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Issue #1559      8 August 2012

Russia to revive army bases in three oceans

The Russian government intends to restore the military-technical support of its ships at the former military base in Cam Ranh (Vietnam), Lourdes (Cuba) and the Seychelles. So far, this is not about plans for a military presence, but rather the restoration of the crew resources.

The intentions were announced on July 27 by the Russian Navy commander vice-admiral Viktor Chirkov. “At the international level, the creation of logistics points in Cuba, the Seychelles and Vietnam is being worked out,” Chirkov was quoted by the media.

The issue was specifically discussed at the meeting with the leaders of the countries. President of Vietnam Truong Tan Sang has recently held talks with prime minister Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow and president Putin in Sochi. Cuban leader Raul Castro met with Putin in Moscow earlier this month. A little earlier the president of the Republic of Seychelles, James Michel made an unequivocal statement.

“We will give Russia the benefits in Cam Ranh, including the development of military cooperation,” the president of Vietnam told the media.

Cuba, which has a US military base in Guantánamo Bay and is protesting against the deployment of new US bases in Colombia, wants to acquire an ally in Russia to be able to contain the United States.

Seychelles in the Indian Ocean has always been in the zone of Soviet influence. In 1981, the Soviet Navy helped the government to prevent a military coup and before the collapse of the USSR the Soviets had a constant presence in the area. In June of 2012, at the opening of an Orthodox church in the capital city of Victoria, James Michel spoke of Russia’s role in combatting piracy and supported the Russian idea to build a pier in the port of Victoria, designed for the reception of the naval warships from the Russian Federation.

Following the statement by the vice-admiral, Russian foreign ministry and defence ministry made it clear that they were talking about rest and replenishment of the crews after the campaign in the area and not military bases. It is clear, however, that Russian warships could do both without special arrangements, given the positive attitudes of the leaders of these countries towards Russia.

It is worth mentioning Putin’s statement at the G20 meeting in June. After the meeting with US President Barack Obama, Putin made a sudden harsh statement to the press: “In 2001 I, as the President of the Russian Federation and the supreme commander, deemed it advantageous to withdraw the radio-electronic centre Lourdes from Cuba. In exchange for this, George Bush, the then US president, had assured me that this decision would become the final confirmation that the Cold War was over and both of our states, in getting rid of the relics of the Cold War, would start building a new relationship based on cooperation and transparency. In particular, Bush convinced me that the US missile defence system would never be deployed in Eastern Europe.

“The Russian Federation has fulfilled all terms of the agreement. And even more. I shut down not only the Cuban Lourdes but also Kamran in Vietnam. I shut them down because I gave my word of honour. I, like a man, have kept my word. What have the Americans done? The Americans are not responsible for their own words. It is no secret that in recent years, the US created a buffer zone around Russia, involving in this process not only the countries of Central Europe, but also the Baltic states, Ukraine and the Caucasus.

“The only response to this could be an asymmetric expansion of the Russian military presence abroad, particularly in Cuba. In Cuba, there are convenient bays for our reconnaissance and warships, a network of the so-called ‘jump airfields.’ With the full consent of the Cuban leadership, on May 11 of this year, our country not only resumed work in the electronic centre of Lourdes, but also placed the latest mobile strategic nuclear missiles ‘Oak’ on the island. They did not want to do it the amicable way, now let them deal with this,” Putin said.

It is obvious that Russia will not stop simply at “resting” their sailors in the area.

Now back to the statement of Chirkov. Americans have not officially resented it. For example, the Pentagon spokesman George Little said that Russia had the right to enter into military agreements and relationships with other countries, as does the United States, according to France Press Agency. The reason is simple: American analysts believe that Russia now cannot afford to create its own military bases.

The Americans talk about Russia’s lack of influence, money and the actual fleet. Western media quoted an “independent expert on defence” in Moscow, Paul Fengelgauer. He said that Russia does not have the necessary naval resources to provide constant presence outside its territorial waters, as it has only 30 major warships that serve five fleets. Therefore, the possibility of placing an additional station does not mean the expansion of sea power by Russia.

This is largely an objective assessment. But since the crisis in the West in 2008, Russia has begun to recover part of its navy. The loss was not that great – about a quarter of the Soviet reserve. We should also consider fleet modernisation. Chirkov said that this year Russia’s naval forces can be replenished with another 10-15 warships, including destroyers and nuclear submarines.

As for the influence, judging by the words of the Russian President, Russia is also actively growing in this regard. As we can see, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans are involved. This is not only for geopolitical reasons, but the growing economic presence of Russia in those regions. For example, “Gazprom” is actively working on offshore Vietnam. In the Caribbean, it also participates in the construction of a Meso-American pipeline and field development in Venezuela. An ammunition plant is under construction in Cuba.

However, one should start with a solid contractual basis. Take, for example, agreements on mutual defence that the US has with the Philippines, Japan, Colombia, and Mexico. In the presence of such agreements military bases cannot be challenged as a military expansion. Russia has room to grow – of the 16 military bases operating in the Soviet era, today there is only one left – Tartus in Syria, or two, if we consider the base in Sevastopol.

Slightly bridged, for full text visit english.pravda.ru


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