Russian official renews talk of military presence in Cuba

Other News Materials 3 August 2008 02:29 (UTC +04:00)

A week after Russia's defence ministry denied it planned to send nuclear-armed bombers to Cuba, a high-ranking Russian elected official renewed the idea of military cooperation, according to a report Saturday, the dpa reported.

Andrei Klimov, the deputy head of Russia's International Affairs Committee in the Duma, said Russia intended to become more involved in Cuba. He did not rule out the possibility of a military presence on the Caribbean Island just off the US coast, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti.

"It's possible Russia could use this to react to US plans for a missile defence system in Central Europe," the member of the United Russia Party said.

But Klimov, who was speaking at the end of a Russian delegation's visit to Cuba, said that such plans would not involve pointing Russian rockets at the US.

He emphasized that Russia must build a presence in as many regions as possible, in both economic as well as military affairs.

"We must defend our national interests - also in the area of security," he said.

Cuba's location has geopolitical importance, he noted.

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia's Security Council and former head of domestic security, met over the past week with Cuban leaders. According to Klimov, Cuban President Raul Castro and Patrushev agreed that Russia and Cuba should "expand their traditional relationship."

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia cut back on its Cold War programme of supporting the communist island economically and militarily.

Russia's defence ministry last week denied a report in the state newspaper Izvestia that it was considering basing nuclear-armed bombers in Cuba to warn against US plans to base a missile defense shield in Europe.

The United States had refused to comment on the anonymously- sourced report but welcomed Moscow's denial of the intentions to resume bomber flights to Cuba.

In a related development last week, Alexander Pikayev of the Institute for World Economic Sciences raised the possibility of reactivating a radar facility on Cuba in response to US plans for a missile defence shield based in the Czech Republic and Poland.