Since November 2014, Obama has made it a mission to bring the US and Cuba closer together. The steps he has taken to get closer to the small island country have been exalted and criticized in equal measure, but the tentative relationship the US has with Cuba now may be in danger as soon as President-elect Trump takes office. Through his preferred method of social media communication, Trump tweeted that he would halt relations with Cuba if he didn’t get a “better deal”.
Of course, it’s hard to know Trump’s position on anything, he flip-flops too much, but it is possible that he does nothing in the near future to try to change Cuban-American relations. His tweet shows if anything a lack of understanding about how these diplomatic moves are made. The relationship both countries have right now is an accumulation of different strategic moves and deals, not just one treaty or deal that can be rewritten. Not to mention Trump has been supportive of normalizing US-Cuba relations in the past, only saying that he would have made a “stronger deal” as president instead of the steps taken by President Obama. This lack of understanding or position could force him to simply keep relations where they are right now, if not continue to open up to the island nation. Unfortunately, Cuba may sense that the American president knows little to nothing about international diplomacy and try to take advantage of that.
What most likely will happen is that President Trump will leave dealing with Cuban relations to Congress, which holds a Republican majority and will probably push toward a tougher stance on the nation and try to re-add it to the list of States that Sponsor Terrorism. Interestingly enough, House Speaker Paul Ryan was at one point in favor of lifting the embargo against Cuba, saying it was a failure, so he may be more open-minded as to maintaining and working to continue open relations with the country. The best that can be expected is that nothing much happens in the next two years (until midterm elections in which the Democrats have a chance to retake at least the Senate).
Trump’s election has thrown a lot of questions in the air, especially about foreign policy. Trump’s inexperience and immature appearance to the rest of the world is much to our disadvantage. Though Trump said he would be America’s strongman, he gives off quite the opposite effect to other countries, who sense weakness in a president who has no government experience and who sees no problem in tweeting retaliatory and insulting comments at 3 AM in the morning. This appearance might be the most damaging for American foreign relations, especially with Cuba, with whom it is important to appear open but firm and strong. Trump so far has mastered neither, and it seems unlikely he will do so in the coming years. However it is important to look at how much the House and Senate are involved in fostering these good relations, especially when the president may not be able to do much good about them. Hopefully, Congress will serve as a check to Trump’s blatant lack of experience or governmental knowledge, and therefore preserve some of the progress that has been made in the last eight years, especially relating to Cuba, but that remains to be seen. Hopefully in these next four years, they will counteract the racist and anti-foreign policy image that Trump espouses. So, hopefully, the Washington insiders that Trump so despises will play a significant role in keeping him from ruining American foreign policy in the indefinite future.