Russia warns of Cuba, Venezuela deployment if tensions mount

Russia on Thursday raised the stakes in its confrontation with the West over Ukraine, with a senior diplomat saying he would not rule out Russian military deployments in Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the United States escalated.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation to talks on Monday with the United States in Geneva, said in televised remarks that he would not confirm or rule out the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Cuba and Venezuela.

Negotiations in Geneva and Wednesday’s NATO-Russia meeting in Vienna failed to bridge the gap in Moscow’s security demands amid a buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine.

While Moscow demanded a halt to NATO expansion, Washington and its allies vehemently rejected this as unsuccessful.

“It all depends on the work of our American counterparts,” Ryabkov noted in an interview with Russia’s RTVI television station, adding that President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia could take military-technical measures if the United States provoked Moscow and appeared militarily. pressure on it.

Ryabkov said the refusal of the United States and its allies to consider the main Russian request for guarantees against the expansion of the alliance to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries raised doubts about the continuation of the talks.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted “some positive elements and nuances” during the talks, but called them “unsuccessful” due to stark differences over Russia’s main demands.

“Conversations began to receive specific answers on the main concrete issues that were raised, and disagreements remained on those key issues, which is a bad thing,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

Peskov warned of a complete rupture in US-Russian relations if proposed sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior civilian and military leaders were adopted.

The measures, proposed by Senate Democrats, would also target Russia’s leading financial institutions if Moscow sends troops into Ukraine.

Peskov criticized the proposals as an attempt to increase pressure on Moscow during the talks, saying they would not succeed.

“It is about sanctions that take into account the inevitable appropriate response, which actually amounts to an initiative to sever ties,” he warned, adding that Russia would reciprocate to protect its interests.

The talks come as an estimated 100,000 soldiers, tanks and combat-ready Russian military equipment are massing near Ukraine’s eastern border.

This buildup caused deep fears in Kiev and the West that Moscow was preparing for an invasion.

Russia denies it is considering an invasion and in turn accuses the West of threatening its security by deploying personnel and military equipment in Central and Eastern Europe.

Peskov has rejected Western calls for Russia to help calm tensions by withdrawing troops from areas near Ukraine, stating that the country is free to move them anywhere it deems necessary on its territory.

“It is difficult for NATO to dictate to us where we should move our armed forces on Russian soil,” he said.

Peskov stressed that Russia was ready to continue the talks, but wanted results. “There will be no shortage of political will to continue negotiations,” he said.

Tensions revolving around Ukraine and Russia’s demands for the West appeared once again on the table at Thursday’s meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Vienna.

In his inaugural address, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, who assumed the position of current OSCE Chair, noted that “the risk of war in the OSCE region is now greater than at any time in the past 30 years.”

“For several weeks now, we have been facing the possibility of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe,” he said. “We have recently heard a request for security guarantees relating to an important part of the OSCE region and the renewed discourse on spheres of influence. All of these aspects require serious international assessment and an appropriate response.”

Rao emphasized the need to “focus on a peaceful resolution of the conflict in and around Ukraine…with full respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity within its internationally recognized borders.”

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea after ousting its Moscow-friendly leader and threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency in the country’s east, where more than seven years of fighting have killed more than 14,000 people.

A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale fighting, but frequent skirmishes have persisted and efforts to negotiate a political settlement have failed.

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Emily Schulthes reported from Vienna.

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