Last week the newspaper Izvestia reported that Russia is going to base strategic bombers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS in Cuba, in response to American anti-missile defense in Europe. The newspaper alleged that the sources in the defense ministry had stated that the crews of the nuke missile carriers had scouted the area and “took off and landed on the Freedom Island, also were getting acquainted with infrastructures of the new airdromes of location.” It was allegedly done on the civic and not military aircraft. Nonetheless, the strategic rocket carriers may be sent at any moment to Cuba, Venezuela and Algeria. Such would be our “asymmetrical” response to the NATO.
Prominent retired militaries, including former heads of the Russian Air Forces Pyotr Deinekin and Anatoly Kornukov, supported the idea, but pointed out that Cuba is no right place for permanent location of strategic aviation, as it is situated too close to the USA. However, it might be effectively used for temporary stay “as a bounce and refueling airfield”.
The new USAF head, General Norton Schwartz, stated at the Senate hearings that appearance of Tu-160 and Tu-95 in Cuba would mean “red line crossing”. Mr. Kornukov retorted in pointing that our bombers may fly and land anywhere in case of agreement given by local authorities.
Russian defense ministry kept silence for four days. In the meantime the Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, when visiting Moscow, added up with a statement that “in case Russian armed forces wanted to be present in Venezuela, they would be met warmly, and we will raise flags, and will be drumming and singing, as it is our allies to come”. Later, however, it turned out that there had been a misunderstanding and he had been speaking about possible visit by the Russian Navy ships, while the Constitution of Venezuela forbids any foreign military bases. The statement by Venezuelan ministry of communication network and information said that the lie about Russian military base is part of the campaign carried out against Chavez by imperialism.
On Thursday the advisor to the Russian defense minister Ilshat Baichurin announced that the newspaper hoax was initiated by certain circles in those countries who are deploying themselves military bases and facilities around Russia”, while Izvestia and other media sources allowed themselves to be led. “Carrying out a peaceful policy, Russia does not create military bases near the borders of other states” stated Mr. Baichurin. Immediately, some other generals-experts appeared and proved perfectly that any base in Cuba would be just useless for us.
In 1962, placement of our operative-tactical nuclear missiles in Cuba made some military sense. Then the US was able to strike the USSR with a thousand nuclear charges, while we only had a few intercontinental rockets R-7. So Moscow was just trying to fill that gap. The Caribbean crisis resulted in withdrawal of our missiles from Cuba, but the US also withdrew their missiles from Turkey. Washington also promised not to use the force for overthrowing the Communist regime in Cuba in case Moscow did not place offensive weapons there. Breaking that agreement now might give the US a handle to overthrow the brothers Castro regime.
In 1962 an Army Corps and antiaircraft missiles were sent to Cuba so that to protect the nuclear forces. Today we do not have such an opportunity. Then again, Tu-160 and Tu-95MC can carry missiles of longer range (over 3,000 km), so there is no need to fly to Cuba so that to make a launch. And near the US territory they would be just defenseless.
Today we have 16 pieces of Tu-160 and 64 pieces of Tu-95, and only minor part of them is really combat-ready. The soviet stock of spare parts for Tu-160 engines being exhausted last year, the technology of production was lost long ago. While militaries and the industry are trying to do something about that, Tu-160s do not practically take long distance flights. So there’s nothing to send to Cuba except ancient low-speed Tu-195MSs.
Earlier Moscow was saying about our response to the American anti-missile defense system in Europe, in a form of deployment of Iskander-M missiles and winged land-based missiles in Kaliningrad region. However, so far it has not been possible to perfect it sufficiently so that to start serial production. Besides, it’s over 500 km from Kaliningrad to the radar in Czechia, which means we first would have to denounce unilaterally the treaty of 1987 about destruction of the intermediate and long-range missiles, and that would not improve our international image.
A well-known political scientist Alexander Pikaev has suggested giving to Czechia a striking blow through refusing drinking their beer. “That would be more serious response than limitation of oil supplies to the Czechs”. However, almost all the Czech beer consumed in Russia is made in Russian breweries with the Czech license. So it is still unclear who would be more affected with such a boycott. Wishing to give an effective response to imperialists, every time we create something ridiculous.
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