U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently traveled to China in an effort to restore high-level dialogue between the United States and Beijing. However, his trip was overshadowed by the news that China and Cuba are in talks to establish a joint military-training facility on the island, which is just 100 miles from the coast of Florida. This development has raised concerns about potential security threats to the United States.
Before Blinken’s visit to China, I had the opportunity to travel to Florida and drive from Miami to Key West. The journey was breathtaking, with beautiful coastal sights along the way. Miami, known as a melting pot of cultures, has a population mostly consisting of South American immigrants or their descendants. Therefore, Spanish is widely spoken there. While Miami does not have a Chinatown, it has a vibrant Cuban neighborhood called Little Havana. This area is filled with music bars and cigar lounges, creating a lively Caribbean atmosphere. One notable landmark in Little Havana is the Bay of Pigs Monument, which features an eternal torch symbolizing freedom. It serves as a testament to the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis.
The relationship between the Caribbean and the United States has a long and complex history. In 1823, President James Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European powers against intervening in the affairs of the Americas. The focus of this declaration was on the Caribbean, with Cuba being one of the most significant places for the United States. Many Cuban independence movements in the 1800s had a presence in the United States, including the Cuban Revolutionary Party founded by poet Jose Marti in New York. After years of exile in the United States, Marti organized an armed struggle for Cuba’s independence but tragically died in battle just a day after landing in 1895.
The United States and Spain went to war in 1898 following the explosion of the battleship U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor. As a result of the war, the United States gained control of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines from Spain. Cuba became a republic in 1902 but remained under the influence of the United States. The rise of communism in Cuba in the 1950s caught the world by surprise, leading to a complicated relationship with the United States. Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries overthrew the Batista military government and established a communist regime in Havana in 1959. This led to the execution of former army members, the arrest of “counter-revolutionaries,” and the confiscation of private property, prompting many Cubans to flee to Miami.
Castro initially denied being a communist during his guerrilla campaign, and the naive U.S. government believed him. However, after seizing power, he implemented various communist measures, leading to panic among Americans. In response, the United States recruited Cuban exiles and provided them with military training. In 1961, over 1,000 armed Cubans landed at the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow Castro’s regime, but the operation failed within 72 hours due to poor planning and Cuban military resistance.
The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion had significant implications. The Soviet Union began deploying weapons and military advisors to Cuba, eventually leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The United States discovered that the Soviets had installed missile launchers and atomic bomb storage facilities in Cuba, posing a direct threat to U.S. cities. A naval blockade was implemented, which ultimately resulted in a compromise. The Soviets agreed to remove their nuclear weapons from Cuba, and in secret, the United States withdrew its nuclear weapons from Turkey and Italy.
The Cuban Missile Crisis shaped the United States’ approach to Cuba for many years, including economic sanctions and a blockade against the island nation. The crisis also influenced the treatment of Cuban refugees and the establishment of Radio and TV Martí, which broadcasted information to Cuba. Some have even linked President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 to the Cuba issue, indicating its deep impact on American politics.
The current talks between China and Cuba to establish a joint military-training facility have raised concerns among strategic experts. The United States has a strong military presence in the region, with bases in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The CCP’s military presence in Cuba could potentially give them an advantage in their rivalry with the United States.
Overall, the historical ties between the United States and Cuba, along with the recent developments in Sino-Cuban relations, highlight the complex dynamics of power and influence in the Caribbean region. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeks to restore dialogue with China, the potential military collaboration between China and Cuba adds another layer of complexity to an already intricate geostrategic landscape.