Strategic Shift: US-Cuba Normalization of Ties

Discussion in 'Americas' started by asianobserve, Dec 18, 2014.

  1. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/world/americas/us-cuba-relations.html?_r=0

    The pragmatism of Mr. Obama...
     
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  3. IBSA

    IBSA Regular Member

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    Did Raul Just Reverse The Entire Cuban Revolution?

    [​IMG]

    Raul Castro may have potentially made a fatal mistake that risks destroying everything the Cuban Revolution built over the past half century. By entering into a deal with the US, he’s letting the wily Color Revolution fox into the hen house, and he’s also betraying his multipolar Russian ally at the same time.

    Havana and Washington entered into a surprise deal yesterday to historically restore their relations after engaging in a high-profile prisoner swap. Nobody was expecting such a major development to occur, making many wonder how such an impactful decision could be kept under wraps for so long. The reason being was likely that the US understood what a major hemispheric power play this was and wanted to do everything to safeguard its secret strategy. On the contrary, Cuba, whether its leadership realizes it or not, has everything to lose, and it’s clear from the details that Washington was ‘negotiating’ from a position of strength. While Raul may have thought he could outmaneuver the imminent Color Revolution attempt that will occur after Fidel’s death, he may have actually committed a Yanukovich-esque tactical mistake by trying to enter into agreement with the same forces obsessed with his ouster.

    Modern Lessons
    Before diving in to the nitty-gritty of Raul’s decision, it is necessary to quickly take an overview of two monumental lessons of the past few years that should not have been lost on any global leader:

    The Gaddafi Gamble:
    The Libyan leader thought that he could safeguard his state by getting rid of his weapons of mass destruction without a Great Power negotiating on his side (as Russia did for Syria), but in reality, he unwittingly sold his country out.

    The Yanukovich “Yes!”:
    By saying “Yes!” to working with the Color Revolutionary forces inside the country, Yanukovich guaranteed that his days would be numbered from then on out.

    Lessons Lost
    Raul somehow managed to not learn any of these lessons and risks the colossal mistake of abrogating both of them. Cuba is suspected of having some type of limited biological weapons program, although the true extent of it is unknown. Nonetheless, if Cuba does have some element of this (which the US has accused it of), then it’s all but assured that it was a bargaining chip in the deal with the US. Although it is only speculative at the time, it could be that the US changed its regime change precondition for the restoration of ties to an ultimatum over getting rid of that Cuba’s bioweapons program. If this was the case, the Raul’s fate will be as good as Gaddafi’s.

    But what is certain in this situation is that Raul is following in Yanukovich’s footsteps by trying to save his own skin through convoluted Machiavellian games. Fidel is a likely a lot closer to death than the Cuban government is letting on, and Raul knows that the moment his brother passes away, the Color Revolution will officially be initiated. He thought he could preempt large-scale disturbances among the portion of the population with legitimate grievances that could be manipulated by the US through a proactive deal with Washington. But just like Yanukovich committed a flagrant folly through his ‘reach out’ attempts to the ‘opposition’, so too is Raul doing the exact same thing by working with the US. The difference is, Yanukovich dealt with the proxies, but Raul is politicking with the puppet masters themselves, who are much more experienced at the art of manipulation than the throw-away ‘opposition’ is.

    Who’s Really Calling The Shots
    On the surface, it appears as though the deal was relatively fair and even, with both sides getting what they wanted plus the future prospect of limitless mutual benefit through the restoration of relations. Sure, Cuba regained its three heroes and this was a symbolic success for the government, but it’s the US that really called the shots in this ‘deal’. It dictated which of the 53 ‘political prisoners’ would be released (another condition for the restoration of ties), and not only that, but they’re free to walk about the island and go right back to their subversive activities.

    In essence, Raul just created 53 untouchable Aung San Suu Kyi’s that are all but guaranteed to form the core of the public Color Revolutionary elite. After all, so much global publicity has been expended on this deal, that there is close to no possibility that Raul’s government would take the risk of rough handling them in the future, regardless of their provocations, as the global information warfare potential against the government would be too great at that point. He walked right into a trap, and the imminent Color Revolution will now either sweep him from power, or he’ll be forced into conceding everything away and dismantling the country by his own hand as dictated from abroad via the internal (now permanent) proxies.

    Reacting Against Russia
    The US likely sweetened the deal with some behind-the-scenes economic incentives in order to facilitate its conclusion as soon as possible due to the Russia factor. Putin made a surprise visit to the island in July en route to the BRICS Summit in Brazil, and during his stay there, he announced that Russia was forgiving $32 billion of Cuba’s debt, which was 90% of the total. In exchange, it was rumored that Moscow would be reopening the Soviet-era signals intelligence base in Lourdes, which considering the tense climate of the New Cold War, would have been a massive strategic detriment for the US. With this in mind, the US immediately set off to seduce Cuba.

    This means that the US-Cuba deal must absolutely be viewed in the prism of current geopolitical rivalry with Russia. With that in mind, Washington scored an even larger victory than it initially seems. Russia obviously had its own secret plans for Cuba when Putin made his unannounced visit to the country over the summer, but it seems like the US has nullified them before they could get off the ground, since there is no way the US would allow Cuba to retain such a facility as part of the deal. If this was the case, then Russia is out $32 billion for an investment that will never see the light of day (made even worse by the economic war being waged against it at the moment), while Raul’s government can cozy up comfortably with dollars in their pocket from newfound American investors. How’s that for betrayal after Moscow risked a nuclear war to protect that very same government from regime change over half a century ago?

    The Bigger Picture
    Cuba represents the symbol of the global anti-imperialist movement and its soft power is certainly disproportionate to its size (and rightfully so). Nonetheless, like many things in life, this massive advantage also has an equally negative disadvantage, in that if Cuba betrays its ideological foundation and allies with the US, then it would also be betraying its multipolar allies in the region, specifically Venezuela. In recent years, Caracas has succeeded Havana as the capital most actively resisting American dominance in the region, largely due to the astronomical economic benefits that come with its natural resources largesse, but the two states are still fraternal brothers in the cause, and Venezuela’s leaders are said to sometimes take their political cues from Cuba. But, if Cuba really did double deal against its allies and is now buddy-buddy with the US, then Venezuela would be the first country to be most directly affected by this political reorientation.
    As the de-facto leader of the Resistant and Defiant (R&D) Latin American states, Venezuela would no longer have the symbolic ally that gave it this ‘legitimacy’. In fact, if it turns out that both states have divergent views vis-à-vis the US, this could create a Brzezinski-esque intra-R&D spat that could spill over into an all-out split, much like the Sino-Soviet one of decades past. That would be absolutely disastrous for the R&D Latin American movement as well as for overall multipolarity, and combined with u3_Latin-America-Map1falling oil revenues, new American sanctions, the potential for war with American-proxy Colombia, and the ever-present Color Revolution threat haunting Veneuzela, the prospects of a regime change operation succeed there significantly increases. If Venezuela should fall, the rest of the R&D states connected to its network (Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the smaller Caribbean states of ALBA) would react like dominos and follow in its path.

    Concluding Thoughts
    The grand strategic vision that the US wants to set out to achieve is to overthrow the most active R&D governments in Latin America and complete an effective encirclement of Brazil in order to strangle multipolarity’s future in the Western Hemisphere. This would in effect neutralize the entire North and South American landmasses and turn them into a de-facto pro-American reserve, much as they used to be over a century ago. This time, however, the US will have a strategic redoubt to retreat to should its Brzezinski-style chaos succeed in Eurasia, as ‘Fortress America(s)’ would not only provide it with all of the natural resources it needs to be economically self-sufficient, but pure geopolitics dictates that it would be insulated from the vast majority of the supercontinent’s meltdown. Thus, if the US succeeds in retaking the Caribbean via the Cuban card and can penetrate ALBA enough to the point of dividing its leadership and dissolving the alliance, then it will be more than able to ‘safely’ destroy Eurasia with the least amount of repercussions to its own supercontinental interests (North and South America).

    Did Raul Just Reverse The Entire Cuban Revolution? | Oriental Review
     
  4. anupamsurey

    anupamsurey Regular Member

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    well as they say, a good neighbour is always better than a far away relative.......
     
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  5. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Last edited: Dec 18, 2014
  6. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    The normalization of relations is long overdue. I think the diplomatic and political embargo of the US on Cuba is short sighted and mainly driven by its internal politics (Cuban-American lobby). The sooner these 2 countries can normalize all facets of their relationships the better it is going to be for their people.

    The surprise to me is on the boldness of Obama. He has shown leadership here. I think this is one of his major foreign policy aims when he became President. But between Iran and Cuba, normalization would be far easier with the latter than the former.
     
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  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The attitude of the US towards Cuba was actually an ego issue that Castro could defeat the might of the US which was supporting the dictator, Fulgencio Batista. who was being bankrolled by the US business interest which Batista wanted to protect.

    This is what John F Kennedy said
    Therefore, what caused the rift?

    Communism?
     
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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  9. ezsasa

    ezsasa Senior Member Senior Member

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    This is a welcome move by Obama. Cubans have suffered long enough living on scraps and recycled materials.

    Let's just hope this does not create another Batista or Guevara.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2014
  10. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Actually that was the aim of the US - that Cubans live on scraps and recycled materials and then overthrow Castro so that US business house go all guns firing to make it the banana republic it was during Batista's time.

    It appears better sense has prevailed in the US Administration, though it will not be a welcomed move for many Cuban expatriates and some roughneck hill billy minded US politicians.
     
  11. Energon

    Energon DFI stars Stars and Ambassadors

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    Yup. This essentially sums up my take on the matter as well.
     
  12. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Havana hails event that no one could imagine

    - This changes it all: Ex-envoy


    [​IMG]
    Cuban MPs cry as they watch President Raul Castro speak on television in Havana

    hey crowded around old, battered televisions in Havana and erupted in tears and applause at a spectacle they could scarcely imagine, let alone believe: President Raúl Castro, followed by President Obama, heralding a new era of relations between Cuba and the United States.

    But for Armando Gutiérrez, who operates a small inn in Havana, what it really comes down to is beds. He needs better ones, and the usual scramble to find them and other supplies often comes up empty.

    Now, Gutiérrez hopes the salvation of his business is at hand.

    "It will be step by step for sure, but we are super happy, all of us without words really to express this history," Gutiérrez said by phone - a phone he plans to replace with a better one if the US makes good on its pledge to send more telecommunications equipment.

    As politically charged as Obama's new stance may be in the US, the sweeping changes he outlined yesterday will have a much more profound impact on Cuba - where isolation by the US has fundamentally shaped the island's economy, its politics and even its sense of national identity.

    For decades, the American embargo of Cuba has been the political sword and shield of the Castros, held responsible for stifling their nation's development, depriving their people of the most basic needs, and justifying their tight control over all aspects of society.

    Now their powerful rival is promising significant expansions in travel, exports and remittances to Cuba, the biggest erosion of the embargo since it was imposed more than 50 years ago.

    [​IMG]

    Experts say it will bring a flood of new money to the island, potentially injecting new life into the economy and, coupled with restored diplomatic ties, transforming relations between the two countries in ways not seen since a bearded rebel named Fidel came down from the Cuban mountains.

    "This changes it all," Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat who is close to the Castros, said from the island.

    The question is whether the increased exchange will simply prop up Cuba's moribund economy and government, or breed truly democratic change on the island, something current American policy has not achieved.

    "For Cuba, this is an opportunity to speed up the processes of economic reform, political liberalisation and openness," said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a former Cuban intelligence analyst now at New York University.

    Others were more sceptical, having seen previous thaws that did not produce dramatic change. They noted the 1996 American law known as Helms-Burton that prevents widespread commerce, and questioned Cuba's willingness to open up as well.

    "The regime will do everything in its power to have maximum control over foreign investment, forms of employment, high taxes, which have always been a great obstacle for economic and social development," said José Daniel Ferrer, who coordinates dissident groups in Cuba.

    For many Cubans living through the incremental steps towards private enterprise that Castro set in motion, the changes are welcomed as much for their practical worth as for the historic sea change between governments.

    NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
    Havana hails event that no one could imagine
     
  13. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Miami exiles astonished

    [​IMG]
    (Left) Peter Bell, who supports President Obama’s new Cuban policy, argues with people who disagree with him outside Little Havana’s Versailles restaurant in Miami.

    From the raucous cafecito counter at Versailles restaurant, the city's Cuban touchstone, to the noisy streets in and beyond Little Havana, Miami's Cuban exiles expressed astonishment over the seismic news that the US was liberalising relations with Cuba.

    But, in a city with more Cubans than anywhere but Cuba, agreement over the momentous announcement ended there.

    For some - the ageing generation of Cuban-American traditionalists who take a hard line on Cuba policy - astonishment quickly turned to acrimony. Denouncing the move as wrongheaded and disastrous, they viewed President Obama's decision to establish closer travel, diplomatic and export ties to Cuba as capitulation to a dictatorship.

    In return, they said, Obama received no guarantees from Cuba's President, Raúl Castro, and no commitment to human rights.

    "There have been too many deaths, too much blood and too much terror, and there is no reason to throw them a life preserver," said Alex Rodriguez, 63, who stood outside Versailles, describing himself as a man who wears "two hats" - American and Cuban.

    "The Cuban people, from the human rights perspective, still won't have the freedom to vote, the freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to determine their own economic future"

    Yet a different wave of people applauded the decision, calling it past due. They make up a less vocal, less politically active but nevertheless large part of the city's makeup - recently arrived Cubans who continue to stream in from the island and younger Cuban-Americans who are less emotionally entangled in the relationship between Cuba and Miami.

    For them, the announcement is recognition that in five decades of Cold War, anti-Castro sanctions have failed to achieve their goal: Bring down the Castro brothers and usher democracy into Cuba.

    "I think it's time to leave all that behind," Yadira Sebasco, 36, who was born in Camagüey, Cuba's third-largest city, and moved to Miami 11 years ago, said.

    Even some of the "historicos", as the older generation is called, have softened their views, recognising the lack of democratic progress in Cuba. Laureano Vilches, 71, stewed for decades over the fact that his family's business, a refrigerated warehouse in Havana, was seized by the communist government. But today, he has set aside his outrage.

    "As far as I'm concerned, this can only be good for the Cubans who are still there, and they'll live a better life economically," said Vilches, who went 40 years without setting foot in Cuba but now visits every couple of months.

    NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
    Miami exiles astonished
     
  14. Hari Sud

    Hari Sud Senior Member Senior Member

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    Cuban policy shift is not the only shift which Obama is planning in last two years in the office. He has already changed the dynamics by ignoring Congress on Immigration rules. He has got his way in the Health care laws, although his opponents have opposed tooth and nail. They may still try, but he will veto any change.

    Watch carefully, he is about ready to dump the opposition to Indo-US Nuclear deal in US and begin the long awaited export of commercial nuclear reactors. India has to play ball in these discussions, just as Castro brothers played ball with US in eliminating hurdles in US-Cuba normalization. That will be a good pointer to that Anti -Indian lobby which operates in the State Department. Also commercial nuclear trade will bring in a lot more FDI, I mean brick and mortar money than money in the stock market. The former is a lot more useful from Indian stand point that it does not fly away at the slightest hint of global financial trouble.
     
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  15. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Meanwhile, piqued by Cuban double face, Putin is inviting Kim Jong Un to Kremlin....:rofl:
     
  16. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Unlike some whines Obama is not a weak president at all, at least in diplomacy, which is what he can work on esp. after losing both houses to the Republican.

    Obama will fully deserve the Nobel peace prize if he walks the talk to close down Guantanamo re-education camp eventually and hand the enclave back to Cuba.
     
  17. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Not merely a posturing. Kim's envoy visited Russia lately for talks abt leasing Russian lands for farming - quite a positive move to develop its vast far east of a tiny populace in millions. Also bear in mind the trans-Korea pipeline proposal to diversify its energy markets.

    Also Russia waived 90% of NK's debt to SU and the balance remains as in a joint development fund.
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Undercover statecraft at work

    - Secret talks give Obama three accords


    One aide slipped off a Hillary Rodham Clinton trip in Paris and flew to the Persian Gulf. Two others ducked out of the White House periodically to catch commercial flights to Ottawa or Toronto. A top adviser vanished from the West Wing during the waning weeks of the midterm election campaign to travel to Beijing.

    Three of President Barack Obama's top diplomatic achievements - the reopening of ties with Cuba, announced this week; the interim nuclear agreement with Iran and the climate-change pact with China - resulted from secret negotiations. Some were conducted in exotic locales like the Vatican and the Arab sultanate of Oman; others in less exotic places like Boston.

    Not since Henry Kissinger's secret trip to China in 1971 has a President embraced undercover diplomacy with the enthusiasm of Obama. For an administration that likes to promote its transparency, this White House has concluded that some deals are best pursued with all the openness of a drone strike against distant terrorists.

    What the Cuba, Iran and China talks have in common - aside from their cloak-and-dagger allure - are a small team of negotiators, strict discipline and tight control by the White House. They also attest to Obama's willingness to entrust historic projects to close aides, some of whom are young and have little experience in diplomacy.

    In the case of Cuba, the entire American delegation consisted of two White House officials, one of whom, Benjamin J. Rhodes, is a 37-year-old speechwriter who has worked for Obama since his 2008 campaign and has become an influential voice in the administration. The Iran and China negotiations were also led by trusted Obama aides.

    Using non-diplomats helps preserve the veil of secrecy, a senior official said, because such people are less likely to arouse suspicion among colleagues or the media. The three countries with which they were negotiating, the official said, were also able to keep a secret.

    "Negotiations are like mushrooms: They grow in the dark," said Martin S. Indyk, the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. "That's especially true of negotiations between longtime adversaries, where the domestic politics on both sides make it impossible to reach a deal if the negotiations are conducted in public."

    Indyk knows firsthand the hazards of conducting diplomacy in open view. As the administration's special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, he struggled to bring together distrustful parties under a white-hot media glare. While the details of the talks were kept under wraps, the very public nature of the process made it vulnerable to scrutiny from all sides.

    The last time Washington had a vigorous debate over the need for secrecy in diplomacy was in 2010 when WikiLeaks released 250,000 confidential State Department cables, forcing the Obama administration to mend fences with foreign leaders and others who had been slighted in the reports that diplomats sent in from the field.

    The damage from the WikiLeaks disclosures proved less severe or long-lasting than many people in the government predicted. But it did nothing to dissuade the Obama administration that fledgling initiatives needed to be shielded from the public and the media.

    New York Times News Service
    Undercover statecraft at work
     
  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Here's What Happened at Obama's End-of-Year News Conference

    December 19, 2014 Last year, President Obama's end of year press conference began with a sharp question: "Was this the worst year of your presidency?" One year later, at his presser before departing for Hawaii, Obama shouldn't have expected much better.

    It's been a taxing political year for the president. His party lost control of the Senate, and the Republicans have gained more seats in the House. Without action from Congress, Obama moved forward pm his own as he sought to protect millions of immigrants from deportation with a stroke of his pen. It's been a year marred with unforeseen racial tensions at home and the rise of ISIS abroad. In his final press conference, however, Obama tried to establish that he may be facing his final two years with a Republican-controlled Congress, but he's not prepared to be a lame duck just yet.

    And ever true to his year-end style, the president began with cheese. "All I want for Christmas," he said, "is to take your questions."

    With just eight questions, the conference was shorter than expected. And the president called only on female reporters. Before leaving for vacation, he'll be interviewed by one more: CNN's Candy Crowley.

    The first question of the conference was on North Korea, and Obama quickly made news.

    President Obama said that Sony made "a mistake" by choosing to pull the release of The Interview due to North Korea's devastating hack on the company's computer systems.

    "Sony is a corporation; it suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns they face," Obama said. "Having said that, yes, I think they made a mistake."

    "We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States," he said.

    Obama also made it clear he wasn't consulted on the decision to pull the film. "I wish they would have spoken to me first."

    The president also tried to ensure that Sony's decision would not create a precedent. "Occasionally there are going to be breaches likes this," he said. "They are going to be costly, they are going to be serious … but we can't start changing our patterns of behavior anymore than we can stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack," Obama said. "Let's not get into that way of doing business."

    The FBI announced earlier Friday it had concluded the Communist regime in North Korea was behind the Sony hack.

    Obama criticized the oppressive North Korean regime for going to such extreme lengths to prevent the release of a satirical film that includes a scene depicting the assassination of its dictator, Kim Jong-Un.

    "It says something of interest about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco," Obama said, seemingly confusing actor James Franco's name with that of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (prompting this corrective tweet from the QB). "I love Seth. I love James. But the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we're talking about here."

    Obama also said that the U.S. would respond to the cyberattack but gave no specifics, only noting: "We will respond. We will respond proportionally and in a manner that we choose."

    The president also said there was no intelligence to suggest North Korea was aided by other countries, despite reports this week that China may have been linked to the attack.

    On Cuba

    Obama said that diplomatically engaging with Cuba is more likely to bring about positive change in the island nation than the decades-old policy of isolation. "What I know deep in my bones is that if you have done the same thing for 50 years, and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome," Obama said. "And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome."

    "Through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change than we would have otherwise."

    Just this week, Obama signaled the major policy shift, announcing a number of changes that would loosen regulations on travel, business, and finance. The changes, which will likely begin to go into effect in the coming months, will make it easier for Americans to visit Cuba, spend money there, and bring goods—including, yes, cigars—back.

    But that doesn't mean Obama is headed to Cuba anytime very soon. "We're not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba ... is in the cards," he said.

    Obama also recounted an exchange with Cuban President Raúl Castro on the phone last week for reporters. He said he spent 15 minutes making opening remarks, "which on the phone is a pretty long time," and apologized for speaking at length. President Castro responded by telling him about a time his brother, Fidel, spoke for seven hours straight. "And then President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that lasted at least twice as long as mine," Obama said, "And then I was able to say, 'Obviously, it runs in the family.' "

    The president has come under fire from Democratic and Republican members of Congress for the policy shift. Leading congressional dissidents Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who called Obama the worst negotiator in modern U.S. history.

    On Race

    "Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office," Obama said Friday, citing the growth of economic opportunity.

    However, he noted that the gap between income and wealth in black America "persists."

    Obama said there's "a growing awareness in the broader population of what many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn't feel as if it's being applied in a color-blind fashion."

    The president was careful to put the current situation in an optimistic light, though. "But I actually think it's been a healthy conversation that we've had," Obama said. "These are not new phenomena. The fact that they are now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been in the past stories passed on along a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations and you're not going to solve the problem if it's not being talked about."

    Race relations have emerged as a major source of tension within the U.S. in recent months after grand juries in New York City and Ferguson, Mo., in two separate incidences, did not indict police officers for killing unarmed black men. The moves sparked outrage and protests in cities around the country. A new Gallup Poll shows that 13 percent of Americans believe today that racism is the most important issue the country is facing. That's a sudden jump from the 1 percent who felt that way at the beginning of November.

    Americans have not been as concerned about race since 1992 after construction worker Rodney King was badly beaten by Los Angeles police and the incident was videotaped. Obama made a commitment earlier during a meeting with civil-rights leaders to focus on tearing down racial barriers in the final month of his presidency. The White House has pledged to spend $75 million on body cameras for police and the administration released a report in December highlighting the problems of giving police departments previously used military equipment.

    "We have more work to do on that front," Obama said at the presser. "This was a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery."

    On Congress

    The president made it clear that despite a long and bitter relationship with Congress, he is prepared to make a new start with the Republican-controlled body next year.

    "I want to work the this new Congress to get things done," he said Friday.

    Obama pointed to the most recent spending bill that passed out of Congress as a sign of things to come. The "cromnibus" bill included plenty for Republicans and Democrats to be upset about, but moderates from both parties came together to pass the legislation.

    The president also called on Congress to help build a stronger defense against cybersecurity attacks like the ones mounted recently. He also outlined that tax reform was another potential area where Congress and the White House could work together. The president said he was looking for more "simplicity" and "fairness."

    "There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance," Obama said. "We think it is important everyone pays something."

    Obama said that he hopes that the Republican Congress would be able to tackle corporate tax reform, lower rates, and eliminate loopholes while also providing a "mechanism" where infrastructure could get built.

    The president acknowledged that he cannot unilaterally bring down the trade embargo against Cuba. So far, the Republican Party is divided on the issue, but incoming Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he sympathizes with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is opposed to the new relaxation of relations with Cuba.

    "I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress," Obama said. Still, the president warned Republicans that he would not be backing down on key issues that have been the core of his presidency issues like health care and consumer protections.

    On the Economy

    On the economy, Obama said in his opening statement that the U.S. saw its strongest year of job growth since the 1990s, adding that U.S. businesses have created nearly 11 million jobs this year. He said the country needs to "make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come."

    He noted that nearly all of the jobs added have been in full-time positions, and have seen recent pickup in higher-paying industries.

    The president focused particularly on the role played by manufacturing, the energy sector, and the auto industry in driving the American economy. Obama said the U.S. is now the top producer of oil and natural gas in the world, and that drivers have saved 77 cents a gallon on gas compared with last year.

    Obama declared the "rescue" of the auto industry "officially over," saying the government has repaid taxpayers "every dime and over" for the $80 billion bailout the government gave the auto industry starting with the recession in 2008. This year, Obama said, the auto industry created 500,000 new jobs.

    On His Own Presidency

    Despite his lame-duck status, Obama said he wouldn't stop working for ordinary Americans in the two years ahead. He also made a basketball reference, telling reporters he was excited for the final part of his term.

    "My presidency is entering the fourth quarter," he said. "Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter. And I'm looking forward to it."

    As for his controversial executive action on immigration last month, he took a hard line against an incoming Republican Congress that has vowed to fight him on that issue and others, defending his decision to use his unilateral authority.

    He warned congressional Republicans that he intends to "continue to do what I've been doing," in using those orders, "which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I'm going to do it."

    Though he did offer an olive branch—in the form of a truncated lesson on how a bill becomes a law—it will almost certainly draw the ire of Republican leaders.

    "There's a very simple solution, and that's pass bills and work with me to make sure I'm willing to sign those bills," he said. "Because both sides are going to have to compromise. On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I'm going to have to sign off, and that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I'm going have to take into account the issues that they care about."

    Fin

    Obama ended the news conference on a hopeful note on the American character. "What I don't think is always captured in our political debates is that the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions," he said. "America knows how to solve problems. And when we work together, we can't be stopped."

    Before he stepped away from the podium, the president signed off in Hawaiian. "And now I'm going to go on vacation. Mele Kalikimaka, everybody," he said, which means "Merry Christmas."

    "Mahalo!"
    Here's What Happened at Obama's End-of-Year News Conference - NationalJournal.com
     
  20. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Nice deals. It seems that it is only Russia the NoKor is not doing the blackmail beggaring (which it does even to China). These 2 countries or at least their leaders must be soulmates. Now I can't wait to download their photo together...
     
  21. DingDong

    DingDong Senior Member Senior Member

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    India must be looking at this development positively. Having good, stable relation with the US will be extremely beneficial for India economically and strategically. There exists an influential cold-war lobby in the US which cannot think out of the box, once the US administration gets rid of those people it will get more friends and bigger markets to sell it's goods. By signing a nuclear deal with Russia India has sent a message to these people in the US administration, if the US refuses there are other willing partners and the US must not throw away such opportunities.
     

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