Cuba and the United States in the Configuration of a Foreign Policy for Spain: Neutrality or Alignment?

Cuba and the United States in the Configuration of a Foreign Policy for Spain: Neutrality or Alignment?

Daniel Rodríguez Suárez (UNED, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3503-5.ch008

Abstract

After the election of the socialist party in 1982, relations between Spain and Cuba entered a channel of greater understanding, as the two nation's traditional commercial and economic relationship found a complementary association in the greater political affinity between Felipe González and Fidel Castro. In the international context, the Cuban leaders had their own vision of the role that Spain might play on the international stage and sensed the possibilities that the young Spanish democracy could open up for the Third World. For Spain there was a need to maintain a neutral international orientation and remain detached from the military pacts with the great powers. This chapter explores Cuba and the United States in the configuration of a foreign policy for Spain.
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Background And Introduction Of A Three-Way Game

After the election of the socialist party in 1982, relations between Spain and Cuba entered a channel of greater understanding, as the two nation’s traditional commercial and economic relationship found a complementary association in the greater political affinity between Felipe González and Fidel Castro. In the international context, the Cuban leaders had their own vision of the role that Spain might play on the international stage and sensed the possibilities that the young Spanish democracy could open up for the Third World. For Spain there was a need to maintain a neutral international orientation and remain detached from the military pacts with the great powers (Ramonet, 2006, pp. 448-449). The alternative for Spain would be to risk the chance of acting in the international arena in the future as an influential mediator. Thus, from the very beginning, Spain's full integration into the so-called Western bloc, including its permanent position as a member of the NATO alliance, was a point of friction between Spain and Cuba and also between Spain and the United States. Everything that fixed Spain’s position in the western camp and destroyed its neutralist possibilities separated Madrid from Havana and, on the other hand, everything that fixed Spain in the western camp and within the European framework brought it inexorably closer to the United States.

Cuba gave Spain oxygen during their transition to democracy and did not make use of all the weapons available in their political arsenal which could have been used to condition the nature of Spain’s exit from dictatorship. However, by the end of 1982, the process of internal transition in Spain seemed to have been completed and it was then that the traditional allies of Cuba and Spain took more decisive action on the part of the socialist government to condition the nature of their foreign affairs.

The moment chosen was not accidental - at the beginning of 1983 the democratic regime seemed to consolidate itself after the political alternation and the absolute majority of the PSOE and it was then that the new foreign policy framework began to be drawn up and the principles that would govern the Spanish approach to international relations from then on, principles that would end up being concretized in the second legislature of socialist majority (1986-1989), were established (Pardo Sanz, 2011; Del Arenal Moyua & Sotillo Lorenzo, 1989, pp. 13-14). Thus, this first legislature, 1982-1986, could be defined as the legislature of trial and error, of learning, of ambiguities and uncertainty. Moreover, it was also a time of accelerated maturation for the socialist party, which was forced to give up some of its ideological baggage. President González himself acknowledged this when he said that those early years were lived according to a “brutal process of adaptation to reality” (Pardo Sanz, 2011, p. 84).

This adaptation to reality was not without a certain degree of voluntarism - due to the lack of any new institutional frameworks detached from those established under Franco's regime. During these early years of socialist hegemony, foreign policy was more rooted in an ideological drive and presidentialism than in realism and institutionalization (Del Arenal Moyua, 1994, pp. 98, 99), and this personalist voluntarism led to relations with Cuba reaching their period of greatest flourishing from a political point of view. This harmony reveals that, in spite of their great differences, the great accord between Madrid and Havana was an international reality. Moreover, the agreement of the two nations about the diagnoses of the causes of international issues, rather than agreement over the best solution to such problems, was characterized by several factors related to the ideological tradition of Spanish socialism as well as the role of Cuba as an international guarantor and role-model for the countries of the third world in their struggle for definitive colonial and imperial liberation.

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