Russian Warships Arrive in Cuba for Military Exercises Amid Ukraine Tensions

June 13, 2024 by No Comments

A Russian naval fleet arrived off the coast of Cuba on Wednesday, preceding planned military exercises in the region. This move is seen by some as a demonstration of Moscow’s strength amidst escalating tensions with the West over the Ukraine war.

The fleet included three vessels accompanied by smaller boats, with the flagship frigate, adorned with the Russian and Cuban flags, receiving 21 cannon salutes upon arrival. Sailors in dress uniform stood at attention as the ships approached the island.

A submarine is expected to join the fleet. Cuba’s foreign ministry announced last week that the ships will remain in Havana from June 12 to June 17.

“Primarily, the warships serve as a reminder to Washington about the repercussions of interfering in Russia’s sphere of influence,” said Benjamin Gedan, director of the Latin America Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank, referencing the Western involvement in Russia’s war in Ukraine. “It also signals to Russia’s allies in the region, including Cuba and Venezuela, that Moscow stands with them.”

Russia maintains a longstanding alliance with Cuba and close ties with Venezuela, another US adversary. The ships are anticipated to remain in the region throughout the summer.

Despite the presence of a submarine, a senior US administration official informed the Associated Press that intelligence assessments have determined that no vessel is carrying nuclear weapons.

A State Department spokesperson told the AP that Russia’s port calls in Cuba are “routine naval visits.” The official acknowledged that the military exercises “have intensified due to US support for Ukraine and exercises conducted in support of our NATO allies.”

Tensions between the United States and Moscow have risen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in military aid to counter Russia’s aggression.

Russian military and defense doctrine places significant importance on Latin America and the Caribbean, viewing the region, under US influence, as a counterbalance to Washington’s activities in Europe, stated Ryan Berg, director of the Americas Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“While this is likely nothing more than a provocation from Moscow, it conveys a message about Russia’s capacity to project power into the Western Hemisphere with the support of its allies, and it will certainly maintain the US military on high alert while they are in the theater,” Berg stated.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez, for discussions in Moscow. Lavrov expressed gratitude to Cuban authorities for their stance on Ukraine.

“From the outset, Havana provided an assessment of the situation, outlining the absolutely accurate, true reasons behind what is unfolding (in Ukraine), and what the West had been preparing for many years,” Lavrov said.