US President Barack Obama acted as if Washington made a castling by tightening the noose of economic embargo on giant Russia, but easing sanctions against tiny Cuba.
After the division of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic into 15 nation states in 1991, the West found Russia as a capitalist ally until Vladimir Putin brought back tension reminiscent of the Cold War by aggressive acts. Until last week, Cuba stuck to the socialist path, almost alone.
Fifty-two years after the US satellite had detected the unloading of Soviet missiles at Havana port for protection of the new socialist island state from none but America, which objected to the deployment in its backyard, the Cuban missile crisis (1962) brought the US and the USSR to the brink of a nuclear war. However, John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev proved their prudence in decision-making.
Cuba, which the US branded as a state sponsor of terrorism, has now joined the “imperialist enemy” by extending an olive branch to Obama’s initiative for engagement. Back in 1968, the US sleuths in Bolivia killed Che Guevara, the Latin American romantic revolutionary who was active in the socialist armed struggle that overthrew the Batista regime in Cuba in 1959.
The turn in the Cuba-US relation has come at a time when Putin’s economic system is about to collapse as a result of the Western embargo, plus a slump in the price of oil – Moscow’s major source of revenue. Old friends have fallen apart and the most powerful country is shifting its tilt from one “foe” to another, seeking friendship.
Havana’s policy shift, Russia’s latest misery, or Obama’s adventure to normalise relations with Cuba – everything involves economic interests of each country that have impacts on lives and politics.
These cases reaffirm that human needs can’t be denied, doesn’t matter if you understand the rules of economics or not. Also in foreign relations, there is no permanent friend and foe for national interests, which vary over time. Only some of our intellectuals and policymakers, who are living in the Stone Age, term some countries as tested friends.
The Cuban leadership rose to the occasion, realising the reality of life. Obama wants to make history. For him, it’s a victory of magnanimity of bigness and for Raul Castro, the Cuban leader who happens to be Fidel Castro’s brother, it’s a win through recognition of sovereign equality of the brave people of Cuba.
And, the crisis of Russia is the outcome of acts of the obsessive thinking of Putin, a product of the Soviet spy agency KGB. The man, who revived the country and the economy from the ruins, left by post-Soviet Russian president Boris Yeltsin, is now responsible for the destruction of the economic lifeline of Russia on the capitalist path.
Dhaka has imitated Moscow’s policy antagonism to the West, the US in particular. Bangladesh refrained from voting on the Crimea issue in the UN General Assembly earlier this year to keep Russia happy, a move which antagonised the West.
Still, our policymakers may not notice Putin’s Russia has faltered, despite the military might and abundance of natural resources. He blames the US for the economic plight and so do our rulers for the loss of GSP or the World Bank’s suspension of funding for the Padma Bridge project.
Forty-one years after Dhaka had invited the US wrath by exporting jute goods to Cuba, Havana has gone one big step closer to the superpower neighbour. Before being lonely after the collapse of socialism, Castro’s Cuba had the advantage of America’s deterrence with the Soviet Union.
The government in Dhaka is calling a publicity “jihad” against Washington, by using insulting words about US officials. I don’t think we’ve made any sound calculations of the costs of such policies.
In the 1970s, Vietnam, after winning the war against America, approached France to mediate her opening of relations with the West. Where’s the East Asian country standing now, and where are we? Our leaders are not ashamed of the fact that some countries with equal development potentials have surpassed Bangladesh by this time.
Cuba is too far away from Bangladesh. We are not even properly following neighbouring Myanmar, which is growing fast, overcoming the setbacks it incurred during the decades of embargo on it. Ahead of the once pariah state, Bangladesh is still talking of reaping the fruits of the Blue Economy whereas Myanmar has started harvesting the results.
We’re then curious to know about what kind of message Premier Sheikh Hasina’s administration has inferred from Putin’s perishing of his country’s economy and causing public suffering. What does it imply for Bangladesh in terms of overseas business, remittances, investment, job creation, and public welfare?
Amid the hue and cry of the Ukraine crisis, the world forgets the Russian president has been elected in a questionable election. But unforgettable is Bangladesh’s performance to get 153 lawmakers elected without a single ballot and to cling to power, fooling the people and the world.