Russian Defense Official Says No Bases Planned in Cuba

Progreso Weekly

Russian Ship in Havana Bay.
Russian Ship in Havana Bay.

HAVANA TIMES — Back in Moscow after a visit to Vanezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba with Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Ivanovich Antonov gave a long interview to the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolyets about the trip. Antonov, 59, is a career diplomat who worked at the Foreign Ministry for 30 years until 2011, when he was appointed Deputy Defense Minister.

The interview was published Sunday (Feb. 15) and Progreso Weekly has translated excerpts. The translator’s clarifications appear [in brackets.]
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Anatoliy Antonov, left, and Sergei Shoigu at meeting with top Cuban authorities in Havana.
Anatoliy Antonov, left, and Sergei Shoigu at meeting with top Cuban authorities in Havana.

“The reception of the Russian military delegation [in all three countries] was provided at the highest political level. In addition to communicating with the heads of the military departments, there were meetings with the heads of state — Nicolás Maduro, Daniel Ortega and Raúl Castro.

“And they were not protocol. The conversation was serious, principled and concrete, on all aspects of our cooperation. In the case of Cuba, President Raúl Castro led the negotiations. The main purpose of this visit was to agree on practical steps for the implementation of [Castro’s] meeting with Vladimir Putin [in July 2014].

“I would like to stress that these were routine visits, not extraordinary. They were not the result of the sanctions [against Russia] from Europe and the United States. Yes, I’ve heard that many today say that Russia became involved in the problems of Latin America after the sanctions [were imposed]. This is not the case.

“For us it has always been important to dialogue with Latin America and over the past two years, our Minister has twice made trips like these. And our interaction with the countries of Latin America is not a junctural approach.

PURPOSE OF TRIP

“[The trip was] a well-thought-out action to strengthen regional stability and to help states in the region to build their armed forces. We are sympathetic to actions in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua that promote socio-economic development.

“We firmly believe that further progress in these areas requires reliable, strong armed forces. It’s not about militarizing the economies of these countries, but about establishing a reliable barrier to the obstructionist or terrorist forces that exist in the region.

“During the visit, great attention was paid to analyses of regional problems. […] Of course, particular attention was paid to the activities of the United States in the region. Washington policies there raise many questions. Suffice it to say that in this part of the world, the Americans have set up 24 military bases, in effect, they have wrapped up the region.

“The Americans impose alien values on these countries. They are trying to change the governments that are unwanted by Washington politics. The leaders of the countries visited by Sergei Shoigu clearly understand the problem of the ‘color revolutions’ that many countries in North Africa have experienced, and view the attempts to organize them in the territory of the former Soviet Union as a serious challenge to the security of the states of Latin America. In this regard, we support the efforts of the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua to strengthen their national sovereignty and independence. […]

ON MILITARY COOPERATION

From left, Anatoliy Antonov, Sergei Shoigu and Leopoldo Cintra Frias in Havana.
From left, Anatoliy Antonov, Sergei Shoigu and Leopoldo Cintra Frias in Havana.

“In recent years, we have made good progress in the development of military and military-technical cooperation with states in the region. We have intensified the exchange of military delegations and maintain effective consultations through our general staffs. Our colleagues come to us as observers to military exercises.

“The countries in the region are in urgent need of qualified officers and the Russian military and educational institutions are ready to assist them. Many thousands of young people from Latin America are studying in Russia today. The knowledge they acquire is invaluable.

“Today we’re thinking about the development of cooperation with the armed forces in the field of military medicine […] especially in the Navy and the Army. By the way, these countries have expressed their willingness to hold joint exercises. We have developed agreements on the simplified access of Russian warships to ports in the region. Some states are studying the possibility of establishing logistics points.

“I would like to stress that this is not about creating bases. We are talking about helping our ships when they are on long-range missions, providing them with water, food, recreation and, of course, ship maintenance if necessary. For example, during our visit to Nicaragua, such an agreement was signed between the defense ministers of the two countries.

“Generally speaking, [Gen. Shoigu] in Latin America confirmed the common interests of the states of the region and Russia. In a lot of cases, they are clear; there is a common desire and commitment to work together. Trying to solve all problems alone does not work. We are ready to work together.

ON U.S.-CUBA DIPLOMACY

russian-ship-havana“The steps taken by Havana and Washington to restore diplomatic relations, and the release of Cubans from U.S. prisons are very welcome. Overcoming years of confrontation in the bilateral relations of Cuba with the United States would be, without a doubt, in the best interest of both states and of regional stability.

“We hope that the U.S. administration will finally abolish the commercial and financial blockade of the island. For several decades, it caused severe damage to the economy of Cuba and encroached upon the rights and legitimate interests of the Cuban people. We intend to continue to provide Cuba with our full support on this matter.

ON MILITARY & CULTURAL EDUCATION

“I would like to draw your attention to a new initiative of the Minister, about training opportunities in Russia to citizens of this region in the Suvorov and Nakhimov cadet schools. In fact, we have adapted our practices, so the children of officers may be taught in such establishments. During the visit, the Minister handed over the draft documents and we hope that soon we will visit the delegations of these states to review existing practices, with a view to reaching concrete agreements. […]

Students at Russian cadet school.
Students at Russian cadet school.

“During the visit, all defense officers in these countries expressed great interest in studying the Russian language. It is not just an imperative need for soldiers in the region to know Russian but also as it relates to the large number of Russian military equipment and weapons [they use], they just need to learn Russian, the language itself, and go from there to Russian culture and history.

“We encourage this attitude of colleagues and we will provide full support, including the creation of special courses of the Russian language in these countries, for example, when you create a service center where Russian military equipment is serviced.

ON HEGEMONY

“Nobody today likes the desire of one country to dominate all political, economic and financial life. This diktat was rejected by all states. It is not conducive to an independent socio-economic development of states. In this context, the states in the region want to support the Russian initiative to establish an equitable polycentric order. It is important that our colleagues — not only in the course of our visit — have reaffirmed their principled support for the position of the Russian Federation. Also, in various international forums, they are voting on documents in unison with Russia.

“Thus, the visit of the Minister of Defense to Latin America confirmed the common interests of the states of the region and Russia. In many cases, they are clear; there is a common desire and commitment to work together. Trying to solve all problems alone does not work. We are ready to work together.”


7 thoughts on “Russian Defense Official Says No Bases Planned in Cuba

  • February 17, 2015 at 7:56 am
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    The country that has shown the most “hegemonic” ambitions lately is Putin’s Neo-Stalinist Russia.

    It occupied the Crimea and is involved in civil war in Ukraine.

    In the past it has invaded Georgia.

    What you call “hullabaloo” are confirmed stories even from the Russian press:

    “Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday the military was
    engaged in talks with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Algeria, Cyprus, the
    Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.”

    “We need bases for refueling near the equator, and in other places,” ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

    “Russia Seeks Access to Bases in Eight Countries for Its Ships and Bombers”, February 28, 2014 – 5:09 AM”µ
    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/russia-seeks-access-bases-eight-countries-its-ships-and-bombers

  • February 17, 2015 at 6:32 am
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    Listen if the Americans look like making any progress that will improve their relationship with the Cuban government you can bet your bottom dollar that the Russians will not be far behind, so is Castro playing one side against the other? America v Russia, how much is this going to cost the Cuban people in the end? Just be careful for what you wish for!

  • February 16, 2015 at 7:12 pm
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    Russia has another problem, ISIL. Russia is sitting on a large Muslim populations. If the U.S. sits back, tending to Russia’s former Soviet Colonies will be the least of their worries. At this point in his Presidency, Obama has given up on Middle East. He will dabble, but that will be extent of US effort to bring ISIL down. Already Russia is leading effort at UN on stopping flow of cash to ISIL.

    The American failed socialist states will not be bailed out by Russia nor saved by United States.

  • February 16, 2015 at 7:04 pm
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    Why do you fear American style liberal democracy so much ? American politicians are elected and unelected without bloodshed. Why is this type of self rule so threatening ?

    American style free market model has allowed more people to rise from poverty than any other model. It works because individuals are empowered. They can rise up based on own personal work effort.

    Trading personal liberty and accountability for one owns life in trade to masters that promise security and envy laden equality is a foolish bargain. Don’t hate so much.

  • February 16, 2015 at 3:01 pm
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    Ironic that the Russian Defense Minister failed to mention that the Russian economy is projected to CONTRACT by as much as 3% this fiscal year. He also overlooked the fact that the Russian economy, roughly the size of Italy’s and less than 1/8 the size of the US economy is facing further debilitating sanctions because of their adventures in the Ukraine. Given these points, OF COURSE Putin has no plans to expand in Latin America. He has his hands full taking care of the bases he already has.

  • February 16, 2015 at 10:03 am
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    Many people in the United States wish to continue making enemies of countries strong enough to resist U.S. hegemonic ambitions in the world.
    This in spite of the fact that the Cold War is over and that there is no existential threat to either the Empire or feral and totalitarian capitalism that can be effected by any current power or set of circumstances.
    There is a need in imperial strategies to create fear amongst the population and thereby create the demand from that terrorized population to protect them .
    This enables the imperialists to continue their never-ending war on democratic forms.
    This hullaballoo about the Russians establishing R&R bases in the hemisphere is just one more of these scare tactics that always works on the dumbed-down U.S.
    electorate who have no clue that THEIR country has over 1000 bases situated in over 100 countries around the world and it isn’t to help the world.

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