Cuba in a Global Context: International Relations, Internationalism, and Transnationalism

By da Cruz, Jose de Arimateia | Parameters, Autumn 2014 | Go to article overview

Cuba in a Global Context: International Relations, Internationalism, and Transnationalism


da Cruz, Jose de Arimateia, Parameters


Cuba in a Global Context: International Relations, Internationalism, and Transnationalism

Edited by Catherine Krull

Savannah, GA: Relations and Comparative Politics at Armstrong State University, 2013

352 pages

$74.95

It is not an exaggeration to say no other country in the world has attracted the attention of the United States more than the island of Cuba. Extremes of friendliness and animosity have characterized US-Cuba diplomatic relations since 7 January 1959, when the United States recognized the new Cuban government but maintained serious reservations about its leader, Fidel Castro. With the end of the Cold War and the radical transformation of the bipolar world into a unipolar one dominated by the United States, Cuba now stands at a crossroad. As the world becomes more "flat," to use Thomas Friedman's description, Cuba will have to reorient its foreign policy during its "special period in time of peace," and find its own niche during this process of globalization and regionalization (3). Furthermore, domestic imperatives, diverse constituencies, and US-Cuban perceptions and misperceptions will also impact Washington's policy toward Cuba.

In this edited anthology, Catherine Krull takes a fresh look at Cuba's international relations in its attempt to survive its contentious relations with the United States and to build new bridges in the post-Cold War world. The political constructs of international relations--where Cubans found themselves at the center of the long geopolitical struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union--are fundamental to Cuba's future. But so are internationalism (the promotion of increased economic and political cooperation amongst nations) and transnationalism (people-to-people rather than government-to-government relationships). Cuba, according to Krull, has been active in the international system in the aftermath of the implosion of the Soviet Union. Cuba, once described as "Moscow's favorite Marxist-Leninist showcase in the developing world--the only socialist revolution that had succeeded in Latin America," (1) was taken by surprised once President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, and introduced two new concepts into the political vocabulary of the Soviet Union: glasnost and perestroika. Perestroika was an attempt to restructure the Soviet Union's economy, which was at the edge of collapse; while glasnost was the political opening of the Soviet Union's authoritarian regime. Within a year, the Soviet Union under Gorbachev collapsed and its satellite states, including Cuba, lost their geopolitical value to the newly created Russian Republic. As Krull points out, "within a year Cuba's massively important special conditions as a member of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and the international socialist division of labor were a thing of the past, and the island was soon to reel under the impact of an 80 percent drop in its purchasing power abroad and the almost total loss of its Soviet and Eastern European markets and suppliers" (51).

Recognizing the end of the Cold War and the new international political environment of the twenty-first century, Cuba's revolutionary project would have to find new allies. The decade of the 1980s, the so-called "lost decade" in Latin America, was a period of economic hardship followed by high unemployment, capital flight, and economic crisis. Proponents of globalization, Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, promised rapid economic growth and prosperity. Instead, the global economic crisis of 2008-2009 did more damage to an already frail and weak political system. As Krull points out, "damaging commodity prices, scarce line of credit, declining foreign investment, and a depressed export-import market are particularly taxing for developing countries," including Cuba (134). …

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