US General Warns Russia Over Cuban Bomber Deployment

Russian bombers. Source: Izvestia. Photo by: Vladimir SmolyakovRussia would cross a “red line” if it positions strategic nuclear bombers in Cuba, according to a US Air Force general. An unnamed source had earlier said that Russia may base bombers in Cuba as response to a US Missile Defense Shield in Europe, sparking memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

“I think we should stand strong and indicate that that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line, for the United States of America,” General Norton Schwartz said at a confirmation hearing in Washington on Tuesday. The General is nominated to be the U.S. Air Force chief of staff.

The General’s statement came in response to an article published in the Izvestia newspaper (Rus), which quoted a high-ranking unnamed source within Russia’s military establishment. The source indicated that Russia may bring strategic nuclear bombers to Cuba in response to the construction of a US Missile Defense Shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. “While they are deploying the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, our strategic bombers will already be landing in Cuba,” the source reportedly said. It remained unclear if bombers would be stationed in Cuba, or would use bases there to refuel.

Russia has spoken out vehemently against the construction of a US anti-missile system close to its borders, and has called the system a threat to its national security. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the country would “be forced to react not in a diplomatic fashion but with military methods,” if elements of the system went forward.

Russian authorities declined to comment on the Izvestia report, although some military officials welcomed any steps that would enhance Russia’s global influence. Mikhail Oparin, a former commander of a Russian base in Cuba, which was closed in 2001, told the Interfax news agency that “Russia’s air fleet must work towards a presence in every corner of the world.”

Shortly after the Czech Republic signed an agreement with the US on the placement of anti-missile radar there, oil shipments from Russia were halved. Transneft, the Russian state-run pipeline monopoly claimed this was the result of technical reasons, although some experts saw political motivations. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin later ordered the government to ensure that there be no more shortfalls.

The US has maintained that its anti-missile system is targeted at defending against a possible attack from Iran, and that it poses no threat to Russian security.

Still, the placement of the system has drawn wide public scorn, with various proposals on how to respond.

Alexander Pikaev, the head of the disarmament and conflict settlement department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke of one method to RIA Novosti (Rus):

“If Russian consumers were to forgo Czech beer in protest of the deployment of American radar, after, of course, all the ratification procedures, which may not even take place there, then this would likely be a serious response, more serious than restricting the supply of oil or a note of protest by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”