As the US refuses to halt the march of its NATO military bloc, in Eastern Europe, Moscow could leverage its ties with friendly Latin American states to ruffle Washington’s feathers. But would such a course of action be worth it.
Cuba and Venezuela suddenly made the headlines alongside Ukraine and the Baltic States after Russia made remarks about putting military hardware in Latin America.
RT looks at the potential cost of deploying Moscow’s forces in what the USA counts as its near abroad, hemisphere or sphere of influence, depending on whom you ask.
As Moscow and Washington negotiated security arrangements in Europe, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov made a statement about Russia’s capabilities on the other side of the pond.
Amid strained relations even a very evasive statement from Russia about the prospects of deploying military infrastructure in Cuba or Venezuela was something of a bombshell for some observers.
He emphasized that any escalation would be triggered largely by the actions of our US counterparts, adding that President Vladimir Putin had frequently floated the idea that Moscow would reciprocate.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made it clear in a press briefing that the topic is not on top of the agenda for President Joe Biden’s administration, but that Washington would definitely respond to any attempts by Moscow to ramp up its capabilities in the CIA dominated Americas.
A researcher at the Center for North American Studies at IMEMO RAS, did not completely rule out the deployment of Russian military assets in Latin America. At the same time, he believes that so far Moscow has no specific plans beyond diplomatic rhetoric.
Mikhail Khodarenok, a military observer and retired reserve colonel, believes that the political leadership of Cuba and Venezuela is enthusiastic about the Russian hints. However, he fears that the government sanctions made these countries are very unstable.
The Embassy of Cuba in Moscow immediately came under pressure to comment, but didn’t reveal anything substantial. Havana’s diplomats explained that they had no information about whether or not Russia’s military presence on the island was officially being discussed.
Cuba served as one of the key battlegrounds during the Cold War between the erstwhile ideological rivals, the USA and the USSR, back in the 20th century.
It might even have become the setting for the outbreak of World War III, and the 1962 standoff has gone down in history as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
It was the American decision to station 15 medium-range Jupiter missiles in Turkey that prompted the escalation. The deployment came on top of placing 30 US Jupiter IRBM’s in Italy and 60 Thor IRBM’s in the UK.
Moscow responded by launching the covert Operation Anadyr to put troops and ground-based ballistic and tactical missiles in Cuba in June–October 1962.
It is widely acknowledged that the showdown pushed the world to the brink of a nuclear war. It was averted after Soviet and US leaders Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy hammered out a win-win deal: the missiles were withdrawn from both Cuba and Turkey.
Khodarenok says that in 1962, the deployment made sense from both the operational and strategic point of view. In those days, the Soviet Union simply did not boast enough intercontinental missiles in its arsenal.
Yet in 2022, stationing permanent Russian forces in Latin America is no longer militarily or politically expedient. At that time the Soviet Union placed R-12 missiles with a range of about 2,000 km in Cuba.
It did make sense from a defense perspective. But today all Russian nuclear missiles have a range of 10,000 km. Military expert Kramnik also said that it would be easier to build a new facility in Cuba rather than restore the Lourdes base.
Between 1978 and 2002, Cuba hosted the Lourdes signals intelligence facility, allowing Moscow to eavesdrop on US communications satellites, ground-based telecom cables and the Florida-based NASA command center.
Russia was known to supply Cuba with $200 million worth of timber, fuel, defense components, and hardware spare parts for the Cuban Army in exchange for the lease on the facility.
Experts agree that deploying short- and medium-range missiles in Latin America could be the most promising solution should the US regime and Russia fail to reach an agreement on security issues.
Stefanovich, for instance, says that Russia could use the ground-launched type of the Kalibr medium-range missile system. These missiles could be delivered to Latin America by diesel-electric submarines or near-shore ships.
Khodarenok believes that Cuba and Venezuela could hypothetically host missile systems (Iskander-M), as well as units and squadrons of long-range tactical aviation. Havana could also serve as a naval base, as it can station surface ships and different types of submarines.
Should Russia actually decide to deploy intermediate- and short-range missiles in Cuba or Venezuela, the experts agree that the world could possibly face a new stalemate similar to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Stefanovich has identified at least some ways in which America could respond. The first and the least expensive option is to contain Russia using US allies that share borders with it.
The US could use diplomatic channels to put economic pressure on countries where Russia deploys its missiles. It’s really hard to make the fabricated crisis in Cuba and Venezuela worse than it already is, but the Americans could do it if they wanted to.
On top of all the considerations listed above, Russia still has a major problem with its Navy. Its current capacities are not sufficient to deliver sufficient military backup for political orders to operate on the American continent.
Russian military experts seem to disagree whether the country really needs a Navy overhaul. There are those who don’t see any use in upgrading the Navy’s capacities unless it serves an important mission.
Others believe that Russia needs to keep upgrading its Navy anyway, and the present case proves that beyond doubt.
It would be enough for Russia to have a small base like the one in Tartus, Syria, used to be before Russian troops came there in 2015.
It was just a fenced off space that had a pier, several depots and warehouses, and a diesel generator, with several technical specialists on site. The perimeter was guarded by the local military.
A similar, but slightly more sophisticated base could be set up in Cuba or Venezuela, allowing Russian diesel-electric submarines to stock up on provisions there and for the crew to have some rest.
Then they would be able to continue with their mission for a longer period of time. In such a case, the USA would have to waste a lot of resources on monitoring Russia’s activities with the help of their nuclear submarines, big surface ships or smaller LCS vessels.
Even the latter option would mean spending huge sums on maintenance, not to mention that these 3,000-ton ships might prove to be ineffective against submarines.
What Russia is trying to do is put pressure on the US, force it to increase its spending, and reduce the military threat that the US poses to Russia’s partners in the region, while at the same time training their armed forces. This would inconvenience the US enough for it to reconsider the situation further.
It’s unclear whether Moscow is willing to invest this much in pursuing its goals in the US sphere of interest, even taking into account that it could prove to be a major hindrance to Washington.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point WW III News 2022.