Yet more evidence has surfaced that the United States is opening relations with Cuba in exchange for essentially nothing. As we open the highest level talks with the communist nation in decades, Cuba has made sure to remind us that substantive changes in its system of government will not being coming anytime soon. From Yahoo! News’ Canadian website:

The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left President Raul Castro’s government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country’s struggling economy.

Following the highest-level open talks in three decades between the two nations, Cuban officials remained firm in rejecting significant reforms pushed by the United States as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise move to re-establish ties and rebuild economic relations with the Communist-led country.

“One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in,” Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press after the end of the talks. “Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable.”

It’s not clear if Cuba’s tough stance is part of normal negotiation tactics or a hardened position that could prevent the talks from moving forward.

Now, I happen to be in favor of liberalizing relations with Cuba, but I also am in favor of liberalizing Cuba, too. If we’re going to establish ties with the country, we should at least try to get something good out of it in return, and I’m talking about things other than securing the release of a few American political prisoners in Cuba.Take a look at the last line in that quote again.

The rhetoric Cuba has used might indeed be an opening position to negotiate from, but ask yourselves, does anyone really expect the United States to press Castro’s diplomats too hard on the issue? It might be unrealistic to expect a complete overthrow of Cuba’s communist system overnight and the installation of a freely-elected republican government and market economy, but I doubt we can expect the current leadership of the United States to push too hard for real progress to be made towards liberalization.

Later in the article, the issue of American fugitives who have been granted asylum in Cuba is mentioned. Their return to the United States seems, to me, to be non-negotiable, but can we really expect our leaders to push the Cubans on this issue? The dominant theme of international negotiations under the Obama administration has been complying with the other side’s every demand in some way.

The brutal Castro regime has ruined Cuba, and the way our negotiations with Cuba are going, it does not look like we will be using our significant political capital on this issue to push for any real changes. Cuba needs us more than we need them, and we are letting this golden opportunity slip through our fingers.