The author is an air warrior, military historian and writer on warfare and military history
In 1962, the world was on the edge of a nuclear clash. This was the time when John Kennedy was president of the United States and the First Secretary of the Communist Party in Russia was Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviet Union had started the installation of IRBM missiles in Cuba and very rightly the Americans felt they were a threat and John Kennedy imposed a quarantine but not a blockage. The idea was to show intent to Russia without having to go to war. The crisis was diffused when Russia agreed to stop the installation and John Kennedy gave an undertaking never to try and overthrow or destabilize the Castro regime ( ref-One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khruschev, and Castro on the brink of Nuclear War by Micheal Dobbs).
Much water has flown down the river since that time. Nearly 60 years later, America is again faced with a growing danger. This is personified by the rise of China as a global power. The Chinese are anxious to put their stamp all over the world. They have the largest Navy in the world (in terms of warships) and are making their presence felt in faraway waters like the Americans are doing in the South China sea.
The Cuban regime is alienated thanks to the policy of Donald Trump who negated all the good work of Obama. In this scenario, a China-Cuba entente is threatening to transform the geopolitical situation in the Caribbean sea. China would like to pay back to the Americans the same way as the USA is doing in the South China Sea and what better way than to cultivate Cuba, which has an extremely important location and can strangle a lot of trade from the southern ports (https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/trump-hits-cuba-with-new-terrorism-sanctions-in-waning-days-1.5262326)
A look at the pages of history shows that Cuba is an important part of American defense. Till the time of Batista, everything was fine but when in 1959 Fidel Castro took over the dynamics changed, and though the Americans would have liked to get rid of Castro they had to honor the solemn pledge given by Kennedy to never destabilize the Castro regime. They have honored this commitment for 60 years.
Far-reaching developments have now taken place. Just 2 weeks back the Cuban regime has signed on the dotted line and become a member of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Worse other countries in the region like the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Trinidad, and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica are already part of this Chinese game plan. The Americans have been opposing the BRI scheme but now all this has become a big zero. According to the 2020 report, the Chinese are going to pump in $ 7 billion in this region.
The BRI gives a big window to China as it helps to create port facilities, develop railroads, as well as pipelines, power plants, 5G, and fiber optic networks.One of the benefits is the modernization and expansion of port and docking facilities in Santiago de Cuba.
Cuba's entry into the BRI shows a growing economic relationship between the two countries. China has replaced Russia as Cuba's largest trading partner. It is not without reason that senior Chines leaders are regularly visiting Cuba. The Chinese Navy has also carried out joint naval exercises with its Cuban counterpart. The Caribbean which was an American backwater is no longer so. The Chinese are also training the Cuban special forces called the Black berets.
The biggest danger to America is from cyber warfare. They have constructed the New Radome. What are Radomes? They are large dome-shaped structures that protect the radars from bad weather conditions but allow the electromagnetic signals to be received by the radar come what may). Their purpose is to intercept U.S. communications. Florida Senator Marco Rubio has claimed that China is behind this project since 2016.
Cuba's importance cannot be underrated as it sits on the path of almost half of U.S. imports and exports of oil and gas and agricultural exports which have New Orleans as a hub. Beijing may be on the lookout for a naval base and if that happens the Americans will only have themselves to blame. The policy of treating Cuba as a pariah is not going to work. The opening by Obama should have been followed up.
We do not know what is in the Chinese mind but it is possible that China may not be looking for a permanent base in Cuba because it will not serve any specific purpose in the new missile age. What is more likely is that China may be trying to use its influence in the Caribbean as a bargaining chip with the United States and ask for a quid pro quo for an American disengagement in the South China Sea. This is something America cannot agree on as it will leave the littoral states at the mercy of China. At this critical moment, the American leadership is very weak with Joe Biden and a stronger man with a dynamic vision, someone like Roosevelt is required otherwise it'll be all over bar the shouting. America also needs to look inwards and build on the policy of Obama and accept the Cuban regime otherwise the Chinese influence will continue to grow and who knows what may happen next.
https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202112/1243371.shtml China, Cuba sign cooperation plan to promote BRI construction.
Why Cuba Matters’ by Néstor T. Carbonell’s (offers fresh details and historical context)
© 2022 MG Singh