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Cuba Embraces Free Market, China-Style

Whatever the hopes for Cuba, the country's regime seems keen to follow the profit model for the economy to shore up its political grip. Just like China and Russia.

Flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Havana
Flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Havana
Ricardo Kirschbaum

BUENOS AIRES — Fifty-eight years after the communist rebel Fidel Castro toppled Batista's corrupt government in Cuba, his brother, President Raúl Castro, is now recognizing, partially and reluctantly, the reality of the market economy. This is not unrelated to the recent process of détente begun between Cuba and the United States, and represents the end of a cycle and start of another, whose future remains to be written.

The complex changes that have begun inside the Cuban Communist party are also an open-ended process, initiated by an economic crisis it has failed to resolve, as well as its own ideological crises. More widely, the changes are the fruit of decades of U.S.-imposed sanctions, Cuba's previous economic dependence on the Soviet Union and the Communist leadership's own rigidity of thought, which restricted the country's development and economic options.

Carefully selecting its words, the Communist Party (PC) voiced on Aug. 16 its recognition of "the objective existence of market relations." We're talking relations here, not market economy — this difference can feed an ongoing theoretical, though not truly political, debate. Perhaps this is just as party leaders want.

Central idea

This effectively gives the signal for a shift toward models of vigorous political centralization complemented by economic liberalization, in the manner of Vietnam.

It is very difficult to say whether communist countries that have accepted market rules are capitalist now or not. We can only be certain that they stopped being altogether communist, by choice or force of circumstances.

What Cuba is doing is broadening the horizon for its reforms without ditching its central idea, as it seeks to emulate similar regimes elsewhere. The PC recognized the market principle in its April congress, though within "the functioning of the socialist economy," and the regime looks set to follow the principle of most other systems of its ilk (bar North Korea), which firmly maintain single party rule. We know that while the free market can increase political liberties to some extent, this, as Russia shows, is not inevitable.

Indeed as the economy is liberalized, the political regime retains control as it supervises and fine-tunes its version of the re-conversion process. The top-down system becomes a necessary complement to more open economic policymaking.

Another excuse for keeping the grip it seems is to manage corruption, which is a possibility in any regime. China has the highest rate of executions for crimes involving corruption. Expect then, the coming contradiction in Cuba: Economic liberalization will wind up riding roughshod over other, less lucrative, liberties.

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Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen


HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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