The underlying threat: why Russia is thinking about returning to Cuba

The underlying threat: why Russia is thinking about returning to Cuba

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Radio-electronic center in Lourdes, 2001

Photo: AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

After more than half a century after the Cuban missile crisis, Cuba could once again become the center of opposition. The defense Ministry and the Kremlin is considering the possibility of returning Russian army at a military base in Lourdes

The Cuban comeback

The Russian defense Ministry is considering the possibility of returning the military bases to the countries where these bases were located in the Soviet Union, Cuba and Vietnam, said Deputy Minister of defense Nikolai Pankov.

“We engaged in this work. We see this problem”, — said Pankow (quoted by TASS), answering the question whether the military to return to bases in Vietnam and Cuba. Later, the possibility of raskonservirovana bases, abandoned by the Russian military in 2001, made the press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov.

“You see that the last two years has made at all in international Affairs and international security significant changes, so naturally, all countries, in accordance with its national interests, assess these changes and take certain measures in that direction, which I think is necessary”, — said Peskov, commenting on the words Pankov.

Most experts in the field of international politics and arms believe that the return of the Russian military in Cuba and Vietnam will be a logical continuation of Russia’s foreign policy, the next step towards confrontation with the US and NATO countries.

“Russia regains lost in the post-Soviet period positions not only in Eurasia but around the world, says chief editor of the magazine “Latin America” Vladimir Travkin. — The presence in Cuba is very important to us. Cuba is a geostrategic point buckle on the waist of America, it is against the Panamanian inter-oceanic canal through which passes a large part of world trade. For Russia as ocean power are very important in this part of the world”.

According to first Vice-President of Russian society of friendship with Cuba, major-General of aviation Mikhail Makaruka, from the moment when Russia turned its military presence in Cuba, the situation has changed dramatically and the return reflects the “new phase of international realities.” “This is an adequate action in response to the fact that our borders are selected armed targets NATO”, — said the major-General.

As a base in Cuba almost became a reason for nuclear war

The Soviet Union began to supply military equipment to Cuba shortly after the triumph of the Cuban revolution of 1959. In the second half of 1960, the island sent about 30 tanks T-34-85 and self-propelled artillery SU-100. Also signed a communiqué in which the Soviet Union expressed readiness to render assistance to Cuba with military assistance in the defense of the island.

In 1961, the US began to place in the Turkey missiles PGM-19 “Jupiter” with a range of 2400 km in the zone of destruction got Moscow and major industrial centers of the USSR.

In response, Nikita Khrushchev decided to place nuclear missiles in Cuba under the US side. By 10 June 1962, a draft of the operation “Anadyr” was ready. The name of the operation is due to the fact that the personnel accompanying military equipment, said he was sent to Chukotka — thus, the Soviet leadership sought to deceive U.S. intelligence.

By September, Cuba had already been delivered contingent of several thousand soldiers, military equipment, and in September delivered missiles and nuclear weapons.

After confirmation of the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, the American political establishment began to discuss the possibility of intervention on the island. President John Kennedy was against this decision. However, the first and only time in U.S. history, the level of preparedness of the defense was raised to DEFCON 2, the previous maximum combat readiness.

Then began the talks of the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, and as a result, 27 October 1962 the U.S. and the USSR signed an agreement on mutual withdrawal of its missiles: Soviet — Cuban and American — from Turkey. This was the starting point for the next steps to curtail the arms race.

In the same year, construction began in Cuba a Soviet military base — the radio-electronic center in Lourdes, which was operated from 1967 to 2001, when a “historic meeting” with US President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin announced the closure of two Russian military bases (the second was the naval base in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam). The decision was justified by the need to release resources for combating terrorism. The official representative of Russian foreign Ministry Alexander Yakovenko said: “we Have to engage in austerity, given that the nature of the threats to our security after the cold war has changed dramatically” (quoted by ITAR-TASS). Rent a center in Lourdes then cost Russia $200 million annually, and the government of Cuba did not agree to the proposal of the Russian partners to read it as payment on a debt of $10 billion that has accumulated from Cuba to Russia since Soviet times.

Wiretapping and missiles

Experts surveyed by RBC agree that the first stage of the return of the Russian army in Cuba is most likely to restore the radar center in Lourdes, which functioned until 2002. The main objective of the center was the tapping of objects on American soil.

Electronic center was purely intelligence functions, reminds the Deputy Director of the Institute of political and military analysis Alexander Khramchikhin. “Intelligence is never too much. And if it is possible to place it, then why not place,” he says.

“Whether this is the point that electronic surveillance, whether the presence of our ships in Cuban waters, or the modernization of the Cuban armed forces, which today is the old Soviet weapons — calculates the variations of the Vladimir Travkin. — While to speak about the details before, but what it will develop, thing is certain and positive”.

The head of the military forecasting Center Anatoly Tsyganok suggests that in addition to reconnaissance equipment for wiretapping to Cuba can return and Russian missiles. He notes that in recent years, defence Minister Sergei Shoigu twice visited Cuba, and in Vietnam, where he led negotiations on the bases. “Of course, the story of Cuba — a tool of pressure on US. The Americans threaten Russia, bringing NATO forces to our borders, in response to Russia doing the same thing — he describes the situation. — The situation is repeated in 1962 when the Americans were forced to remove the missiles from Turkey. Now in Syria faced the interests of several major powers. Russia cringed when the Americans a few weeks ago, they bombed the units of the Syrian army. A week ago announced about the s-300 in Syria, and said aloud today about Cuba. Although the military experts expect the statements about the organization of military space forces of Russia in Cuba, even in the summer, because there recently was visited by representatives of the defense Ministry, General staff HQs”.



The USSR provided military support to Cuba since 1959. In 1962 in response to the deployment of U.S. medium-range missiles in Turkey, the Soviet leadership decided to send nuclear missiles in Cuba. The confrontation of the USSR and the USA could lead to a nuclear war,
but the leaders Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy managed to resolve the issue: American missiles withdrawn from Turkey, the Soviet — Cuban. From 1967 to 2002 in Cuban Lourdes operated by the Soviet (later — Russian) avionics center. In the photo: residents of Havana welcomed the Soviet military ships, July 1969

Photo: RIA Novosti

Experts believe that despite the apparent warming of relations between Cuba and the United States (in March 2016 to Cuba for the first time since the 1959 revolution came, the American President), the Cubans will gladly accept the return of the Russian military on the island. “Despite the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, the Cubans are happy about the initiative to restore a database, — said Mikhail Makaruk. For Cuba, this financial support and the protection of the country of an ally. And the Cubans are happy, and we will be active”.

The signal for China

If in the case of a military base in Cuba, the main “purpose” of Moscow is the US, then going back to Vietnam can be regarded as a signal to China, say experts. “The Soviet base at Cam Ranh in Vietnam was anti-Chinese, — reminds Alexander Khramchikhin. — On these conditions in Vietnam gave her permission.” According to the expert, for Vietnam to deterrent the mighty Northern neighbor is still relevant. “We’ll get right to this database, if it is, even tacitly, primarily anti-China, not anti-American. China will be extremely unhappy, even though it does not say. At the same time will deteriorate and U.S. relations with Vietnam”, — said the expert, noting that the closure of the base in Cam Ranh Bay was largely due to the fact that Russia ceased to play the role of constraining China factor.

In addition to the geopolitical issues of the restored base in Cam Ranh Bay will fulfill a purely practical function, adds Anatoly Tsyganok. In his opinion, the base in South-East Asia are necessary for longer hikes the Pacific fleet so that the ships could refuel, get food and water.

Base in Cam Ranh Bay, de facto, already in use by the Russian military forces. In 2013 Russia and Vietnam signed an agreement to establish a joint base for the maintenance of submarines in Cam Ranh Bay, and a year later — the rules of use of Russian warships to this database in a simplified manner. With 2014 on the Vietnamese database maintained Russian planes Il-78, providing air refueling of the Tu-95MS bombers.