Region of Concern: Cuba; China; USA
Written By Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg; Edited by Cameron Munoz, Senior Editor
Date: June 21, 2023
Map of Cuba
Event: On June 20, reports broke about negotiations between China and Cuba regarding possibly establishing a Chinese military base in Cuba. Opening a military base in Cuba would result in Chinese troops stationed less than 100 miles from the coast of the United States. The reports are coming from current and former US officials. Last week, US White House spokesperson John Kirby said that the US government has concerns over China using Cuba for spying operations. The US government is currently in conversations with the Chinese and Cuban governments. The topic was also up for discussion when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited China on June 19, the first visit by a Secretary of State in five years. Neither the Chinese nor the Cuban government has commented on the reports.
Significance: By establishing a military base in Cuba, the Chinese government will likely be able to boost its foreign surveillance and spying operations. Considering the hostile relationship between the US and China in recent years, the US will almost certainly see the military base as a security threat. China conducting increased surveillance on the US is likely a reaction towards the US’ increased presence in Pacific Asia and support for Taiwan. Information gathered from the potential military base will likely be shared with other American adversaries, such as Russia and Iran. The US will likely respond by enforcing sanctions on the Chinese government and military leaders. However, there is also a roughly even chance that the fear of a potential Chinese military base in Cuba can foster communication between China and the US to stop the base's establishment. There is a roughly even chance that China will use the threat of a possible military base as leverage to reduce US support for Taiwan and US criticism of human rights abuses in China. There is also a roughly even chance that the Cuban government will use this threat as leverage to reduce US sanctions and trade embargo against the country.
Recommendations: The US government should immediately engage in diplomatic talks with the Chinese and Cuban governments and monitor potential negotiations between their officials. The US government should also communicate with their Cuban counterparts about possible relief in sanctions affecting the Cuban people to mitigate the risk of Chinese economic influence in the country. US intelligence agencies should cooperate with allied partners to receive information about potential developments and meetings between American adversaries, such as Cuba, China, Russia, and Iran. They should also monitor any possible material deliveries from China to Cuba. If a Chinese military base is established in Cuba, US and allied citizens should be advised against traveling to Cuba because of the possible risk of targeted surveillance. The US government and EU governments should enforce sanctions on Chinese military leaders and construction companies working on building a military base in Cuba.
 China plans a new military training facility in Cuba, Wall Street Journal reports, Reuters, June 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/china-plans-new-military-training-facility-cuba-wsj-2023-06-20/
 White House: US shared concerns with Cuba about hosting China spy base, Reuters, June 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/white-house-us-shared-concerns-with-cuba-about-hosting-china-spy-base-2023-06-12/
 US would have 'deep concerns' about China military activities in Cuba, Blinken says, Reuters, June 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/us-would-have-deep-concerns-about-china-military-activities-cuba-blinken-says-2023-06-20/