Russia may base Strategic Bombers in Cuba and Venezuela – Bloomberg

By Alex Nicholson

March 14 (Bloomberg) — Russia could base strategic bombers at Cuban and Venezuelan airfields, the head of the Russian strategic air force was quoted as saying by the Interfax news service.

“With Cuba, this is possible,” the Moscow-based agency quoted Major General Anatoly Zhikharev as saying. “There are four or five airfields with 4,000-meter (13,000-feet) runways which suit us completely.”

Russia has also received an offer to temporarily station bombers in Venezuela from President Hugo Chavez, which Zhikharev called “possible,” according to state television station Vesti-24.

“If the heads of the two countries show the will, the political will, then we are prepared to fly there,” Zhikharev said, according to Interfax.

Russia is seeking to revive Latin American ties that waned after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cuban President Raul Castro visited Russia at the end of January after President Dmitry Medvedev made the most prominent tour of the region by a Russian delegation since the end of the Cold War in November.

Russia sent Tupolev-160 strategic bombers on a brief training visit to Venezuela last year and conducted joint naval exercises with the Latin American nation.

Russia may set up a refueling base for strategic aircraft in Cuba in response to U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile defense system in Europe, the Izvestiya newspaper reported on July 21, citing an unidentified source. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman denied the reports three days later.

The deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear conflict in 1962. Under the deal that ended the crisis, Moscow withdrew the missiles and pledged not to station offensive weapons on the island, about 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of Florida.


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