Russian Bombers Based in Cuba/Venezuela??

Coming Soon to a South American Country Near You?
Coming Soon to a South American Country Near You?

This is the wonderful news we woke up to this morning on the East Coast:

A Russian Air Force chief said Saturday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered an island as a temporary base for strategic Russian bombers, the Interfax news agency reported. The chief of staff of Russia’s long range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, also said Cuba could be used to base the aircraft, Interfax reported.The Kremlin, however, said the situation was hypothetical.

Zhikharev said Chavez had offered “a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers,” the agency reported. “If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island … by the Russian Air Force is possible.” Interfax reported he said earlier that Cuba has air bases with four or five runways long enough for the huge bombers and could be used to host the long-range planes.

Independent military analyst Alexander Golts said from a strategic point of view there was nothing for Russia to gain from basing long-range craft within relatively short range of U.S. shores. “It has no military sense. The bombers don’t need any base. This is just a retaliatory gesture,” Golts said, saying Russia wanted to hit back after U.S. ships patrolled Black Sea waters. Moscow and the new U.S. administration of President Barack Obama have appeared to want to mend their relations, which reached a post-Cold War low last year when Russia’s invasion of U.S. ally Georgia compounded disputes on security and democracy.

There is no strategic necessity to base the bombers in Latin America or the Caribbean (since they could reach their supposed targets from existing airfields/bases), so this is most likely a bit of political muscle flexing to tweak President Obama.

It will be interesting to see how the new administration deals with this. My guess is that the increased meddling of the Russians, along with the growing influence of the Chinese, and the rising instability in Mexico, will force Washington to focus much more on Latin America than the previous administration did.

We’ll see.   .   .

UPDATE: Here is the “above the fold” currently running on Drudge:


Looks like Drudge is attempting to paint this Russian Bomber thing as the fruition of Biden’s election season “Mark My Words”  theme, eh?


9 thoughts on “Russian Bombers Based in Cuba/Venezuela??

  1. Rob, Good points – I too think that the US will be forced to address the problems it has with our southern neighbors. The old modality of Cold War diplomacy – Big Brother US, Little Brother Spanish Speaker -is not going to work. Thanks to globalization and the increasingly free movement of labor (legal and otherwise) our Latin American allies are not beholden to us. Instead of building rapport in areas like Latin America where we can have a positive impact and who we share common goals with we deliberately shun them as unimportant. The western hemisphere is our largest trading partner, Mexico and Canada included. Instead of a logical support that helps integrate them closer into our market-sphere we dally on free trade agreements, even with staunch US allies like Colombia. Our relations with our neighbors have atrophied to the point where the old ghosts, like Ortega, radicalism, and criminality are all on the march. I guess we will take it seriously when for the 7th time in our 230-odd year history we dispatch troops into Mexico!

  2. The U.S. has largely ignored issues in Latin America, or at least put them on the back burner, ever since 9/11 and the myopic focus on all things middle east began.

    Most of the (arguably successful) policies in place in the region began in the mid to late 90s, under the Clinton Administration, when the United States pursued a robust engagement strategy there (one not based cold war modality, I would argue).

    For example, during the late 1990s, American Army officers worked alongside counterparts in the Brazilian Salvadoran, and yes, Venezuelan armies to conduct humanitarian demining in Nicaragua (and elsewhere) under the Assistance Mission for Mine Clearance in Central America (MARMINCA); the fact that it would be hard to get this cast of characters together without an act of God is symptomatic of eight years of neglect. . .

  3. Great points Rob. It really gets to the heart of strategic choices we are facing as a nation.

    Our are interests in the ME more vital to the US? I would say not so based upon the amount of trade between countries in the Western Hemisphere and the US. A trully rational evaluation of our strategic needs shows that as long as we need only to access and ensure access to energy in ME. Economically it make much more sense to build robust relations with our southern friends because ultimately they are going to buy many many more american goods. Although maybe not the ones made by Big Oil or Defense Congractors.

  4. I agree it makes a great deal of sense to pay attention to Latin America than we have in the recent past, if for no other reasons than pragmatic economic and national security self interest.

    Mexico consistently ranks within the top 3-4 of our overall global trading partners, and big oil is certainly interested in Mexico and Venezuela, our third and fourth largest suppliers of oil, respectively.

  5. I think this is more about Hugo strokin his ego than anything directly coming from Russia. Perhaps Hugo needs to try to sweeten his arms deal debt with Moscow ?
    I would add that throughout the reign of W the US armed forces especially the Navy ran multiple humanitarian ops in Latin America in such places as Honduras and Nicaragua.

  6. Alfie,

    Venezuela/Russia/Cuba, whomever, someone is definitely posturing.

    While engagement in LATAM occurred throughout the Bush Presidency (and continues even now) the tempo and focus decreased dramatically after 9/11, and has never truly returned to the levels in the 1990s, when there was substantial military to military cooperation between the United States and nearly all Latin American countries. . .

  7. I agree that we should keep our relationships with the Latin American countries to our south for the sake of globalization. The other reason to keep good relations with them is to ensure we don’t give the Chinese, Russians or anyone else for that matter the option of having staging bases from these locations. Also we should not lose sight that Russia’s military would give us a run for our money if our relations would sour. Our relationship with Russia is good at best since the Cold War; however, I would like to refer to them as an acquaintance rather than a friend. Placing bombers in Cuba or Venezuela is just another reason to keep Russia at an arm’s length and never turn our backs to them. They side with many countries that oppose what the U.S. has done politically and militarily. Cuba and Venezuela are just a couple of those and Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and/or Raul Castro would like nothing more than to have a “piece” of the U.S. If that means physically or to just “stir the pot” then that is what they will do in the efforts to be a nuisance. I understand that Russian military officials were “hypothetically” speaking but an idea sometimes becomes reality and we should keep a watchful eye.
    Major Herminio Cruz
    Command and General Staff College, U.S. Army
    Combined Arms Center
    Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

    The views expressed in this comment are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

  8. Herminio,

    You raise some excellent points. I would like to say that the US has a lot more interest in ensuring open markets in South America than the Middle East. The US has already shown we can garuntee the security of our energy. If it is threatened we can/will do so again. The middle east is not going to replace Latin America in terms of market share for US exports/imports. I hinted earlier that we (the US) face a strategic choice. Do we waste money in the middle east to create markets which will ultimately not appreciably add to our coffers in the foreseeable future or do we reinvest (figuratively and literally) in our relationships with Latin American allies? I think you know my answer – and I am a Middle East regional expert of sorts. The bottom line is that US strategic interests in the Southern American states transcend many issues. The Middle East our interests are only one issue, energy security. (Terrorism is ancillary at best but that is another post all together).

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