Soviet-Cuban Relations, 1985 to 1991: Changing Perceptions in Moscow and Havana/The Cuban Embargo: The Domestic Politics of an American Embargo/Redefining Cuban Foreign Policy: The Impact of the "Special Period"

By Azicri, Max | Cuban Studies, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Soviet-Cuban Relations, 1985 to 1991: Changing Perceptions in Moscow and Havana/The Cuban Embargo: The Domestic Politics of an American Embargo/Redefining Cuban Foreign Policy: The Impact of the "Special Period"


Azicri, Max, Cuban Studies


Mervyn J. Bain, Soviet-Cuban Relations, 1985 to 1991: Changing Perceptions in Moscow and Havana. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2007. 164pp.

Patrick J. Haney and Walt Wanderbush, The Cuban Embargo: The Domestic Politics of an American Embargo. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. 222pp.

H. Michael Erisman and John M. Kirk, Redefining Cuban Foreign Policy: The Impact of the "Special Period." Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006. 360pp.

The scholarly works under review here discuss three major political events in me history of the Cuban revolutionary government, complementing one another in their subject, scope, and significance. Two of the studies cover parallel international issues: one examines the final years of the three-decade-long association with the Soviet Union and European socialism, while the other one covers the domestic American political forces mat have driven Washington's never-ending dispute with revolutionary Cuba - which has become entrenched even further under President George W. Bush. The third study deals with the nature and conditions of Havana's more recent foreign relations policy (launched following the collapse of the Soviet Union and me socialist bloc), which has been carried out under the Special Period in peacetime, an emergency program that seeks to keep the regime alive. As happened earlier, a creative approach to foreign policy strengthens Havana's survival power at a particularly critical time and avoids following the self-destructive history of fellow socialist European regimes.

Using primary and secondary sources, and th published memoirs of some of the political actors involved, Mervyn J. Bain provides an insightful account of some historic events that occurred while Mikhail Gorbachev was heading the Soviet Union. He examines some developments marking the end of the Soviet regime and how and why the Soviet-Cuban relationship ended.

Although Gorbachev sought to improve socialism in his country and elsewhere, and even held the Cuban Revolution in high regard, his antidote for a sluggish economy and a political yearning for civic freedoms brought down the closed communist state. His two central reform policies, perestroika first (administrative and political reorganization) and later glasnost (openness in communication) created a bitter internal argument about the urgency for freedom of the press and a mixed economy. With respect to Cuba, Soviets argued that they should no longer subsidize Cuba's inefficient economy, especially while the Soviet Union was undergoing economic austerity programs.

The powerful Cuban lobby in Moscow nevertheless worked vigorously to solidify and safeguard the special relationship with Havana. However, the combined effect of American pressure that demanded an end to the SovietCuban relationship, the material losses and human casualties of the ill-advised military intervention in Afghanistan, the increasingly poor performance of me economy, the assertiveness expressed by different nationalities in the country, the spreading secessionism among Soviet republics, and me separatist dynamics of socialist bloc members made me situation unmanageable for Gorbachev. The Soviet Union had to curtail its generous economic and military support of Cuba. In late summer 1991, Prime Minister Gorbachev announced in front of U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (without having notified Havana in advance) the withdrawal of the Soviet brigade that had been deployed in Cuba for decades, symbolizing an end to socialist solidarity and support for the island's national security.

Bain renders an enlightening account of a remarkable historic period, one full of miscalculations and unintended consequences. His proclivity to repeat himself almost verbatim throughout the narrative detracts somewhat from the study, but the summaries appearing at the end of the chapters are a welcome feature.

Patrick Haney's and Walt Wanderbush's intelligent and needed study of the Cuban embargo makes one wonder why this book has not been written before. …

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