Foreign Policy Blogs

Joint U.S.-Cuba military exercises

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Noel Brinkerhoff reports: “In another sign of improving, if not incremental change in relations between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. military formally acknowledged a joint disaster-preparedness exercise last week between American and Cuban soldiers. Troops stationed on the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay crossed over into Cuban territory to set up a mock triage area that would be used by military personnel from both countries, if an actual emergency occurred. Meanwhile, a Cuban military helicopter was allowed to fly over the Navy base to drop water on a simulated wildfire… Retired U.S. Marine Corps General Jack Sheehan told The Miami Herald that the public acknowledgement represented a “trial balloon” by the Obama administration to test American—especially Cuban-American—feelings for closer relations with Havana.”

Military exercises are not new: Cuban and U.S. military have performed joint exercises on the island since the 1990s. But this is the first time the United States has made a public acknowledgement and provided details about this form of U.S.-Cuban cooperation. The Bush administration forbade the disclosure of this information for over a decade.

This is a particularly interesting kind of “step” in the slow thaw we have witnessed recently.



Melissa Lockhart Fortner

Melissa Lockhart Fortner is Senior External Affairs Officer at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, having served previously as Senior Programs Officer for the Council. From 2007-2009, she held a research position at the University of Southern California (USC) School of International Relations, where she closely followed economic and political developments in Mexico and in Cuba, and analyzed broader Latin American trends. Her research considered the rise and relative successes of Latin American multinationals (multilatinas); economic, social and political changes in Central America since the civil wars in the region; and Wal-Mart’s role in Latin America, among other topics. Melissa is a graduate of Pomona College, and currently resides in Pasadena, California, with her husband, Jeff Fortner.

Follow her on Twitter @LockhartFortner.