About time: U.S., Cuba normalizing relations

congressTalk about something that was long overdue. The U.S. and Cuba are finally, after 53 years, taking steps to normalize relations.

To be clear here, Cuba needs the U.S. more than the U.S. needs Cuba, with Cuba’s biggest benefactors, Venezuela and Russia, hemorrhaging money due to the sharp decline in oil prices, making Cuba’s historically weak economy that much weaker in the midst of changes in the communist regime’s efforts to inject some private market forces into the island nation’s commerce mix.

But in that was an open door that the Obama administration deftly played to U.S. advantage. Cold War-era tensions between the neighbors played out in the form of economic sanctions have been the stick to try to get Cuba to correct its course politically, but now was time to hold out the carrot of economic relationships as a way to bring Cuba into the fold.

Hard-liners like Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez can crow all day and into the night about what they want to term a disastrous move on the part of the Obama team, but this is clearly the right move and the right time. As in the 1960s, Cuba sitting 90 miles off the Florida Keys can be a threat to security in the Western Hemisphere, but normalizing diplomatic relations and eventually building economic ties between the two countries will lessen and eventually remove that threat.

– Column by Chris Graham

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