Moscow must answer U.S. shield with Cuban 'spy' site - analyst
'Flight plans' could spark new Cuban missile crisis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaG3dntRzAY
'Flight plans' could spark new Cuban missile crisis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaG3dntRzAY
Russia should respond to U.S. missile defense plans for Central Europe by reopening a 'spy' facility in Cuba to gather intelligence on the United States, a Russian analyst said on Wednesday. The electronic monitoring and surveillance facility near Havana at Torrens, also known as the Lourdes facility, the largest Russian Sigint site abroad, was shut down in October 2001 by then- president Vladimir Putin. "Cuba is a unique place to gather intelligence on the United States. I believe that the reopening of this station is both possible and necessary amid the threat that the Americans are creating for Russia," Alexander Pikayev, head of the disarmament and conflict resolution department at the Russian Academy of Sciences' World Economics and International Relations Institute, told a news conference at RIA Novosti. "Russia has every right to respond," he added. Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the U.S. of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security. Washington says the missile shield is needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states." A Russian military source was earlier quoted as saying that Russian strategic bombers could be stationed again in Cuba, only 90 miles from the U.S. coast, in response to the U.S. missile shield plans for Central Europe. The Lourdes facility reportedly covered a 28 square-mile area, with 1,000-1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel working at the base. The complex was capable of monitoring a wide array of commercial and government communications throughout the southeastern United States, and between the United States and Europe. Lourdes intercepted transmissions from microwave towers in the United States, communication satellite downlinks, and a wide range of shortwave and high-frequency radio transmissions. In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to the brink of nuclear war when Soviet missiles were stationed in Cuba. The crisis was resolved after 12 days when the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, backed down and ordered the missiles removed.
Venezuela's Chavez calls for alliance with Russia
Russian energy majors look to Venezuela: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMbacKVuvmI
Energy and arms dominate Russia-Venezuela talks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dpfF76_prQ
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, visiting Moscow to pursue weapons and energy deals, on Tuesday called for a strategic alliance with Russia to protect his country from the United States. Chavez has repeatedly accused Washington of plotting an invasion to destabilize his government, despite U.S. denials. The alliance would mean "we can guarantee Venezuela's sovereignty, which is now threatened by the United States," Chavez told reporters shortly after his arrival in Moscow. Chavez is in Russia to broker a number of deals involving weapons purchases, oil exploration and possibly the creation of a joint financial institution. Welcoming Chavez at Meiendorf Castle, his residence outside Moscow, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russian-Venezuelan relations "are one of the key factors of security in the (South American) region." It is the presidents' first meeting since Medvedev took office in May. Venezuela's state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA signed separate deals with three Russian energy companies — Gazprom, Lukoil and TNK-BP — during the first day of Chavez's visit. In addition, Russian media have reported that Chavez is expected to reach a number of agreements for purchasing Russian military hardware while in Moscow, with one paper reporting the deals could be worth up to $2 billion. The newspaper Kommersant, generally regarded as reliable, reported Tuesday that Chavez is looking to order Ilyushin jets, diesel-powered submarines, Tor-M1 air defense systems and possibly tanks. It did not specify its sources. "We want peace, but we are forced to strengthen our defense," Chavez said when asked about the potential deals upon his arrival. Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-owned arms trader, declined to comment on potential deals. Venezuela, which spent $4 billion on international arms purchases between 2005 and 2007, mostly from Russia and China, has a defense budget of $2.6 billion, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. The U.S. stopped supplying arms to Venezuela in 2006. The three energy agreements involve exploring new oil fields in Venezuela. Chavez said they signified the "creation of a new strategic energy alliance" between Russia and Venezuela. The deal with TNK-BP was particularly striking given the company's ongoing dispute between its Russian and British shareholders. "For TNK-BP it is a positive sign that the shareholders' conflict has had no effect on the business," said Valery Nesterov, an analyst at Troika Dialog, an investment bank. On Tuesday BP announced it would recall 60 technical specialists from Russia. Chavez also wants to discuss the possibility of creating a joint bank, according to Alexis Navarro, Venezuela's ambassador to Moscow. The Venezuelan president also met Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and was to meet Russian military and business leaders. Commercial trade between Venezuela and Russia reached $1.1 billion last year, almost double the $517 million in trade during 2006, according to statistics cited by Venezuela's state-run news agency.
In related news:
Russia could place bombers in Latin America, N.Africa
Russian strategic bombers may soon be deployed at airbases in Cuba, Venezuela and Algeria as a response to the U.S. missile shield in Europe and NATO's expansion, Russian daily Izvestia said on Thursday. Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the U.S. of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying tracking radar in the Czech Republic as a threat to its national security. Washington says the defenses are needed to deter a possible strike from Iran, or other "rogue" states. Moscow has also expressed concern over NATO's expansion to Russia's borders and pledged to take "appropriate measures" to counter the U.S. and NATO moves.
Izvestia cited sources in the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that crews of Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers recently visited Cuba and conducted an inspection of a site and facilities for a possible forward landing airfield that could be used as a refueling stopover for Russian strategic bombers. Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans last August, following an order signed by former president Vladimir Putin. At present the Russian military is considering the possibility of establishing so-called "jump-up" bases in various regions of the world to provide refueling and maintenance support for the patrolling bombers. "The flight to the U.S. [from southern Russia where the bombers are based] takes about 10 hours and even with two mid-air refuellings the aircraft can spend only 1.5 hours near the U.S. coast," said Gen. of the Army Pyotr Deinekin, former commander of the Russian Air Force.
The use of forward landing airfields in Latin America would practically erase the time constraints for the Russian bombers and make their presence near the U.S. borders almost permanent, the general said. If a political decision is made, Cuba will most likely host Russian Il-78 aerial tankers, which will provide nuclear-capable strategic bombers with mid-air refueling, sources in the Defense Ministry told Izvestia. Both Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers have been recently modernized and fitted with new X-555 cruise missiles with a range of over 3,500 km (2,200 miles). Therefore, the bombers do not have to be permanently based near the U.S. borders to hit any target on U.S. territory in case of a potential conflict. In the meantime, the bombers may be primarily used to spy on the United States using electronic means, much like the former Russian SIGINT station at Lourdes near Havana, which was closed in 2002.
However, another Russian publication, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, said on Thursday that the ambitious plans of Russian politicians and some military commanders may be nothing more than "saber-rattling in empty air." The prospect of maintaining refueling posts for Russian bombers all over the world would require an enormous amount of investment in construction of infrastructure, fuel supplies and re-supplies. The Russian defense budget simply does not have sufficient resources to ensure the implementation of these plans, the newspaper said. Russian bombers with nuclear missiles on board policing the globe would only harm Russia's image in the international arena, and it is unlikely that their presence near the U.S. borders will scare the Americans. The U.S. military consider long-range bombers an obsolete and highly vulnerable component of the nuclear triad. The Pentagon stopped strategic bomber patrols almost two decades ago.
Venezuela to buy more weaponry from Russia
Venezuela may purchase man-portable air defense systems, Il-76 transport planes and T-90 tanks from Russian in the near future, a Russian political analyst said Thursday. According to unofficial reports, Russia and Venezuela signed a new framework agreement Wednesday on delivery of Russian air defense systems, tanks and military transport planes to the Latin American country. "The new agreement, most likely, involves purchases of Igla man-portable air defense systems, Il-76MD military transport planes and T-90 main battle tanks," said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. Pukhov has estimated that Venezuela could spend $5 billion or more over the next 10 years on Russian military equipment. He said that after the Swedish Saab announced in 2006 it could not continue sales of portable anti-aircraft systems to Venezuela because of a U.S. arms embargo against President Hugo Chavez's government, Russian Igla missiles became the obvious choice for the Venezuelan army. The embargo also means Caracas experiences difficulties in maintaining a fleet of U.S.-made C-130 Hercules military transport planes. At present, Russia has several Il-76 transport planes available for sale after a deal with China fell through due to technical problems. According to Pukhov, Venezuela could be interested in the purchase of Russian T-90 main battle tanks because of the excellent value for money they provide. A spokesman for Uralvagonzavod, a Urals-based manufacturer of T-90s, said the Russian tanks are superior to foreign models of the same class in terms of firepower, maneuverability, speed and armor protection, but sell for almost half the price. The Uralvagonzavod official said, though, that the plant would have to operate at full capacity to meet outstanding orders, so it would be a few years before the company was able to produce tanks under a new foreign contract. In 2005-2006, Venezuela bought more than 50 combat helicopters, 24 Su-30MK2 fighters, 12 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems and 100,000 AK-103 rifles from Russia. Current contracts are worth about $4 billion, according to various sources. Wednesday's reported deal could see Russia become the main supplier of military equipment to Venezuela. Chavez, an outspoken critic of Washington, has focused his foreign policy on bolstering ties with countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence since coming to power nine years ago.
Russia will support Tehran in case of U.S. attack
The U.S. is dependent on Israel, which pushes it to attack Iran, a Russian expert said. “The strong Jewish lobby is concerned about Israel’s security but not the U.S. interests. However, other forces in Washington exclude any possibility of strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. No one knows how a war can end. The U.S. is not ready for it. Moreover, the international community will not keep silent as it was in case with Iraq. The oil price is going up. True, President Bush can “make a final pas” before leaving the office but it will do no good,” Mikhail Alexandrov, head of the Caucasus department at the Institute of CIS Studies, said in an interview with PanARMENIAN.Net. Asked whose part Russia and Armenia will take in case of hostilities, Mr Alexandrov said, “Russia has always supported Iran. As to Armenia, I think these two states have much in common; they carry out constructive cooperation. Moreover, if a refinery is built in the Armenian territory, the republic will have huge economic dividends. Iran has much oil but needs refineries badly.”