October 2016 – MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military is considering the possibility of regaining its Soviet-era bases on Cuba and in Vietnam, the Defense Ministry said Friday, a statement that comes amid growing U.S.-Russia tensions over Syria. Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov told lawmakers Friday that the ministry is considering the possibility of establishing footholds far away from Russia’s borders. Responding to a lawmaker’s question if the military could return to Cuba and Vietnam, Pankov said the military is “reviewing” a decision to withdraw from them, but didn’t offer any specifics. “As for our presence on faraway outposts, we are doing this work,” he said. In 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military to pull back from Cuba and Vietnam as he sought to bolster ties with the United States. The U.S.-Russian relations now have plunged to the lowest point since the Cold War times amid strain over Syria and Ukraine.
Moscow has lamented that Washington never appreciated Putin’s goodwill gesture. Asked Friday about the possibility of the Russian military’s return to Cuba and Vietnam, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from specific comment, but added that the global situation requires various players to mull possible responses. “Naturally, all countries assess those changes from the point of view of their national interests and take steps they consider necessary,” he told reporters. When Putin ordered the military withdrawal from Cuba and Vietnam, Russia was still reeling from its post-Soviet economic meltdown. Putin cited the need to cut costs when he explained reasons behind his move to the military.
Windfall oil revenues in recent years have filled the government’s coffers with petrodollars, allowing the Kremlin to fund an ambitions weapons modernization program and turn the military into a more mobile modern force. Amid the deterioration of ties with the West, the military began pondering plans to re-establish its global presence. A small naval supply facility in the Syrian port of Tartus is now the navy’s only outpost outside the former Soviet Union. Oleg Nilov of A Just Russia, one of the factions in the Kremlin-controlled lower house, pointed at the U.S. and its NATO allies’ deployment near Russian borders as he argued that Russia needs to regain its Soviet-era bases. “It’s time to reach agreements to return to faraway outposts if they don’t understand the language of diplomacy,” he said during debates. –Big Story
Russia adds additional ships to Mediterranean fleet: Two Russian vessels will join up with Russia’s permanent naval fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, where they will assist in the military operation against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria. “It is planned that the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol will go to the Mediterranean as part of a planned rotation that will join up with the permanent naval task force,” Russian Navy representative Nikolay Voskresensky told journalists. The two guided missile fast attack craft left from the port of Sevastopol on October 4 and are currently sailing through the Black Sea in order to join up with the Russian fleet.
The Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol already participated in Russia’s Syria operation in the Mediterranean in the middle of August, when they fired three Kalibr cruise missiles at Al-Nusra Front terrorists before returning to Crimea in September. The US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) is wary of the Kalibr missile, which “is profoundly changing its ability to deter, threaten or destroy adversary targets,” the report published in December said. The weapon saw its first combat use in October 2015, when a salvo of missiles launched from four small Russian warships in the Caspian Sea hit targets in Syria. In December, the Russian Navy used the same long-range, low-flying cruise missiles to strike more terrorist targets in Syria from a submarine in the Mediterranean Sea. –RT