Russian Warships Arrive in Cuba in Show of Strength
Source: Defense News
Published: 19 Dec 12:11 EST (17:11 GMT)
HAVANA, Dec 19, 2008 – A group of Russian warships arrived in Cuba on Friday, the first such visit to the Soviet-era ally since the end of the Cold War, an AFP journalist reported.
The flotilla, the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko, arrived at the port of Havana at 9:45 am (1445 GMT) at part of a Latin American tour that has already taken in U.S. foes Venezuela and Nicaragua and seen the ships pass through the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II.
Welcoming shots were fired from the colonial fortress San Carlos de la Cabana for the Russian ships before a ceremony with music presided over by officers from the Cuban navy.
It was the first visit by Russian warships to Cuba since 1991 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a staunch military, economic and political ally to Cuba for 30 years.
Part of a tour of Latin America, the five-day visit close to US waters is seen as a response to Washington’s own moves in areas Russia deems within its sphere of influence, including in the Black Sea.
US officials have said they see no military threat from Russia’s naval maneuvers but continue to keep a close eye on the situation.
The naval visit to Cuba, scene of a dramatic 1962 stand-off between Moscow and Washington over nuclear missiles, comes as tensions over U.S. missile defense plans in eastern Europe have prompted talk of a renewed Cold War among some analysts.
The Russian embassy in Cuba told AFP that it was a friendly, working visit designed to “develop” relations and “cooperation” between the two countries’ armies.
The visit comes 20 days since Russian President Medvedev met his counterpart Raul Castro in Havana in a tour of Latin America designed to revive he called “privileged relations” from Soviet times.