RAF Eurofighters in Estonia intercept Russian MiG-31BMs


British Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, paid a visit to the Royal Air Force’s 6 Squadron detachment in Estonia on Jun. 17. During this period the unit scrambled four times to identify four MiG-31BMs, two Tu-22M3s, two An-26s and an A-50 Mainstay.

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Photo: RAF

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House Rejects Plan For Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq


House lawmakers Wednesday strongly rejected a proposal to rapidly withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, a move supporters say was designed to force public debate on America’s 10 months of unauthorized military operations against Islamic militants in the region.

       
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Bipartisan Coalition “Engage Cuba” Launches Activities in U.S.


The bipartisan coalition “Engage Cuba,” an organization supporting an end to the U.S. embargo on the island, on Tuesday officially began its activities in Washington to promote policies to foster an opening toward Havana and increase the pressure on Congress for legislation to that effect.

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Cuba Off Terror List, but Embargo Unlikely to Be Lifted Anytime Soon


The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section (background), in Havana

© Enrique de la Osa / Reuters

By Rob Garver,The Fiscal Times

May 29, 2015

The Obama administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism became final on Friday, 45 days after it was announced, partly because Congress failed to move to block the change.

While removal from the list clears another hurdle to normalized diplomatic relations between the U.S. and its communist neighbor to the South, members of Congress have not had their final say on the issue. Congressional lawmakers still have some leverage to prevent much deeper rapprochement: Trade embargos against Cuba, solidified in the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, can’t be permanently lifted without an act of Congress.

Related: In Cuba, New York Governor Cuomo Seeks to Open Doors to Trade

Although the House of Representatives failed to take action to block the terror list change, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) assailed the move. He said the Obama administration had handed the Castro regime a political victory without extracting any concessions on human rights abuses in return. “Removing the regime from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror is just the latest example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies, but fortunately it will have little practical effect,” the Speaker said. “Most U.S. sanctions on the Cuban regime are contained in other laws — laws the U.S. House will ensure remain in place as we work to protect those fighting for freedom, and in many cases, simply their own survival.” 

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been a vocal opponent of easing relations with the nation from which both his parents emigrated, similarly criticized the administration. “President Obama and his administration continue to give the Cuban regime concession after concession, in exchange for nothing that even remotely resembles progress towards freedom and democracy for the Cuban people, or assurances that the regime will discontinue working against America’s national security interests,” he said.

Related: Rand Paul Unfiltered – Six Straight-from-the-Hip Quotes

Other observers, though, said that Cuba isn’t actually a state sponsor of terrorism anymore. “This is a nonevent,” said attorney Jose W. Fernandez, co-chair of the Latin America Practice Group at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “Cuba has not supported revolutionary movements in the Americas for years — indeed, it is currently hosting the peace talks between Colombia and the FARC guerrillas.”

If taking Cuba off the list was really a big deal, Fernandez added, Congress ought to have acted to block it. “There was little appetite even among the traditional Castro-bashers in Congress to get in front of the terrorism-list-removal train,” he said.

Other steps in the process might play out much differently, though, and Rubio in particular will likely be a key player in how the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba develops in the near term. Just by virtue of being a member of the Senate, where a single member’s refusal to grant unanimous consent can cause enormous delays, Rubio can stand in the way of approving an ambassador for Cuba and can block funding of a U.S. embassy in Havana.

However, Rubio also serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairs the panel’s subcommittee with explicit jurisdiction over the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Should he choose to do so, Rubio could be an enormous drag on the normalization process, and in public remarks, he has indicated that is precisely what he intends to do — regardless of the consequences.

“This is not a political thing,” he said when normalization was first announced. “I don’t care if polls say 99 of the people support normalizing relations with Cuba.”

His objections extend to normalizing trade as well. “This Congress,” he promised, “is not going to lift the embargo.”

 Top Reads from The Fiscal Times:

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No deal yet on U.S. and Cuban embassies


U.S. and Cuban diplomats failed Friday to reach a deal to reopen embassies in Washington and Havana because of continuing disagreement over how U.S. diplomats would operate in Cuba.

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Cuba and US hold historic meeting at highest level in Panama


Few details have emerged from the meeting between Kerry and Rodriguez. The last comparable event was in 1959, between Fidel Castro and  Richard Nixon.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez have held talks, in the highest level meeting between the two countries in more than half a century. The two were involved in closed-door discussions after arriving in Panama for a summit.

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For Eager Cubans, Big Opening in U.S. Relations Is More Like a Crack


More than three months after a thaw with the United States was announced, supplies remain short in Cuba, and weak technology impedes progress.



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A Tale of Two Cubas: Why the Diplomatic Debate Remains Controversial


MIAMI — The debate of how the United States should move forward in its relationship with Cuba remains a hot topic — especially in Miami, Fla.

Miami, with its large Cuban population, represents two strong arguments from both sides of the debate—presenting a tale of two Cubas.

In December 2014, President Obama announced measures his administration would take to normalize relations with Cuba. The move came after 18 months of undercover talks between the two countries.

Just a few months ago, Cuba released 53 prisoners in conjunction with the new policy. These advancements mark the most dramatic change in diplomacy since 1961 when an embargo was imposed against Cuba.

First generation Cuban immigrant Carlos Reyes, who opposes Obama’s outreach to Cuba, does not believe the two countries can have a sustainable relationship.

He says the U.S. will simply concede to the wants of the Castro regime without pushing for human rights and better living conditions for Cubans.

“What they [the Cuban government] is looking for is for themselves, not for the Cuban people,” Reyes said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Reyes came to America in 1957 after working on his family’s farm. He wanted a better life for himself, and from afar over the past five decades, he has wished for his native country to be freed from the grips of Communism.

“Right now, a relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, I don’t see any way it can be done,” Reyes added.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olHV4U08tr8

Ricardo Herrero serves as Director of Cuba Now, an organization that promotes policies in the U.S. to end the embargo and renew talks with the communist country.

His mother came to the U.S. as a part of Operation Peter Pan, a movement during the 1960s that sent children out of Cuba to American soil.

Herrero, in an interview with The Daily Signal, says the embargo has proven ineffective and that something new must be done.

>>> US-Funded News Station Wants to Bring Free Press to Cuba. But Raúl Castro Wants to Shut It Down.

“It’s highly emotional when you have to go through the horrors that they experienced 50 years ago when they had their friends and families executed, and their property seized by this government,” Herrero said. “Older Cubans have also come to realize that after 50 years of trying to do things one way and seeing no results, it’s time to do something new.”

Herrero represents a growing movement of people who believe that the Obama Administration is doing the right thing by working with Cuba.

Reyes on the other hand, believes the U.S. must remain strong in protecting the Cuban people.

While the debate continues, these two representations of Cuba show the split in how people feel about the changing relations of the two countries.

The post A Tale of Two Cubas: Why the Diplomatic Debate Remains Controversial appeared first on Daily Signal.

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French president to make historic trip to Cuba amid improving ties


President Francois Hollande will travel to Cuba in May in the first such trip by a French head of state.

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Why Midwestern farmers want to break the Cuba embargo


HAVANA — Cuba policy sometimes makes strange bedfellows, which is how a man like Thomas Marten, a burly Illinois soybean farmer with a bushy red beard, had come to Havana to make a statement about the principles of free enterprise. “As a Republican, I believe in trade for the betterment of all people,” he said, […]



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