If Vietnam and the USA have normal diplomatic and business relations, why doesn't Cuba-USA relationship improve? Why doesn't the USA normalize its diplomatic relations with Cuba?

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    A lot has to do with voters in Florida, which is a state that is typically closely decided in presidential elections. Florida has a concentration of conservative Cubans who will vote against a candidate who wants to normalize relations. Vietnamese immigrants and Americans do not have such a concentration in a close state. Also, Cuba is still repressive, which does not sit well with Americans of all parties. Barack Obama is a bit of an aberration for trying. Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 21:03
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    Vietnam's economy is now largely capitalist, whereas economic liberalization in Cuba is rather limited as far as I'm aware and it naturally aligns with Venezuela. Vietnam has a strong incentive to court the US to balance Chinese influence.
    – Colin
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 21:38
  • I think you've tried to connect two things which are only connected coincidentally, if that.
    – ouflak
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 16:24
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    What exactly about Vietnam makes it similar to Cuba in your view? The two are somewhat different countries, and the US's relationship has evolved with them for different reasons. Can you indicate what exactly makes them similar?
    – user29681
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 22:00

2 Answers 2


Related: Why does the US still have an embargo on Cuba?

Is it a duplicate? Not exactly, but close and its answers aren't so hot either, so here's a cynical take on things (this kinda question tends to annoy Americans as, IMHO, their reasons for the embargo are fuzzy at best).

  • Foremost: not antagonizing the Cuban expat community in Florida which is often a battleground state, election-wise. Anyone remember Elian Gonzalez? Might have very well tilted the Florida vote that elected Bush.

  • Communism/Dictatorship. Yup, Cuban is Communist (note: I dislike Communism myself, but stating this is no so much part of the answer as it is to make clear I am not coming into this from the POV of being pro-Cuba or pro-Communist. I am just critical of the USA's specific behavior towards Cuba). But the US can hold its nose in other cases. True, it is unfree but so are Saudi Arabia, Thailand and a whole lot of other countries that the US is good buddies with. It's the easy claim for US domestic consumption however.

  • The upsides to normalizing to the US aren't huge. Cuba doesn't have that much to trade/offer and their enmity comes at a very low cost to the US.

  • Vietnam is slightly different - oddly enough, I think a lot of reconciliation happened through the recovery efforts to find the remains of MIA US soldiers. Vietnam doesn't like China much so can be a useful regional ally. Finally, there's the often quoted fig leaf of "we didn't really lose the war, we coulda won, we withdrew", letting the US claim dignity (see next point).

  • Last but not least: the US hates to lose face They did w Cuba and Iran (might apply in the future to Afghanistan too). No US politician wants to open to themselves to domestic political attacks by appearing soft on Cuba or Iran so a slightly over-the-top policy that has limited downsides for the US is going to stick around for a long time unless Cuba "admits its wrongs".

P.S. After spending 6 decades complaining about the US Great Satan, why does Cuba want to trade with it at all? Yes, yes, I know about the dubious application of US extraterritoriality principles, but when you pick an argument with a big guy, don't be too surprised if you get punched in the nose.

FWIW, I think Obama did the right thing, not an aberration, but there's clearly not a big popular push in the US to kiss and make up.

  • Re "didn't really lose the war", you also need to look at the larger picture. Vietnam was part of a larger war against Communist world domination, and it seems as though that war was pretty well won with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 17:31
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    @jamesqf Totally true, but that claim predates that collapse. Commented Jul 4, 2020 at 17:33
  • This is the first time I, a European, hear that the US ‘didn’t really lose [Vietnam]’. I thought it was clear to everyone involved and observing that the US was essentially defeated when they withdrew.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 10:08
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica , the people in Cuba that call the US 'the great Satan' are not the poeple that would want to trade with the US. As often, there is a huge difference between the official government's position, and the opinion of the people (I guess that is a part of 'not being free')
    – Aganju
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 13:04
  • "P.S. After spending 6 decades complaining about the US Great Satan, why does Cuba want to trade with it at all?" The application of the US extraterritoriality principles is not dubious. politics.stackexchange.com/questions/68277/…
    – FluidCode
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 13:27

Also the Monroe Doctrine, to some extent, plays a role. Like Nicaragua and Venezuela, Cuba is in the same hemisphere as the USA, but Vietnam not. It is unacceptable to have an enemy living next door while the enemy living in a neighboring city can be tolerated. There is also an historical dimension. The situation between Cuba and the USA has some similarities with situation between Ukraine and Russia. Cuba was a US colony for some time and, even after becoming an independent state, it was strongly influenced by the US. If staying in that paradigm, Batista was a US version of Yanukovych.

  • After Russia invaded Ukraine for precisely this stated reason, does the USA still feel it's a valid reason? Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 10:29
  • The US hasn't invaded Cuba lately; and sanctions are common between countries in both the Americas and Europe.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 10:54
  • @Stuart F USA tried to invade Cuba: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Pigs_Invasion
    – convert
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 11:03

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