Washington denies Moscow’s talk of sending military assets to Cuba and Venezuela, describing it as “noisy”.
A senior Russian official has refused to rule out military deployments to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the West over Ukraine continue to escalate.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday that he could not “confirm or rule out” the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Latin America if the United States and its allies did not reduce their military activities on Russia’s doorstep.
“It all depends on the work of our American counterparts,” Ryabkov said in an interview with Russian television network RTVI, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning that Moscow might take unspecified “military-technical measures” if Western powers fail to meet their demands.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed comments about a possible Russian deployment in Cuba and Venezuela as “loud in public comments.”
“If Russia moves in this direction, we will deal with it decisively,” he told reporters in Washington.
Soon after he was first elected in 2000, Putin closed a military observation facility built by the Soviet Union in Cuba as he sought to improve relations with Washington.
But Moscow has intensified its contacts with Cuba in recent years, and in December 2018, Russia briefly sent a pair of its Tu-160 nuclear bombers to Venezuela in a show of support for President Nicolas Maduro.
Comparing the Cuban Missile Crisis
Thursday’s spat came as a week of Western-led diplomacy aimed at easing Russian-Ukrainian tensions drew to a close without a breakthrough.
Talks between the United States and Russia in Geneva on Monday and a NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels on Wednesday were in response to a massive build-up of Russian forces near Ukraine that the West fears is a prelude to an invasion.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, has denied plans to launch another attack on its neighbour.
Instead, the Kremlin accused NATO of threatening its territory and demanded that the military alliance not embrace Ukraine or any other former Soviet states as new members.
Washington and its allies strongly rejected this request this week, saying they would not back down, but NATO and Russian negotiators agreed to leave the door open for further talks on arms control and other issues aimed at reducing the potential for hostilities.
Ryabkov last month compared current tensions over Ukraine to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis – when the Soviet Union deployed missiles over Cuba and the United States imposed a naval blockade around the island.
That crisis ended after then-US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed that Moscow would withdraw its missiles in exchange for Washington’s pledge not to invade Cuba and remove American missiles from Turkey.