GERTZ:Russia's military is seeking to reestablish Russian military bases in Cuba as part of Moscow's new anti-U.S. posture, according to U.S. officials.
The recent visit to Cuba by Russian air defense chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Maslov in October is more evidence of Russian interest in seeking to pressure the United States militarily in apparent response to the planned deployment of missile interceptors in Poland and Czech Republic.
Cuba's Minister of Communication and Commander of the Revolution Ramiro Valdez, right, talks to the media with Russia's Minister of Communication Igor Schegolev after signing bilateral agreements in Havana on Oct. 30. Reuters/Enrique De La Osa
Maslov's visit followed earlier military contacts that indicate the Russians have made some progress in countering initial Cuban resistance to a return of the Russian military to bases on the communist-ruled island. Moscow wants to use Cuban bases to support long-range strategic nuclear bomber missions.
"Russia's moves in Latin America appear to be part of an asymmetrical response to U.S. plans to install a missile defense system in Europe," said one official.
Maslov's Oct. 27 visit, which ended Nov. 3, included talks with Cuban Chief of the General Staff General Alvaro Lopez Miera and Air Force and Air Defense Commander Gen. Piedro Gomez, regarding plans for a new military base for transit airfield for Tu-160 nuclear bombers.
Transit to where? The TU-160 is an intercontinental range bomber.
The purpose of the aircraft is the delivery of nuclear and conventional weapons deep in continental theatres of operation. The aircraft has all-weather, day-and-night capability and can operate at all geographical latitudes.
The performance of the Russian Tu-160 is often compared to the US B-1B. The aircraft has an operational range of 14,000km and a service ceiling of 16,000m. The maximum flight speed is 2,000km/h at high altitude and 1,030km/h at low altitude.
Kazan Aircraft Production Organisation (KAPO) has been given a contract to upgrade the Russian Air Force's 15 Tu-160 bombers. The Tupolev upgrade package will include new targeting systems, upgraded cruise missiles and electronic warfare suite. The first upgraded aircraft was delivered in July 2006.
They could take off, reach minimal altitude, launch 24 long range missiles and attack the USA then land, OR attack any target of choice INCLUDING AMERICAN FLEETS or allies, such as Columbia. There would be almost no way to know what weapons load if any, they carry. In the event of a war these aircraft based in Cuba could take a very interesting tour of the USA and return, without the need for refueling.
The Tu-160 can carry nuclear and conventional weapons including long-range nuclear missiles. The missiles are accommodated on multi-station launchers in each of the two weapons bays.
The Tu-160 is capable of carrying the strategic cruise missile Kh-55MS, which is known in the West by the Nato designation and codename AS-15 Kent. Up to 12 Kh-55MS missiles can be carried, six in each bay. The Kh-55MS is propelled by a turbofan engine. The maximum range is 3,000km, and it is armed with a 200kt nuclear warhead.
The weapons bays are also fitted with launchers for the Kh-15P, which has the Nato designation and codename AS-16 Kickback. The Kh-15P Kickback has solid rocket fuel propulsion, which gives a range up to 200km. The Kickback can be fitted with a conventional 250kg warhead or a nuclear warhead. The aircraft is also capable of carrying a range of aerial bombs with a total weight up to 40t.
Probably, but this is how strategic changes look when they are coming. Especially when you are a power whose ability to run a safe nuclear submarine program is in doubt. Aircraft deployment is cheap compared to keeping a Delta IV or Typhoon or one of the brand new Borei Class (whose development raises another question on its own) and ITS new Topol type Bulava missiles operational and deployed.
Russia also would like to re-open the large-scale electronic eavesdropping facility at Loudes, which was closed in 2001.
It is believed that Maslov's visit involved discussions of air defense cooperation, joint Russian-Cuban military exercises, military deliveries to Cuba and rebuilding Cuban ports in preparation for visits by Russian warships.
The recent visit to the region of two Tu-160s, that landed in Venezuela but not in Cuba, were viewed by U.S. officials as a sign that Cuba is reluctant to host the bombers.
Or a sign that Venezuela is MORE desirous of that kind of relationship. The only question is are the Russians doing this because they are who they are, or because these are viewed as chips to be used to remove our ability to prevent from blackmailing European nations because of our nissile defense plans. This is a VERY dangerous game, as the presence of OFFENSIVE RUSSIAN WEAPONS BASED IN CUBA and/or VENEZUELA has already nearly resulted in cataclysmic nuclear war.
Russian Communication Minister Igor Shchegolev visited Cuba in late October and stopped by the National Information Center, which opened in Lourdes after the closing of the Russian intelligence facility there. His visit is viewed as an indication of re-establishing the Lourdes intelligence base, which during its lifetime was capable of intercepting vast amounts of electronic communications from the United States.
U.S. intelligence agencies are watching closely to see if Russia intends to deploy advanced S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in Cuba, which could be one Moscow response to missile defenses in Europe.
The Russian Defense Ministry has stated that Maslov's visit was linked to technical support issues for Cuba's Igla, Osa-AK, and the Kvadrat air defense systems, and the P-18 Terek and the P-19 radar stations. These air defenses and radar are used to protect air bases and other, more powerful air defense systems like S-300 and S-400.