I wrote earlier today about the Cuban Missile Crisis as a parallel to recent events in the Caucasus. Our Flemish correspondent VH just sent us some more material to point out how apt the analogy is. These news stories concern Russia’s attempt to re-establish a foothold in Cuba.
First, there’s an article from last month’s Washington Post:
Russian Bombers Could Be Deployed to Cuba
Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons could be deployed to Cuba in response to U.S. plans to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, a Russian newspaper reported Monday, citing an unnamed senior Russian air force official.
The report in Izvestia, which could not be confirmed, prompted memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war after Nikita Khrushchev put nuclear missiles on the Caribbean island. The weapons were eventually withdrawn in an apparent Soviet climb-down, but President John F. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report Monday, but did not deny it. Izvestia is often a forum for strategic leaks by Kremlin and other officials.
“While they are deploying the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, our strategic bombers will already be landing in Cuba,” Izvestia quoted the source as saying.
It was unclear if the source was suggesting that Russia would reopen a base in Cuba or merely use an airfield there for stopovers by the bombers, Tu-160s and Tu-95s, which are already capable of reaching the United States from bases in Russia.
Russian strategic bombers, long mothballed, resumed worldwide patrols last year under orders from then-President Vladimir Putin. The flights have continued under his successor, Dmitry Medvedev.
One can’t help but admire the Russian ability to play steely-eyed hardball.
An English-language version of a recent Russian news story has additional information on the same topic. This is more than just a nostalgia-fest for the commissars and the Fidelistas:
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MOSCOW, August 1 (RIA Novosti) — Russia and Cuba are to make efforts to boost bilateral cooperation in all spheres, the Russian Security Council said on Friday.
Council chief Nikolai Patrushev and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin visited Cuba on July 30-31, in a trip focusing on projects to revive economic ties between the former Cold War allies, including Russian companies’ participation in developing oil fields in the Latin American state.
“[Cuban President] Raul Castro, Patrushev and Sechin said at a meeting that their countries’ were set to make consistent efforts to restore longtime ties in all spheres of cooperation and to expand and strengthen them,” the Security Council said in a statement.
Sechin earlier cited oil production, tourism, healthcare, nickel production, telecommunications and nanotechnology as the most promising spheres for cooperation between the two countries.
Russia issued a $355 million loan for the purchase of vehicles and the financing of energy infrastructure in Cuba in 2006, reviving ties that had been weakened by the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Havana also committed itself to buying three Il-96-300 planes and three Tu-204 passenger medium-haul aircraft.
The visit of Patrushev and Sechin came after media reports said Russia could place an orbital ballistic missile system in Cuba in response to U.S. missile defense plans for Central Europe.
The State Department and the Bush administration are relative amateurs, and may not be up to this kind of game. I wouldn’t want to be in Condi’s high-heeled sneakers right now.