The Russian invasion of Ukraine “is in many ways bigger than Russia, it’s bigger than Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price recently declared. “There are principles that are at stake here … Each and every country has a sovereign right to determine its own foreign policy, has a sovereign right to determine for itself with whom it will choose to associate in terms of its alliances, its partnerships and what orientation it wishes to direct its gaze.” The United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated last year, does not recognize “spheres of influence,” adding that the concept “should have been retired after World War II.”
Those are noble but empty words — because they obviously do not apply to the Western Hemisphere. Take Cuba, which continues to suffer under an embargo that has been enforced for 60 years. That, plus the pandemic and President Donald Trump’s reversal of Obama-era liberalization — a crackdown sustained by the Biden administration — has bludgeoned the island’s economy. Food and medicine are scarce; many young and entrepreneurial Cubans are leaving the island in droves. The pressure contributed in large measure to the protests that stunned the island last July.
Yes, the one-party regime remains and still represses much dissent. But the embargo and related policies have failed for six decades and 11 presidents. Cubans are still applauded for their humanitarian efforts, dispatching doctors to help in disasters across the developing (and developed) world. The United States and Cuba cooperate in efforts to police drug trafficking and limit terrorism. Yet the embargo continues — punishing the Cuban people until they get rid of the government the United States does not approve of. So much for “choosing their own path.”
Cuba is not alone. The United States has imposed harsh sanctions on Venezuela and Nicaragua for sustaining regimes Washington opposes. Even the recent sanctions on Russia, says Juan Sebastian Gonzalez, the senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council, are designed such “that they will have an impact on those governments that have economic affiliations with Russia … So Venezuela will start feeling the pressure; Nicaragua will start feeling the pressure; as will Cuba.”
Read the full article in The Washington Post.