The United States and Cuba: Intimate Enemies

The United States and Cuba: Intimate Enemies

The United States and Cuba: Intimate Enemies

The United States and Cuba: Intimate Enemies


A great power and a weaker, rival neighbor can eventually have normal relations. Prior to 1959, Cuba and the United States didn't have a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship, and amid the Cold War, Cuba's alliance with the Soviet Union made U.S.-Cuba normality even more elusive. What the United States and Cuba now face is relating to each other as normally as possible, a task made all the more difficult by the shadow of the Cold War. After 1989, regime change returned to the heart of U.S.-Cuba policy, a major obstacle for Washington-Havana dialogue. In turn, Cuban leaders have generally shirked their responsibility to do their part to ease the fifty-year enmity with the United States.

This book systematically covers the background of U.S.-Cuban relations after the Cold War and explores tensions that extend into the twenty-first century. The author explores the future of this strained relationship under Obama's presidency and in a post-Castro Cuba.


The United States and Cuba: Intimate Enemies is a renewed attempt to understand the relationship between the two neighbors. My goal was to put aside the familiar arguments and create a book that would be useful for policymakers in Washington and Havana. Four central ideas guided my writing.

The United States and Cuba is the ninth of a ten-book series published by Routledge and edited by Jorge I. Domínguez and Rafael Fernández de Castro on the United States and Latin America after the Cold War. Sounds straightforward enough but not necessarily regarding Cuba. Was the Cold War over for the island as well? I concluded it was. No doubt the revolution’s siding with the former Soviet Union elevated tensions between the two countries to unprecedented levels, but the Cold War did not fully account for the troubled relationship after 1959. That’s the first idea.

Relations between a great power and its weaker neighbor are rarely easy. In the nineteenth century, Cuba lay at the doorstep of a rising United States while still a Spanish colony. The United States looked on the island as a crucial, geopolitical piece in the greater Caribbean Basin. Cubans dissatisfied with Madrid viewed Washington with admiration for its democracy, even as they mistrusted its imperiousness. Before the revolution, the United States and Cuba never had normal relations in the sense that the two never consolidated a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship. That task is still pending and that is the second main idea in this book.

Though tempted to structure the book primarily around the bilateral relationship, I did not. The international community—whether the United Nations, the European Union or countries such as Spain and Canada—was and is an actor on its own right. Because of the Cuban Democracy and HelmsBurton acts, Havana has at times played an outsized role in the relationship . . .

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