Russia raised the stakes on Ukraine in its dispute with the West on Thursday after a top diplomat refused military deployments to Cuba and Venezuela as tensions with the United States escalated.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he could “neither confirm nor exclude” the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Latin America if the US and its allies do not curb their military activities at Russia’s doorstep. can do.
“It all depends on action by our American counterparts,” the minister said in an interview with Russian television network RTVI.
He pointed to warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow could take unspecified “military-technical measures” if the US and its allies do not heed its demands.
Ryabkov led the Russian delegation in talks with the US on Monday. Talks in Geneva and a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels earlier this week took place near Ukraine in response to the build-up of a crucial Russian military that the West fears might propose an invasion.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, has denied plans to attack the neighboring country.
The Kremlin reacted to the suggestion, accusing NATO of threatening its territory and demanding that the military alliance never allow Ukraine or any other former Soviet nations to join. Currently, the closest NATO members to Russia’s borders are the Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Washington and its allies this week strongly dismissed the demand as a non-start, but the NATO and Russian delegation opened the door for further talks on arms control and other issues aimed at reducing the likelihood of hostilities. agreed to leave.
US view unchanged
A senior Biden administration official suggested Thursday that Ryabkov’s statements about Cuba and Venezuela did not change Washington’s calculations.
“We are not going to respond to the blasts,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “If Russia really starts moving in that direction, we will deal with it decisively.”
Ryabkov last month compared current tensions over Ukraine to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis – when the Soviet Union deployed missiles to Cuba and the US imposed a naval blockade of the island.
The crisis ended when US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed that Moscow would withdraw its missiles in exchange for Washington’s pledge not to invade Cuba and to remove American missiles from Turkey.
Seeking to reduce the West’s military activity in Eastern Europe, Putin has argued that NATO could use Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes. He warned that Russia could achieve similar capability by deploying warships equipped with the latest Zircon hypersonic cruise missile in neutral waters.
Shortly after his first election in 2000, Putin ordered the closure of a Soviet-built military surveillance facility in Cuba as he sought to improve relations with Washington. Moscow has intensified contact with Cuba in recent years as tensions with the US and its allies rise.
In December 2018, Russia sent a pair of its nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela in a show of support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro amid Western pressure.
sea of azov tension
CBC’s Briar Stewart, Corinne Seminoff and Jean-François Bisson are reporting on tensions with Russia in Ukraine. The following is a report he filed on Thursday.
Tensions are also high over the Sea of Azov – a strategic body of water between Ukraine and Russia jointly controlled by the two countries.
“Every time we go out to sea …. we are faced with Russian ships chasing us,” said Denis Bakumov, 23, a commander of the Ukrainian Navy, taking the CBC on patrol earlier this week. .
“We see more activity of naval patrol ships at sea. They are moving a lot and trying to increase their control over the Azov.”
Bakumov was born in Crimea and was still studying at a naval institute when Russia occupied the peninsula.
He told CBC on Wednesday that he and his fellow sailors had spotted a Russian ship that morning about eight kilometers from their patrol boat, Vyshgorod.
The Ukrainian Navy says it has a large number of patrol boats in the Azov Sea. In 2018, Ukraine had only one vessel, but now, it has four vessels and is expected to add more. There are about 20 in Russia.
After Russia annexed the peninsula, Ukraine lost most of its navy and its base in Sevastopol, Crimea.
It is seeking to rebuild its navy with the help of Western allies, particularly the UK, which has promised access to multimillion-dollar loans to build a base and buy warships and other equipment.
Ukraine is building one of two new bases near the commercial port of Berdyansk on Ukraine’s southeast coast.
When CBC visited the base on a cold and windy day this week, only a few workers were present, and the base was not complete.
There were piles of bricks and boards and piles of sand, but the equipment was lying idle, even though the government announced last year that it was ramping up construction.
Aadhaar is not expected to be completed until 2023.
“Ukrainian naval forces are an important part of the Ukrainian army,” said deputy commander Yaroslav Shevchenko.
“We are ready to take action … but I need to emphasize that we will not provoke anything, and we are ready to defend our land … to the last drop of blood.”