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U.S. Monitors Russian Warships Docking in Cuba Amid Tensions

Russian ship in Cuba

U.S. forces are closely monitoring a flotilla of Russian warships that arrived in Cuba on Wednesday, a move seen as a demonstration of strength by President Vladimir Putin. This deployment occurs shortly after the Biden administration authorized Ukraine to use U.S.-provided weapons against some military targets within Russia.

The Russian vessels, which include the frigate Admiral Gorshkov and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, docked in Havana Harbor following military exercises in the North Atlantic. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the ships will remain in Havana until Monday.

Both Cuban and Russian foreign ministries have stated that the ships are not carrying nuclear weapons, asserting that their presence does not pose a regional threat. This visit to Havana, a long-standing ally of Moscow, coincides with heightened tensions due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Before reaching Havana, the flotilla conducted precision missile firing exercises using computer simulations. The capabilities of the Russian ships, even without nuclear weapons, remain significant, featuring Zircon hypersonic missiles, Kalibr cruise missiles, and Onyx anti-ship missiles.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, reaffirming Russia’s support for Cuba and criticizing the U.S. embargo and sanctions against both nations.

The Russian port call in Cuba aligns with Russia Day, marking the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russian media extensively covered the visit, depicting it as a response to U.S. actions in Ukraine.

The arrival of the Russian ships drew considerable attention in Havana, with Cubans lining the waterfront to witness the event. The Russian Navy honored their hosts with 21 salvos, reciprocated by an artillery salute from the San Carlos de La Cabaña Fortress.

Cuba’s foreign ministry emphasized the historical ties between the two nations, noting that the visit reflects their longstanding friendship. Despite facing severe economic challenges, Cuba continues to receive humanitarian support from Russia.

The U.S. Department of Defense, which has been tracking the Russian visit since its announcement, stated that the visit does not pose a direct threat to the United States. Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh noted that such naval visits by Russia have occurred under various U.S. administrations. However, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, along with Canadian and French frigates, are monitoring the situation.

Russia’s naval deployments to the Caribbean, including past visits to Cuba and Venezuela, are seen as efforts to maintain a presence in the region. Analysts suggest that these moves signal Russia’s determination to project power in the U.S. sphere of influence, despite its military engagement in Ukraine.

The United States conducts similar exercises near Russia and China, demonstrating its naval capabilities and support for allies. For instance, in May, the USS Halsey carried out a “Freedom of Navigation Operation” near China, underscoring the ongoing strategic posturing by major powers on the global stage.