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.
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