."
"Russia's president is trying to rebuild the Soviet empire. Eastern
Europe won't cooperate and in Asia the best he will ever be is China's
junior partner. But in Latin America Mr. Putin's KGB resume and
willingness to stick his thumb in the eye of the U.S. gives him
traction. Colonizing Cuba again is an obvious move."
Russian support for Cuba was cut off after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Fidel was furious with the Kremlin. It seems, the Journal reports, that
the Island's rulers are willing to forgive – for the right price.
O'Grady continues, "With sugar-daddy Venezuela running into economic
problems in recent years and Mr. Putin itching for a place in the
Caribbean sun, Cuba has decided to deal."
Interestingly, in June of this year Russia signed a space cooperation
agreement with Cuba to allow it to use the island to base its Glonass
(Russia's alternative to GPS) navigation stations.
"When he called in Havana this month Mr. Putin flaunted his intentions
to restore a Russian beachhead in Cuba. The shoot-down of the Malaysian
Airlines flight on the same day that he ended his Latin American tour
raised the visibility of a trip that was made for both psychological and
strategic reasons. Mr. Putin wants to assure the Free World that he can
be a menace in the U.S. backyard - and he wants a local foothold to make
the threat real."
"Mr. Putin officially wrote off $32billion of bad Cuban debt on his
trip, leaving just $3.2billion due over the next 10 years. Russia is
looking for oil in Cuban waters, and Mr. Putin signed new agreements in
energy, industry and trade with Castro."
More from Mary O'Grady, "Far more troubling is the emergence of Mr.
Putin as a Latin American presence. Tyrants all over the region,
starting with the Castros, admire his ruthlessness and skill in
consolidating economic and political power. They want to emulate him.
It's a role model the region could do without."
I've written about our neighbor to the south on these pages several
times. I even quoted the Cuban revolutionary poet, Jose' Marti, twice.
Florida is as close as we'll get to Cuba. What happens there is
important to us. The Seabees and sailors of by-gone years protected us
once. We must pay attention again. "Can Do."

Source: Cuba, all over again | Longboat Key News -

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