A senior Russian general says his country is contemplating basing strategic bombers in the Caribbean, either on a Venezuelan island or Cuba.
AP‘s David Nowak:
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.
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.
Venezuela has fifteen islands off its coast, with Isla Margarita being the most famous.
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.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.