MOSCOW (AP) – Russia on Thursday increased the intensity of its dispute with the West over Ukraine and the expansion of NATO when a senior diplomat refused to rule out a military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela in case tensions with states escalate. United.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he “could neither confirm nor rule out” the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Latin America in case the United States and its allies do not end their military activities near Russian territory.
“It all depends on the actions of our American counterparts,” the deputy minister said in an interview with Russian television station RTVI, in which he mentioned President Vladimir Putin’s warning that Moscow could take unspecified “military technical measures” in the event that The United States and its allies do not comply with their demands.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan played down remarks about a possible Russian deployment in Cuba and Venezuela, describing the possibility as “boastfulness.”
In Cuba, the Russian official’s comment was classified as an admonition to the United States.
“There is no threat that this is a plan, but simply a warning for the Americans to put themselves in the place of the Russians,” former diplomat and international policy analyst Carlos Alzugaray told The Associated Press.
“Of course this is going to have implications, since the networks are hot. Obviously the question is, what does Cuba think of that? Moscow is having a good time.
A request for comment by the AP to the Cuban authorities was not answered at the moment.
Ryabkov led the Russian delegation in talks with the United States on Monday. Negotiations in Geneva and a related meeting of Russia and NATO in Brussels were held in response to an increase in Russian military activities near Ukraine, which the West fears will precede an invasion.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, denies any plans to attack the neighboring country. The Kremlin reacted to the insinuations by accusing NATO of threatening its territory and demanding that the military alliance never integrate Ukraine or any of the other former Soviet republics.
This same week, Washington and its allies categorically rejected that demand and indicated that it is not negotiable, but NATO and the Russian delegation agreed to leave the door open to new negotiations on arms control and other issues aimed at reducing the possibility hostilities.
Speaking to the press in Washington, Sullivan said that “the union of the alliance and transatlantic solidarity were exposed and will continue to do so” during this week’s talks with Russia, which he described as “frank and direct.”
“We stick to our key premise of reciprocity,” Sullivan said. “We were firm in our principles and clear on those areas in which we can progress and the areas that are not negotiable.”
Sullivan stressed that no additional talks were scheduled, but “we are ready to continue diplomatic efforts to promote security and stability in Europe and the Atlantic.”
“We are equally prepared if Russia chooses a different path,” he added. “We continue to closely coordinate with our allies on tough economic measures in response to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Asked that Ryabkov left open the possibility of a military deployment in Latin America, Sullivan said: “I am not going to respond to boasting in the public arena.”
He said the issue was not raised during this week’s negotiations, adding that “if Russia wants to go down that path, we would deal with it decisively.”
Last month, Ryabkov compared the current tensions around Ukraine to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the Soviet Union sent missiles to Cuba and the United States imposed a naval blockade on the island.
That crisis ended after US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed that Moscow would withdraw its missiles in exchange for Washington pledging not to invade Cuba and to withdraw its own missiles from Turkey.
Putin, in an attempt to end Western military activity in Eastern Europe, has argued that NATO could use Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just 5 minutes. He warned that Russia could gain similar military capabilities by deploying warships equipped with the latest Zircon hypersonic missile in international waters.
Shortly after coming to power in 2000, Putin ordered the closure of a Soviet-made military surveillance facility in Cuba, in an attempt to improve relations with Washington. In recent years, Moscow has intensified its communications with Cuba as tensions with the United States and its allies mount.
In December 2018, Russia briefly deployed a pair of its nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela, in a show of support for President Nicolás Maduro in the face of pressure from the West.
Lee reported from Washington.
The Associated Press journalists Emily Schultheis, in Vienna; Lorne Cook, in Brussels; Edith M. Lederer, at the United Nations; Colleen Long, in Washington; and Andrea Rodríguez, in Havana, contributed to this report.