Following 18 months of secret talks facilitated by Pope Francis and the Canadian government, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the United States and Cuba will re-establish diplomatic and economic relations, ending a political stalemate that began more than half a century ago.
Under the agreement, the United States will open an embassy in Havana; many existing travel, trade, and banking restrictions imposed on American citizens and businesses will be loosened; and Secretary of State John Kerry will review Cuba’s presence on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Additionally, Obama said, two American prisoners in Cuba, contractor Alan Gross and an unidentified U.S. intelligence officer, were released in exchange for three Cuban spies who had been jailed in the United States since 2001.
In separate phone and email exchanges, the Gazette turned to two Harvard authorities on Cuba and American foreign policy to interpret the importance of the U.S. policy shift with the island nation, one of the last bastions of communist rule in the world, and where the agreement likely will lead, both economically and politically. The changes also have implications for Harvard.
Nicholas Burns is the Sultan of Oman Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). A former U.S. ambassador to NATO and Greece and a career Foreign Service officer, Burns is also director of the Future of Diplomacy Project at HKS. Here are their insights.
Jorge Domínguez is co-chair of Harvard’s Cuban Studies Program, focusing on Cuba’s domestic and international politics and economics. He is also vice provost of international affairs at Harvard and the Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
These interviews were lightly edited for length and clarity.