For over 50 years, U.S. and Cuban diplomats have danced a minuet of diplomacy, meeting secretly in dingy cafeterias, elegant hotels and fancy French restaurants, from New York to Washington, Guadalajara, Paris, London, Luanda and Havana, to try and solve the myriad issues dividing these two perennial adversaries. Sometimes their talks succeeded and sometimes they failed, but from Eisenhower to Obama, every U.S. president has seen the wisdom of negotiating with Cuba. The lessons drawn from these negotiations are especially relevant at a time when leaders of both nations have publicly declared the urgency of moving beyond the legacy of perpetual hostility.
On October 6, the Latin America Initiative (LAI) in Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted William M. LeoGrande, professor of government at American University, and Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, to present their new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. They discussed the findings of their research, and offered recommendations to guide present and future U.S. negotiators. They were joined by Julia E. Sweig, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies. Ted Piccone, senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.