Cuba, Venezuela could host Russian bombers

Russian Bombers CubaCuba, Venezuela could host Russian bombers

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.

“The military is speaking about technical possibilities, that’s all,” Alexei Pavlov, a Kremlin official, told The Associated Press. “If there will be a development of the situation, then we can comment,” he said.

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.

Two Russian bombers landed in Venezuela last year in what experts said was the first Western Hemisphere touchdown of Russian military craft since the end of the Cold War.

Cuba has never permanently hosted Russian or Soviet strategic aircraft. But Soviet short-range bombers often made stopovers there during the Cold War.

Russia resumed long-range bomber patrols in 2007 after a 15-year hiatus.

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.

Why do this, now?

James Joyner, writing at The Atlanticist,

I’m sure Golts’ assessment is right here. The Soviets did not have permanent bases in the area during the Cold War, so the strategic rationale for doing so now is hard to fathom. Most likely, this is just a selective leak to the press to tweak the Obama administration.

And then there’s the “we do it because we can” factor. In Latin America the propaganda value would be immesurable, particularly if timed with the Obama administration’s ending the Cuban embargo (which is coming soon, folks).

Jay Fraser of Threats Watch:

Recognizing that Russia has relationships with not only Hugo Chavez but with Iran’s Ahmadinejad, and that Iran has relationships with both Chavez and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, it would seem that this emerging situation will bear watching over the next few days and weeks. Echoes of the Cold War and of the Cuban Missile crisis are loud and obvious.

It’s not as if the administration didn’t have any warning that this would be in the works.

So! Should the US be fostering and strengthening relations will each of our South American allies? You would think so, wouldn’t you? It should, at any time, but particularly now.

Instead they blow off Lula for a Saint Patrick’s day party.

Let’s dwell on that for a moment or two: Brazil

  • Is a nuclear country.
  • Is the world’s fifth-most-populous nation
  • Is the world’s ninth-largest economy
  • Lula has poised his country as a leader in diplomacy (h/t Stop the ACLU):
    He’s been asked to lobby Obama for free trade on behalf of conservatives in Colombia and for dropping the U.S. embargo against communist Cuba. Even Hugo Chavez has asked Silva to carry an olive branch to the new administration.
  • Brazil is an oil producing country with newly-found vast reserves:
    With huge new offshore oil finds and abundant ethanol, Brazil could be key to helping wean the U.S. off Venezuelan crude and shift to cleaner energies.

  • The G20 and the Summit of the Americas are just around the corner. Lula’s visit would prepare the groundwork and set the tone for those.

It behooves the administration to welcome Lula with full honors.

What are they doing instead? They’re focusing on food safety.


That way the Russians will be safe while they eat our sandwich.

Post re-edited for HTML corrections


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10 Responses to “Cuba, Venezuela could host Russian bombers”

  1. Digital Publius: Obama’s Gifts to Brown “Ghetto” [Dan Collins] Says:

    […] lente: Mark Joey Hairplugs’ words, he’ll be tested early on. Posted by Dan Collins @ 8:18 am | Trackback SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Digital Publius: […]

  2. Oh, Goody. Obama Ticks Off Brazil, Russia May Base Bombers In Cuba » Pirate’s Cove Says:

    […] Fausta, regarding the bombers: And then there’s the “we do it because we can” factor. In Latin […]

  3. Kate Says:

    Fausta, has there been any specific location mentioned in Venezuela for these stopovers? Am curious if they would take place on the mainland or on an island, particularly La Orchila. Saludos.

  4. Pat Patterson Says:

    Good guess, La Orchila has an underused runway of 10,000 ft which fits nicely into the runway needs of the Tu-22M and the Tu-160 and easier to secure. Though I suspect that if the Russians were serious the runway would only serve as either for refueling the Tu-22M or as an emergency runway. But the problem the Russians have is that unless they divert from a flight plan that would take them over the US or close by, Venezuela is simply to isolated compared to actual targets. It would be similar for 8th AAF taking off from England to bomb Germany with refueling and emergency facilities in Iceland which is in the opposite direction.

  5. Kate Says:

    Pat, point well taken, but my concern lies not so much regarding the geographic location of La Orchila with respect to Cuba, rather the military exercises and planning which goes on there.

  6. JM Hanes Says:

    “Should the US be fostering and strengthening relations will each of our South American allies?”

    Lest we forget, Obama has blown off Colombia too.

  7. Pat Patterson Says:

    Kate-I agree and that makes the site the most logical, if impractical in the real world of military affairs, because it already is secure and has some facilities that would suit the Russians fine. It’s just logical enough to scare the pants off of people when it is on the front page. But when you think of it the actual military value is nil compared to the US, as pointed out, having unrestricted access to Russia’s “sea.”

    BTW, intended to say good call not good guess. Huge difference.

  8. Kate Says:

    Chavez denies that he gave permission to the Russians to use La Orchila:

    (link in Spanish)

    Chavez being the paragon of honesty that he is, wouldn’t be surprised if after a short time, when people have forgotten about this, Russian aircraft were in Venezuelan airspace.

  9. Pat Patterson Says:

    I’ve always wondered if Pres Chavez is also a lawyer because his lips are moving?

  10. lane kiffy Says:

    Obama needs to fish or cut bait on the Sean/David Goldman story. This is not going to end pretty, and will disrupt the U.S./Brazil relationship, which has Chavez grinning. Brazil’s official bar licensing entity (think attorney, not Sapphire) has already dug in its heels in favor of the Lins family.

    In other news, Brazil has tight controls on its money, and has paid down its external debt. That’s why their weathering the storm and we’re floundering.

    The presidential election is next year in Brazil (after 8 years of Lula). Lula’s chief of staff will run, and she will lose because Dilma will not appeal to Lula’s grassroots base. Aecio Neves, a “conservative populist” governor of Minas Gerais, carries the sympathy his grandfather Tancredo garnered in 1985 when he died before he could take the oath of office. He’s younger than Serra and has more hair, and will be elected. Now back to Space Law with Glenn Harlan Reynolds.