Now that Washington and Havana appear to be on the road to kissing and making up, it's worth considering whether the timing is really that spontaneous?
Cuba was always the Soviet's toe hold in the Americas. It was over Soviet designs in Cuba that the world was brought to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.
The Soviets propped up Fidel Castro by buying Cuba's sugar crop at premium prices. With the collapse of the USSR, Cuba's economy took a big hit as Moscow withdrew. Since then Cuba has been mainly important to American foreign policy for the Cuban exile vote in Florida that some, such as Clinton and Bush, shamelessly courted with promises of "get tough" action against the Communist regime.
But, as Obama correctly noted, America's sanctions haven't worked. The exile vote doesn't command the clout it enjoyed in decades past. And then there's Putin.
Vlad, the "Russian Impaler," has been responding to Western sanctions with military feints and other provocations: bombers flying at the edge of Western airspace; 'near miss' intercepts, mystery submarines showing themselves in the home waters of European states.
We don't know what has passed between Moscow and Havana lately but, for optics, there could hardly be anything to surpass a renewed Russian presence in Cuba - Russian aircraft deployed to Cuban airbases, Russian ships and subs patrolling in the Gulf of Mexico, that sort of thing.
With Russia's economy reeling from sanctions and collapsed world oil prices and Putin's own position lately in question, this is a truly propitious moment for Washington to do some long overdue Caribbean housekeeping and bring Cuba back into the American fold. It's good for Cuba. It will do wonders to improve America's flagging reputation with the OAS. It should keep Putin from getting any ideas about parking Russian forces in America's back yard as NATO has done in Russia's. It almost puts a fresh coat of paint on the Monroe Doctrine for Moscow and Beijing alike.
Smooth move Barack Obama.