Cuban Embassy Opening
A Good Thing but Not a Big Thing

Later this morning, President Obama will hold a presser on re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama plans to tell the nation on Wednesday that the U.S. will reopen its embassy in Havana, the official said, culminating a central aspiration of his presidency and representing the end of one of the last vestiges of the Cold War more than a quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Secretary of State John Kerry will color in details of the U.S. effort, speaking from Vienna on Wednesday about the move to convert the diplomatic post in Havana, known as the U.S. Interests Section, into a full embassy, officials said. He is expected to travel to Cuba in July to oversee the embassy’s reopening.

This is overall good news. Diplomatic relations are not a seal of approval but a recognition of facts. The U.S. and Cuba, being neighbors, need to have regular diplomatic conversations about a range of issues that matter to both countries. And the absence of such relations contributes to various forms of juvenile anti-Americanism in parts of the world. So clearing this piece of unfinished business off the national to-do list is a good thing.

But it isn’t a big thing. After all, there are already Cuban diplomats in Washington and U.S. diplomats in Havana. This is mostly a symbolic move, and less the product of diplomatic derring-do than hard political realities. The continuing unraveling of Cuba’s current economic patron, Venezuela, has focused minds in Havana on the need to build up Cuba’s tourism industry and other carefully limited and restricted business ties with the U.S.

Many supporters of President Obama will be busy celebrating his “great breakthrough” today. But celebrations are still premature. The hard work of calibrating our relationship with Cuba (and its thuggish regime) is just beginning.

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