TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 Literature Review
1.1 Comparison of US and Russian foreign and economic policies towards Cuba
1.2 Theories of Foreign Policy Change
Chapter 2 Case selection
Chapter 3 Theoretical Framework
Chapter 4 Methodology
4.1 Data collection
4.2 Data analysis
Chapter 5 Findings and Discussion
5.1 Extent of Foreign Policy Changes
5.2 Sources of Foreign Policy Changes
When Barack Obama visited Cuba in 2016 as first acting President of the United States (US) since 1928, many people saw this as an historic moment. The visit was part of the “Cuban Thaw”, a warming of Cuba-US relations which begun in 2014, ending a period of 54 years of hostility between the two countries. The shift towards normalisation came after the deterioration of Cuba-US relations under the George W. Bush administration. The improvement of Cuba-US relations under the Obama administration did not mean, however, the weakening of Cuba-Russia relations, which had closely cooperated since Soviet times. After the end of the Cold War, Cuba- Russia relations cooled down, however starting in 2008, senior Russian officials frequently visited Cuba and increased economic co-operation (Astrada, 2013, p. 86).
This paper is a comparative case study which investigates the type and sources of the changes in foreign and economic policies by the US and Russia towards Cuba in the time frame of 2008 –2017 for two main reasons: firstly, both the US and Russia changed their policies towards Cuba remarkably in this episode; secondly, US-Russia relations went through several distinctive changes in this period, which arguably influenced their respective relations to Cuba (Stent, 2015, p. 10).
To analyse and compare the policy changes, an alternative explanatory model to analyse foreign policy change (FPC) is constructed. This model is constituted by a three-step procedure. As a first step, it employs the sources of FPC as independent variables as outlined by Eidenfalk, while it puts emphasis on the political-institutional setting as an additional independent variable. The second step is constituted by Eidenfalk’s “window of opportunity”, which needs to be perceived by policy-makers to enact change. The third step is formed by the four degrees of FPC which are employed as dependent variables as put forward by Hermann.
This study has both empirical and theoretical aims. The empirical aim is to identify the degree and the most influential factors of the policy changes undertaken by the US and Russia towards Cuba. However, this study also demonstrates broader implications on the similarities and differences of the sources of Russian and US foreign policy-making and moreover, on US-Russia relations in general. Since these two countries have a tremendous effect on world affairs due to their leverage on the world stage, their bilateral relations can considerably affect other players of the international system. Further, this paper adds to the discussion on the future development of Cuba, as the future of the island arguably depends on its relations with Russia and the US. The theoretical aim is to make a contribution to the study of FPC, by combining comparative foreign policy analysis (CFP) with the study of FPC. Being a comparative study, this paper attempts to produce policy-relevant knowledge concerning US and Russian foreign policy making and it also is set to produce to some extent generalizable knowledge about the causes and the degree of FPCs.
This paper is structured as follows: the first chapter is a literature review, in which previous work on the research topic and different theories of FPC are discussed, further it is explained how this study contributes to academia. In the second chapter, the case selection is explained. The third chapter outlines the theoretical framework, which is constructed to analyse the policy changes of the US and Russia towards Cuba. The fourth chapter forms the methodological part of this paper, putting forward methods of data collection and analysis. In the fifth chapter, the findings are presented and discussed.
1. Literature Review
1.1 Comparison of US and Russian foreign and economic policies
Russian and US’ foreign and economic policies have been compared in different regions and spheres. Concentration in academia lays on the analysis of foreign policy (FP) concepts of each country respectively, the evolution of their FPs and the analysis of Russian FP towards the US and vice-versa (Wallin, 2017, Wallander, 1999).
With regards to a comparative study of the policies of the US and Russia, Azrael et al. (1996) contrast US and Russian policy-making with respect to the use of force from a decision-making perspective. Hereby, they look at different cases of the US and Russian intervention policies, comparing particularly the opportunities and constraints, motivations and goals, organisational and bureaucratic practices and executive-legislative relations in each country. Recently, attention has shifted to the juxtaposition of US and Russian policies in the Middle East, comparing the US’ and Russia’s relations with actors in the region (Katz, 2008) and their respective objectives and strategies in different fields, such as security (Alterman, 2017) and energy (Xing & Yuan, 2010). While these authors offer interesting insights, they do not make use of a coherent theorem to analyse US and Russian FPs towards these countries and spheres, which limits their comparability. Further, they do not examine FPC but rather contrast US with Russian FPs at a certain episode in time.
With reference to Russian policies towards Latin America, Blank (2009) analyses Russia’s policies and objectives, putting special emphasis on Venezuela and Cuba (p. 17). A direct comparison of US and Russian FPs towards Latin America can be seen as a gap in literature.
Concerning the bilateral relationship between Cuba and Russia, Bain (2016) denominates it “the forgotten relationship of international relations” (p. 324). Bain can be considered an expert on FP and FPC of Russia and the US towards Cuba as he published several journal articles on Cuba’s relations with both Russia and the US.
To investigate changes in Russian FP from Western alignment in the period after the Cold War to the “Putin Doctrine” in the early 2000s, Bain employs the lenses of defensive realism, pointing out that Russia’s renewed interest in Cuba is in line with its assertive FP which aims to reinstall Russia as a great power and achieve a multipolar world order (ibid, pp. 2-4). Bain addresses the relations between Havana, Washington and Moscow in “Triangle of Mistrust in the Twenty-First Century: Washington, Moscow and Havana” (2006) and “Havana, Moscow and Washington: Triangular Relationship at a Time of Change?” (2016). In the first article, Bain investigates whether the “triangle of mistrust”, as he denominates the relationship between those three states stemming from the Cold War, is still in place. To this end, he examines if the respective countries changed their FPs towards each other, using their respective voting behaviour in the United Nations (UN), economic relations and the history of relations as a basis for his argumentation. Bain argues that the mistrust between the three states has decreased and the foundations of the relations have partly shifted, however the triangle of mistrust continues. Whereas US FP is still based on the principles of democratisation, which hampers the improvement of relations with Cuba and Russia, the basis of the relationship between Moscow and Cuba is “no longer Marxist-Leninism [but] practical, economic reasons” (2006, p. 159).
In “Havana, Moscow and Washington: Triangular Relationship at a Time of Change?”, published ten years after the “Triangle of Mistrust […]”, Bain (2016) uses the two contrasting paradigms of realism and constructivism to investigate the impact of the US as a constant influence on the relationship between Havana and Moscow. Bain argues that both realism and constructivism offer useful explanations for the influence of the US on Cuba-Russia relations. This article also discusses whether a triangle can still be considered appropriate to characterise the contemporary Cuba- Russia-US relations (ibid). For the analysis, Bain considers primary sources such as government documents, speeches, official statistics and media reports (ibid, p. 324). Bain argues that the US has been central to both the creation and continuance of Cuba-Russia relations, due to shared history and geographical proximity, and this will always influence Cuba-Russia relations. However, the normalisation of Cuba-US relations might shift the triangular relation into a circular one.
In “Moscow, Havana and asymmetry in international relations” (2016b), Bain investigates whether the geographic distance between Russia and Cuba has influence on the intensity of their asymmetric relationship, using Womack’s (2010) theory on asymmetric power. Hereby, Bain takes into account not only the asymmetric relationships of Cuba with Russia and the US, but also the asymmetric relationship between the US and Russia (ibid, p. 1045). Bain argues that the geographical proximity of the US to Cuba has increased the asymmetry and intensity of Cuba- Russia relations, thus Bain states that the relation between Moscow and Havana displays a “distracted asymmetry” which occurs when both sides are confronted by more important relationships, which is in the case for both in relation to the US (ibid, p. 1057).
Whereas Bain focuses mainly on changes in the Cuba-Russia relations, LeoGrande emphasises the analysis of FPC in Cuba-US relations (2015). He investigates why Obama changed the US policies towards Cuba. To analyse FPC, LeoGrande uses Kingdon’s classic study on agenda setting and policy innovation (2015, p. 474). Kingdon (2014) identifies three elements of ‘streams’ that must converge for a major policy change to occur: the problem stream, the policies stream and the political stream. They entail the following: firstly, a problem must make its way into policy-makers’ agenda; secondly, a feasible policy solution to the problem must be available; and thirdly, the policy solution must be politically viable. If one or more of these necessary conditions is absent, the policy will not be adopted (pp. 19- 20).
LeoGrande argues that the change of US policy towards Cuba was triggered by “a constellation of structural factors” which reached a “tipping point” to change course (2015, p. 473). LeoGrande outlines four major factors: firstly, the threat which Cuban FP posed to US interests; secondly, the political influence of the Cuban American lobby; thirdly, the attitude of Latin America towards the US-Cuban stand- off; and fourthly, the changes under way in Cuba since the assumption of the Cuban presidency by Raúl Castro in 2008 (ibid).
While Bain focuses primarily on Cuba-Russia relations and LeoGrande on Cuba- US relations, a direct comparison of US and Russian policies towards Cuba is lacking in literature. Moreover, there is no direct comparison of why the US and Russia change their policies towards a specific country which can shed light on their respective sources of policy-making.
1.2 Theories of Foreign Policy Change
Before discussing existing theoretical frameworks which deal with FPC, the concepts of FP and economic policy need to be defined. There are many definitions of FP which are similar in their essence in that they attempt to define a complex phenomenon in a compact form. Most researchers such as Gustavsson (1998, p. 22) refer to the definition of Cohen and Harris (1975), which is seen as a minimum consensus definition within the field. Cohen and Harris (1975) define FP as
“a set of goals, directives or intentions, formulated by persons in official or authoritative positions, directed at some actor or condition in the environment beyond the sovereign nation state, for the purpose of affecting the target in the manner desired by the policy-makers” (p. 3831).
This definition entails three important elements: firstly, it presumes state governments as sole executers of FP; secondly, it points out that FP is a purposeful act and thirdly, it makes clear that FP is not static, but it tends to change to achieve its objectives (Gustavsson, 1998, p. 22; Rosenau, 1974, p. 6). Regarding instruments of traditional foreign policy, Baldwin (1985) specifies four types, propaganda, diplomatic, economic and military instruments (pp. 10-16).
With regards to the concept of foreign economic policy (FEP), one can distinguish two streams in academia which are concerned with the discussion about whether FEP should be considered as a part of a state’s FP or whether both should be treated as distinct (Pastor, 1982, pp. 7-8). Pastor (1982) argues that neither approach is helpful to analyse FEP, thus he suggests that FEP should be defined in terms of issues, purposes, geographical destination, decision mode, or decision-making arena to examine it (p. 12). This is what this paper does, as it is concerned with economic policies by the US and Russia towards Cuba.
Having outlined both the concept of FP and FEP, attention should be drawn to the concept of FPC which this paper seeks to investigate. While comparative foreign policy analysis (CFP) was developed during the height of the Cold War as a subfield of International Relations (IR), focusing on US FP decision-making, FPC was “a neglected phenomenon” in academia until the 1980s (Holsti, 2016, p. 1, Huxoll, 2003, p. 18). The study of FPC deals with questions of when, why and how states restructure and reorient their FPs (Huxsoll, 2003, p. 1). With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, this field in academia is of growing importance, as FPC in one country can have significant impact on the international system. In this respect, the study of FPC can outline factors that push or constrain FPCs.
One of the first scholars who investigated FPC was Holsti (2016) in “Why Nations Realign”, which was originally published in 1982. Holsti focuses on the analysis of the process of radical FPC with the background of the Cold War. He provides a framework to how and why states restructure their FPs, bringing role theory to the study of FPC. In this respect, Holsti identifies four ideal types of FPC; including isolation, self-reliance, dependence, and non-alignment/ diversification (ibid, p. 4). Holsti’s framework for describing and explaining FPC is constituted by three independent variables: external, domestic and background/ cultural factors. Additionally, Holsti adds intervening variables. An intervening variable is a variable that lies between the independent and the dependent one and must be “caused” by the independent variable (McNabb, 2004, p. 53). In Holsti’s framework, intervening variables are the policy-makers’ perceptions and calculations, the policy-making process, personality factors and elite attitudes towards external actors (Holsti, 2016, p. 4). The dependent variables are constituted by the policies and actions taken by the state (ibid). Furthermore, Holsti adverts to the importance of the question of how much change is necessary to constitute restructuring and/or disengagement. In this connection, Holsti points out that restructuring occurs when there is a policy change “in many geographical and functional sectors simultaneously” (ibid, p. 13). However, he also admits that some arbitrary judgements on degrees of change must be made, thus he suggests working inductively, describing the changes in intentions and policies for each case, so that the reader can make the ultimate judgement. As a limitation, Holsti refers to the comparability of change, as change may require different policies for different countries (ibid). Further, Holsti outlines a comprehensive methodology, consisting of nine indicators of change on which to collect data (ibid, p. 15). The theorem outlined by Holsti was applied to eight case- studies of states which went through the process of restructuring over the period of 1957-1980 (ibid).
Figure 1: Theoretical framework by Holsti to explain FPC
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Taken from Holsti, 2016, p. 14
Holsti’s framework for FPC serves to analyse a type of FP behaviour where governments aim to change the total pattern of their external relations, mostly in general, not towards a specific country, such as FPCs in Burma from dependence to isolation (1963-1965) or the restructuring of Chinese FP taking a radical left turn (1959-1976) (ibid, 2016). Thus, it is not useful to investigate the changes in US and Russian policies towards Cuba. Further, the framework was developed to analyse FPCs during the Cold War. With the Cold War having ended, new approaches are more promising to offer a useful theoretical groundwork for this study.
One of those approaches was put forward by Hermann who constructed a framework to address the changes which came with the end of the bipolar world order in 1900. He characterises FPC as “self-correcting change”, which is the case when the current actors change their course in FP (1990, p. 5). He views FP as subject to four degrees of change which differentiate in their degree of change which he denominates as adjustment changes, program changes, problem/ goal changes and international orientation changes (ibid). As sources for change or variables which contribute to the exploration of what kind of change is displayed, Hermann points out leader driven change, bureaucratic advocacy, domestic restructuring and external shocks. Hermann emphasises that it is likely that these variables influence each other or spill-over effects arise (ibid, pp.11-12).
Like Holsti, Hermann introduces the decision-making process as an intervening variable (ibid, p. 13). In this context, he outlines several decision-making stages in changing policy (bid). What lacks in his study is that he does not provide an explanation how he measures which FPC applies to a case study, but gives mere prescriptions of each stage which limits the reliability of a study when using Hermann’s theorem. Further, he does not distinguish explicitly between domestic and external sources of change. Hermann’s theorem was used to analyse FPC by Sundelius (1994), Aslanargun (2015) and Baldoni (2016). In difference to Holsti’s theorem, it is however possible to apply Hermann’s framework to examine FPC of one country towards another one and to compare different countries.
Figure 2: Theoretical Framework by Hermann to explain FPC
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Based on Hermann, 1990, p. 13
Criticising previous theoretical models for their incompleteness, Eidenfalk (2006) introduces a modified typology of change, which he labels as “checklist-model” which investigates change, taking into account the scope, domain and the effect of change to determine the extent of change (ibid, p. 2). In his outline for independent variables, Eidenfalk makes a division between domestic and international factors, while pointing out that both influence each other. This division is also done by Bourantonis and Blavoukos (2014, p. 1). As domestic factors, Eidenfalk outlines bureaucracy, public opinion, media, interest groups, and political parties, whereas he divides international factors into global and regional factors, bilateral relations and non-state actors (ibid, pp. 3-6). In difference to Eidenfalk, Blavoukos and Bouratonis (2014) name as domestic structural parameters the politico-institutional setting and advocacy groups in support of alternative FP options, while they refer to the state’s role in the international system and its interactions with other states as international structural parameters (ibid, p. 1). To explore the international factors, Eidenfalk additionally considers the norms accepted by the major actors in the international political system and international institutions. A focus on norms can also be found in an approach to analyse FPC by Brazys, Kaarbo and Panke (2017) which examine the extent to which these norms and changes in these norms are linked with FPC and vice versa (p. 660).
As an intervening variable, Eidenfalk brings in the category “window of opportunity”, using approaches by Gustavsson (1998) and Kingdon (2014) as a basis. Kingdon’s approach was also utilised by LeoGrande (2015) as outlined above. Eidenfalk points out that “sources of changes need to pass through this step to have an impact on the decision-making process, and ultimately, to cause a foreign policy change” (2006, p. 7). The main actor is the key decision-maker and his/her perceptions, as structural conditions cannot in themselves change a FP. This is where the window of opportunity comes in: this is when an opportunity presents itself, here it depends whether a key policy-maker perceives it as one and seizes the window to push through his/her agenda or not (ibid, p. 8). In this context, Eidenfalk touches upon the structure-agency debate, outlining two possible scenarios applying to this stage. The first scenario describes a change in structural conditions which pressures the key decision-maker to execute policy changes, while the second scenario refers to the key decision-maker waiting for fitting structural conditions to push through his policy agenda which then leads to FPC (ibid, p. 9).
To determine the extent of change, Eidenfalk investigates the issue-areas which are intended to be affected and how heavily they are influenced, drawing on the three areas of politics, economics and security (ibid, p. 10). Eidenfalk claims that the extent of change is bigger, if more than one issue area is affected (ibid). Eidenfalk’s theorem offers a more complete analysis of factors which lead to FPC, however he does not denominate different stages of FPCs as does Hermann. Eidenfalk’s theorem was applied by Eidenfalk (2009) and Doeser and Eidenfalk (2013).
Figure 3: Theoretical framework by Eidenfalk to explain FPC
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Based on Eidenfalk, 2006, pp. 1-9
While not constructing a model, Huxsoll (2003) and Welch (2005) examine which conditions are likely to lead to FPC. Huxsoll (2003) concentrates on how the regime type, institutional arrangement and party system impact FPC. He postulates that democracies prove to be more stable in their approach to FP than non-democracies as they face greater constraints in checks and balances (ibid, p. 173). Welch (2005) argues that the threshold for change should be lower in autocratic regimes and relatively non-bureaucratised states than in less bureaucratised states with democratic regimes (ibid, p. 89).
All theorems have in common the use of a three-step procedure. As a first step, they outline the sources or “agents” of change as independent variables. In the second step, the decision-making process is pointed out, which forms the intervening variable, while the third step is constituted by the extent of FPC which functions as dependent variable. What is missing in all theorems is a concentration on the political system as a source which influences FPC fundamentally as observed by Huxsoll (2003) and Welch (2005). Further, the theorems differ on how they define the extent of FPC: while Holsti points out the policies and actions done by the state as an extent of FPC which he assigns to different roles, Hermann’s puts forward different degrees of FPC and Eidenfalk differentiates the extent of change by different sectors. What is missing is a connection between these different approaches to measure the extent of FPC which this paper sets out to establish.
2. Case Selection
This paper is a comparative case study. The distinguishing feature of case studies is the emphasis on examining causality. While Russian and US FPs have been frequent subjects to analysis, they have not been compared in their FPs towards Latin America. Latin America is a region of growing importance for both countries: while Russia views Latin America as an element in its attempt to build strategic partnerships (The Kremlin, 2008a, IV), the US perceives Latin America as its near abroad in which it wants to increase prosperity and democracy (The White House, 2015a, pp. 16, 20).
However, the scope of this paper is not sufficient to compare US and Russian policies towards the whole of Latin America, thus the policy changes towards Cuba were chosen as the subject under investigation. Cuba as the subject of investigation promises to offer interesting insights as on the one hand, Cuba holds a special historical role in US-Russia relations, and on the other hand, the country is seen as a door opener to Latin America for both the US and Russia. Further, this analysis makes it possible to make predictions about the future policy-making of the US and Russia as the driving forces behind their respective policy-making are analysed. Additionally, predictions about the future of Cuba are made possible, as the future of the island is majorly influenced by its relations with both the US and Russia. Particularly in light of the end of the Castro era in April 2018 this endeavour has relevance.
The episode from 2008 to 2017 was chosen which stretches over the two Obama administrations and the Presidencies of Medvedev (2008-2012) and Putin (2012-ongoing). The end of the Obama administration sets the end of the time frame. The policies towards Cuba under the Trump administration are not subject to this study as the scope of this paper is limited and more time needs to pass to be able to evaluate the changes. This time frame was selected for two reasons: firstly, both the US and Russia changed their policies remarkably towards Cuba in this episode; secondly, US-Russia relations went through several distinctive changes in this period, from a re-set to a cool down, which arguably influenced their respective relations to Cuba.
Theoretically, this paper aims to contribute to the study of FPC by combining the discipline of CFP and FPC. To this end, it constructs an alternative explanatory model to analyse and compare policy changes by different countries towards one country. This is an important contribution as the foreign and economic policies of states clash in several cases, such as the policies of US and Russia towards Syria since the start of the Syrian Civil War or the policies of the US and China with reference to the South China Sea. Here, redirections of FPs are of special interest because of their influence on both government and domestic constituents and because of their potentially significant consequences for other countries.
Limitations of this study are twofold: on the on hand, change may require different policies for different countries, thus the comparability of the US and Russia might be limited to some extent; on the other hand, generalising findings will be difficult as Cuba offers a special case due to its past relations with both countries.
3. Theoretical Framework
This paper is an explanatory comparative case study which attempts to answer why the US and Russia changed their FPs, and which also is set to analyse which type of change it is. To be able to find the answers to these questions, this paper draws upon the literature review to construct a three-step procedure.
As in the models presented in the previous section, the alternative analytical framework takes as independent variables the sources of changes. As done by Eidenfalk (2006) and by Blavoukos and Bouratonis (2014), a division is made between domestic and international factors. Though it is difficult to draw a line between domestic and external sources of change as they influence each other, it is a useful approach to be able to determine whether domestic or external factors are more influential in causing FPC. The sub-categories of both domestic and international factors are oriented towards the sub-categories put forward by Eidenfalk. Domestic factors are split into public opinion, interest groups and media, while external factors are divided into global and regional factors, and bilateral relations and non-state actors. It needs to be emphasised that ‘regional factors’ entail different geographical areas for the US and Russia: while for the US Latin America is counted as region, for Russia it is its neighbourhood Eurasia.
Further, a third category is introduced which is the political-institutional setting with reference to Huxsoll (2003) and Welch (2005) who emphasise the correlation of the political system and FPC. The other theorems did not address this factor implicitly, however it is of great significance, in particular when comparing FPCs by countries with differing political systems such as the US and Russia. The political-institutional setting is not integrated in the category of domestic factors, even though the lines between the two categories are blurred. Public opinion, interest groups and media are identified as sub-categories of domestic factors and not as being part of the political-institutional set-up, because they arise outside of the institutions - at least to some extent, depending on the political system. By establishing the political-institutional setting as its own category, special attention is put to the correlation between the political system and FPC. Sub-categories are regime type, institutional arrangement and party system impact as outlined by Huxsoll (2003), while the category ‘predominant leader’ as formulated by Hermann is stipulated as fourth sub-category to be able to draw attention to the special impact a leader can have in causing FPC. As in the previous theorems, the sources of change are identified as the first step towards FPC. While outlining the sources of change, these factors will not be followed strictly. Factors which have more relevance in pressuring FPC will be given more attention than others. It also needs to be acknowledged that the independent variables influence each other, as it depends on the political- institutional setting how influential interest groups and public opinion can be.
With reference to the second step, the window of opportunity is outlined as the intervening variable as done by Eidenfalk. The multiple-streams approach by Kingdon (2014) is used to analyse FPC which was pointed out earlier, while the decision-making process is not investigated, as this study is concerned primarily with the sources of change and the extent of change. A further obstacle is that the relevant policy documents are not always for public disclosure. In this paper, the window of opportunity is applied to investigate whether the primary change agents create a window of opportunity.
The third step is the extent of FPCs which forms the independent variable. The four types identified by Hermann are employed in the model as his division into four types makes it possible to compare the extent of FPCs.
Figure 4: Alternative theoretical framework to explain FPC
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Table by the author
This framework certainly does not grasp the whole of FPC but the objective of a model is not to describe the whole reality, but at least to come as close as possible.1
4.1 Data collection
To be able to conduct this analysis, primarily qualitative methods were utilised as this study attempts to understand behaviour, thus it yields to subjective and interpretive methods instead of scientifically measurable quantitative methods. However, quantitative methods such as statistics on trade, a country’s GDP and public opinion were used when analysing economic data.
The sources under investigation are constituted by primary and secondary sources. Primary sources include policy documents on foreign and security policy such as briefings, legislation, bilateral treaties, initiatives and press releases by the respective foreign ministries as well as statements by top policy-makers. The types of statements examined were limited to public pronouncements including official speeches, policy briefings, interviews, remarks, press briefings and articles by policymakers.
1 Description of categories and sub-categories in Annex A