On Wednesday, ASP’s office served as the location of the press conference held by Alan Gross upon his release from imprisonment in Cuba. ASP was asked by Gilbert LLP, the law firm representing Gross, to use its office space for the conference.
Mere hours after stepping off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base, Gross spoke to an audience of reporters, thanking those who pressed for his release, and expressing hope for new U.S. relations with the people of Cuba.
The release of Gross and the major policy shift surrounding it represents an enormous opportunity for the United States to craft a more effective Cuba policy. For over half a century, the United States has unilaterally imposed an embargo on Cuba, but has not achieved any significant policy achievements with regards to the island. Without the support of the international community, American efforts to pressure the Cuban government were not significant enough on their own to achieve U.S. policy goals.
The previous American policy amounted to stagnation—nothing was being accomplished. The new strategy of establishing official diplomatic relations with Cuba will create opportunities to employ the elements of diplomacy that have proven effective for the United States in the past.
During the Cold War, the United States maintained diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union because the cost of not doing so was too high, and the situation far too dangerous. Diplomatic relations are not a reward to a foreign government—they are an important element intended to help implement national security policies in a foreign nation. As Winston Churchhill remarked regarding the recognition of China, “…If you recognize anyone it does not mean you like them.”
In today’s world, it is difficult to influence a country without being on the ground in that country. A diplomatic presence in Cuba will enable the United States to apply the types of tools, which over the long run, may prove more effective than the previous strategy. The U.S. will need to seize this opportunity, creating a comprehensive strategy that delivers to the Cuban people the idea of a better future. Soft power, economics, people-to-people communication, telecommunications/internet equipment, and countless other American strengths will be key to influencing Cuba for the better.
The progress may not be perfect, and the changes may be slow going, but this opportunity to exert influence from within the island is too good to be passed up.
Video of Alan Gross’ conference is available below: