Monday, March 16, 2009

Russia rattles our cage (Updated)

Russian General Anatoly Zhikharev spoke to reporters in Moscow on Saturday and raised the specter of Russian bombers landing in the Western hemisphere while conducting long-range patrols. Venezuela has offered landing rights, he says – “We land, we complete the flight, we take off.”

As for Cuba, Zhikharev says the island’s runways are “entirely acceptable,” and he would be happy to use them if “the will of the two states is there.” So it’s not clear whether Russia has asked for landing rights, and if so, how Cuba has responded.

Reuters report is here, AFP’s here. My discussion of this issue from last summer is here. University of Miami professor Jaime Suchlicki’s discussion from last July is here, where he judges it “not likely” that Cuba would host bombers, a move that could “violate the Kennedy/Khrushchev 1962 accord.” That’s the exchange of letters that ended the Cuban missile crisis and included a U.S. commitment not to invade Cuba.

Update: The Herald’s blog Cuban Colada notes two stories. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he did not offer basing rights to Russia, but that he “told President [Dmitri] Medvedev that whenever Russian strategic aircraft need to touch down in Venezuela to fulfill their strategic plans, Venezuela is at their service, as we were not long ago.” And a Russian political analyst says the military’s statements are “a kind of warning” of what Russia will seek to do if Russian concerns about missile defense and NATO expansion aren’t addressed. This is getting to be almost an exact replay of last summer’s episode.

Meantime, AFP reports that the Pentagon is brushing the whole thing off: “That would be quite a long way for those old planes to fly,” a Pentagon spokesman said. And another official said the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “is not overly concerned about other nations trying to forge bilateral relations with other partners and friends.”


Anonymous said...

Fine by me, I mean if we want bases in Eastern Europe, what's the difference if Russia wants bases in VZ or cuba.

what's good for the goose is good for the gander .

Anonymous said...

Simpleton, the US doesn't maintain "bases" in "Eastern Europe" let alone station bombers there.