On Tuesday, April 25, retired U.S. military officers David McGinnis, Stephen Cheney, and Paul Eaton held a congressional briefing and individual interviews to explain why rolling back progress in U.S.-Cuba policy could threaten American national security. The briefing, which was organized by the American Security Project, followed a letter that was sent to National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster from 16 retired U.S. military officers on April 20th. The letter urged the Administration to continue to normalize relations with Cuba in order to strengthen U.S. national security and highlighted the benefits of US-Cuba relations.
At the briefing, the generals made the case that national security should be at the forefront of the upcoming US-Cuba policy review. “Cuba is not a strategic threat,” began General McGinnis, “they bring a lot of strategic opportunities to this country.” Cuba, an island just 98 miles off the coast, is, according to General McGinnis, “a good opportunity…to have a [relationship] with somebody who has a lot of interest in having one with us.”
The officers also discussed the areas that the United States and Cuba already collaborate in regards to U.S. national security. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard works with Cuban counterparts on several key national security issues, including terrorism, border control, and emergency preparedness. Expanding this cooperation would benefit American national security goals. General McGinnis added that a cooperative relationship with Cuba would also “help improve the potential for [relationships] with other countries in Central and South America.”
“For us to walk back what the Obama administration established would be an economic, diplomatic, and military disaster for the United States,” explained General Eaton, “[a rollback] would be a disaster for the face of the United States internationally,” he continued.
General Cheney went on to state, “If we have no diplomatic relations with them, we have no influence.” This comes at a critical point when China, Russia, and other geopolitical adversaries have expressed interest in building relationships in Central and South America. “China is acting aggressively,” explained General McGinnis, highlighting that our adversaries would be more empowered if there was a rollback on U.S. Cuba policy. This, according to General McGinnis, would be “the big threat.”
The retired flag officers urged the Administration to remain consistent with its commitment to national security by maintaining and advancing engagement with Cuba in its upcoming U.S.–Cuba policy review led by National Security Advisor, General H.R. McMaster.