Russia announces plans to set up its first ever military base in the Caribbean – the country’s largest presence in the region since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962
The state-sponsored TASS news agency reported that Russian experts had selected the island of La Orchila, 125 miles northeast of Caracas, as a possible military base up to 10 years ago.
Russian media outlets are reporting that the Kremlin is planning to establish a forward outpost on the Venezuelan island of La Orchila in the Caribbean Sea and base nuclear-capable Tu-160 Blackjack bombers
Russian newspapers Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Kommersant both reported the possible basing deal on Dec. 12, 2018. Russia had sent a pair of Tu-160s to Venezuela on Dec. 10, 2018, and those bombers left the country on Dec. 14, 2018. This was the third visit by these type of aircraft to the Latin American country since 2008 and they conducted a 10-hour long-range patrol in the Caribbean for the first time ever during this trip.
According to the agency, Russia will now be ‘deploying Tu-160 strategic aircraft to the island’, after seeking permission from Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
The deployment will represent the one of the largest semi-permanent postings of Russian military hardware to the region since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 – which marked the height of the Cold War
Having a forward base capable of accommodating strategic aircraft would enable Russia to conduct flights near the United States on a regular basis, something it is otherwise largely incapable of doing at present. As it stands now, Russian aircraft are generally only able to fly sorties in the vicinity of Alaska without the commitment of substantial support assets.
Venezuelan law reportedly prohibits a full-time military base from being set up within its borders.
However, the deployment of supersonic Russian jets would be ‘temporary’ – according to official sources.
‘It is the right idea to include Venezuela in long-range aviation missions,’ military expert Colonel Shamil Gareyev told the Russian newspaper Novaya Gozeta.
‘Our strategic bombers will not only not have to return to Russia every time, but also won’t perform aerial refueling while on a patrol mission in the Americas.
‘Our Tu-160 aircraft arrive to their base in Venezuela, conduct flights, execute their missions and are then replaced on a rotating basis. This is how it should be done.’
The news comes just days after two of Russia’s nuclear-capable Tu-160 strategic bombers flew over the Caribbean sea during a 10-hour training mission with the Venezuelan Air Force amid escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington.
See Video and Details: Russian Nuclear Bomber Fly 10-Hour Caribbean Patrol From Venezuela Within Striking Distance of U.S.
The recent deployment of Blackjacks to Venezuela came after a surge in American aerial activity along Russia’s western flank after the Kremlin launched an unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait, which separates the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov, on Nov. 25, 2018. The United States and its allies condemned Russia’s actions and offered to increase military and other support for Ukraine, to the ire of the Kremlin.
It is worth remembering that the Soviet Union’s decision to base nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962 was driven, in part, by a similar desire for more flexibility and the ability to directly threaten the United States proper. Though there’s no indication that a Russian presence on La Orchila would immediately create the same level of crisis, at least not initially, the U.S. government would almost certainly furiously object to a similarly provocative deployment to Venezuela.