Monday, April 21, 2014

Defying Soviets, Eisenhower recognizes Cuban independence

History in this parallel universe unfolded a bit differently

December 6, 1960
WASHINGTON (Gloomberg News) – Ignoring sanctions imposed by the U.S.S.R., President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized Cuba as an "independent, sovereign, and democratic nation" on Monday, presenting a bold challenge to Moscow that further escalated East-West tensions.

The brief White House press release came just hours after the Kremlin announced asset freezes and other sanctions against U.S. officials involved in the Cuban crisis.  Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev warned that more would follow if the United States didn't stop interfering in Cuba.

The Soviet bloc has struggled to find leverage to force Washington to back off in the Cuba turmoil.  However, analysts saw Monday’s sanctions as mostly ineffectual.  A high-ranking official within the Soviet Foreign Ministry conceded to Gloomberg News that there’s little the Soviets can do from a military standpoint, given that Cuba sits so squarely within the United States’ own back yard.

Washington showed no signs of blinking in the dispute that has roiled Cuba since American-backed troops took control of the island nation early last month.  A Cuban referendum on Sunday overwhelmingly supported the U.S. intervention and called for annexation by the United States.  Recognizing Cuba as independent and democratic could be the first step in declaring the country a U.S. territory.  Bills to authorize such a move already are pending in both the House and Senate. 

Cuba has long been firmly within the American sphere of influence.  After the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American war, U.S. forces occupied Cuba from 1899 to 1902, and then again from 1906 to 1909.   Annexation at that time was forbidden by an act of Congress, but America's political and economic influence remained strong until the Cuban revolution brought Fidel Castro to power two years ago.  Prior to the partial U.S. embargo announced in mid-October, Cuba bought 70% of its foreign goods from the U.S.

Reacting to the Soviet attempt to punish America for its intervention, U.S. Under Secretary of State C. Douglas Dillon called the sanctions "a reflection of a pathological unwillingness to acknowledge reality and a desire to impose on everyone one-sided and unbalanced approaches that absolutely ignore reality."

The Kremlin imposed asset freezes and travel restrictions on seven U.S. officials and friends of the president, most notably White House Chief of Staff Wilton Persons, Commerce Secretary Frederick H. Mueller, and Vice President Richard Nixon, who has been a vocal opponent of the Castro regime.  Nixon told Gloomberg News he was unimpressed.  “Like I have investments in Russia,” he scoffed, “or would ever want to go there.  People are interested in traveling from Russia, not to it.  Why do you think they built the Berlin Wall?  It wasn’t to keep people out.”

Joking with reporters prior to a meeting of his cabinet, President Eisenhower was equally dismissive of the sanctions.  “We should keep our distance from those people who compromise us,” he said, in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the officials on the sanctions list, some of whom were present at the cabinet meeting.

In a brief conversation with reporters, President-elect John F. Kennedy made it clear that he fully backs the U.S. intervention.  He had a terse reaction to the Soviet complaints.  “Too bad.  After all, we've been the ones who've been pushed around lately.”  Over the course of the past several months, Cuba has nationalized without compensation hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S. property, slapped exorbitant taxes and surcharges on U.S. goods, and has refused to pay overdue bills for previous imports.  But while Kennedy endorsed the incursion, he repeated a criticism he had leveled during the campaign.  "If the president had been smarter about Cuba over the last several years, it never would have come to this.”

Following the announcement of the Soviet sanctions, several Red puppet states followed suit with freezes and travel restrictions of their own.  "We need to show solidarity with Cuba, and therefore the United States leaves us no choice," Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki said in Warsaw.

U.S. allies generally have been quietly supportive of the U.S. intervention.  Within hours of Eisenhower’s Monday announcement, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan released a statement saying, "In the long term, the biggest challenge will be to build a strong Cuban economy, rooted in strong institutions that respect the rule of law.”  Major Latin American governments, as they had done earlier with the trade embargo, privately supported the White House announcement, but did not say so publicly, fearing Castro’s popularity with their own people.  However, the allied support has not been unanimous.  Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who in the past has been openly critical of the Eisenhower administration’s handling of Cuba, released a statement distancing his government from the U.S.  “It is Canada’s long-standing position not to interfere in others' internal affairs,” the statement read.  “We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cuba.”

Within hours of the U.S. announcement, former Cuban premier Fidel Castro, who fled to Moscow last month along with other members of his revolutionary government, bitterly decried the decision.  “I’m personally addressing President Eisenhower and demanding that he stop his provocations immediately and call back the troops from the Republic of Cuba,” Castro said.  He also complained that soldiers now on the ground in the country are wearing military camouflage fatigues devoid of insignia, an apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions, and he demanded that the United Nations investigate the matter and impose the appropriate sanctions.   The U.N. did not immediately respond to that request.  It’s not the first time the Castro regime has appealed to the United Nations.   In October, Cuban Foreign Minister Raúl Roahe warned the U.N. that an invasion was imminent, saying that American military already had begun dropping arms into the country. 

The Eisenhower administration has not admitted the soldiers now controlling key points within Cuba are members of the U.S. military.  Some of the soldiers Gloomberg News reporters have encountered in the field speak Spanish with Cuban accents, but the majority obviously are American.   It’s believed the troops are under the control of the CIA, which is rumored to have been training Cuban exiles and making other invasion preparations for months.

Last month’s incursion came amid growing concerns that Cuba was increasingly aligning itself with the Soviet bloc.   Castro has vehemently denied being a communist.  However, in a four and a half hour speech before the United Nations General Assembly in mid-October, Castro railed against the United States, while at the same time endorsing Soviet positions on several international issues, thereby placing his country firmly on the side of the Reds.   And as if to dispel any remaining doubt about where he stood, before boarding a Soviet-supplied Il-18 turboprop to fly home from the U.N. appearance, Castro declared, “The Soviets are our friends.”  The U.S. incursion happened as Cuban economic czar Ernesto ("Che") Guevara was in to Moscow trying to negotiate even more trade deals with the Reds.  


If you like this form of satire, please out my other novels, particularly Messages, which applies much the same kind of treatment to the news industry.

©2014 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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