Russia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option

Denis Balibouse/Pool Photo via The Associated Press

A top Russian diplomat on Thursday refused to rule out the possibility of Moscow sending military deployments to Cuba and Venezuela, as tensions between the Putin regime and the West intensify.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian RTVI TV he would neither “confirm nor exclude” the possibility of Russian deployments in the Western Hemisphere, The Associated Press reported.

Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation in discussions over Ukraine with the U.S. Monday in Geneva, said Russia’s actions “[all depend] on the action by our U.S. counterparts.”

A senior Biden administration official dismissed Ryabkov’s statements on Thursday. 

“We are not going to respond to bluster. If Russia actually started moving in that direction, we would deal with it decisively,” said the official.

The idea of deploying military assets to Cuba and Venezuela is not new.

Most famously, the Soviet Union’s attempt to base nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962 led to a standoff with the United States widely considered to have been the closest the Cold War superpowers came to nuclear war.

More recently, Russia has timed smaller deployments to its main allies in the Americas as a way to prop up regional regimes and to test U.S. commitment to security in the region.

In 2013 and 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela, with the latter occurring amid chatter that the Trump administration was at least open to military options to contain the Venezuelan regime. 

That deployment led to a diplomatic back and forth between then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. 

But Ryabkov’s newest warning comes as Europe, the United States and Russia face off amid a Russian military buildup on the border with Ukraine.

The U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Carpenter, on Thursday warned of the potential for military escalation, as Ryabkov said Russia saw “no grounds” to continue the talks in Geneva.

“We’re facing a crisis in European security. The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,” said Carpenter. 

Updated 3:13 p.m.

Tags Cuba Mike Pompeo US-Russia relations Venezuela Vladimir Putin

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