Red Scare Returns! Russian Warships Sail into American and NATO backyards!

The Russian Navy demonstrates global reach with visits to Cuba and Libya, conducts exercises in multiple seas, raising concerns in the West while showcasing its long-range capabilities and strategic partnerships.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Four ships of the Northern Fleet of the Russian Navy made a transatlantic crossing and arrived on June 12 in the port of Havana, the capital of Cuba, for an unofficial visit, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense press service. The group consists of the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov,” the fourth-generation nuclear submarine K-561 “Kazan” (built under the modernized “Yasen-M” project), the tanker “Akademik Pashin,” and the rescue tug “Nikolay Chiker.”

In Cuba, the crews of ships and support vessels participated in several protocol events and will have the opportunity to relax. They stayed on the island until June 17.

The last joint maneuvers between Russia and Cuba took place 16 years ago, during exercise “Venrus-2008.”

It is impossible to ignore the Russian Navy’s recent surge in activity, particularly the Northern and Pacific Fleets, which are the most potent strategic elements in its structure. In reality, no one has attempted to conceal this; rather, the Russian Ministry of Defense has consistently published official reports about it, which are accompanied by photographs and videos.

For example, the Pacific Fleet force formations are conducting an exercise in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, and the Sea of Okhotsk from June 18 to 28. This entails approximately 40 ships, watercraft, and support vessels, as well as 20 aircraft and helicopters of naval aviation, marine units, and coastal missile systems “Bal” and “Bastion.”

Maneuvers of the Northern Fleet preceded this extensive exercise. The nuclear-powered missile cruisers “Severodvinsk” and “Orel” launched “Kalibr” and “Granit” cruise missiles at a sea target in the Barents Sea, with the exercise being bolstered by ships of the Kola Flotilla of diverse forces.

Kremlin watchers believe this could be a result of Russia trying to pressure nations opposing its invasion of Ukraine, notably Japan and the United States.

In Cuba, the Russian frigate “Admiral Gorshkov” was visited by the Cuban leader, the command of the national Navy, other officials, and thousands of enthusiastic ordinary citizens. During their stay in Havana, the crews of the Russian ships participated in protocol, ceremonial, and commemorative events, including those dedicated to Russia Day. At the “Granma” Naval Academy, our sailors played friendly football and volleyball matches with the Cuban side.

The Pentagon and the White House were deeply concerned by the appearance of a Northern Fleet squadron off the coast of the US, while the arrival of Russian ships in Cuba was met with enthusiasm. This concern was further exacerbated by the reports that the submarine “Kazan” and the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov” conducted high-precision missile weapon exercises in the Atlantic on June 11. The US and Canada deployed two multipurpose nuclear submarines, reconnaissance aircraft, drones, and a substantial number of surface ships, including three destroyers, to oversee the Russian squadron’s activity.

Bewilderment was evident in the US as a whole. In an interview with CNN, John Kirby, the White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications and a former naval officer, declared that the US does not perceive the Russian ships’ visit to Cuba as a threat to national security. Nevertheless, the presence of Russian Navy ships in Cuba was an unimaginable event for former President Donald Trump.

It is quite difficult to distinguish between the symbolic and military-political components of the Russian ships’ visit to Cuba. The US has long been apprehensive about the possibility of a cruise missile strike from Russian “Yasen” class submarines, as both the “Admiral Gorshkov” and the “Kazan” submarine are equipped with sophisticated missiles and weaponry. Currently, Russia is symbolically demonstrating the capability of its ships to travel long distances, conduct patrols, and practice missile use. Exercises regarding the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons took place by Russia. Even though Russian officials have stated that these vessels are not presently equipped with nuclear weapons, they are capable of carrying them. Consequently, the duties of Russian ships in the Atlantic are not merely symbolic; they are of practical importance, particularly in light of the escalating tension between the US and Russia and the broader political context.

Almost simultaneous with the Northern Fleet’s arrival in Havana, a squadron of the Russian Pacific Fleet arrived at the Libyan port of Tobruk. This event was only minimally reported in the Russian media. The missile cruiser “Varyag” serves as the flagship of this extended voyage, while the frigate “Admiral Shaposhnikov” is alongside it.

The presence of these vessels at the port city of Tobruk in eastern Libya caused concern among the authorities in the country’s western region and drew the attention of militant factions’ commanders. The missiles deployable from Russian vessels stationed in Tobruk can target and strike NATO locations in southern Europe effectively. The primary concern of Western nations is the possible setup of a Russian naval base. Establishing a base at Tobruk, akin to the one in Tartus (Syria), would hold great strategic importance since it would place all NATO bases in Europe within the effective reach of Russian weapons. The missiles might reach these locations within a short span of minutes, presenting a significant threat to NATO and the Western countries.

Matthew Miller, the spokesperson for the US State Department, accused Russia of not concealing its intentions to establish a more substantial presence in Libya and utilize it as a base to destabilize the Sahel region. Miller also stated that the security situation in Libya and the adjacent region is further complicated by the presence of 1,800 Russian “African Corps” troops. He stated that the US is apprehensive about recent reports that Russian military vessels are unloading military equipment in Libya. This occurred five years after the deployment of Russian mercenaries, which resulted in the destabilization of Libya and the surrounding region.

In the middle of these thrills, an agreement with General Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to resume personnel training for the Libyan Navy was practically overlooked. Russia is back training Libyan troops after nearly three decades. It is intended that 150 cadets would come to Russia to train at naval schools and training centers, while another 100 will attend the Far Eastern Combined Arms Military School, which trains marines. The US has nothing to fear in Libya under the current circumstances, including the subject of a naval base. It is also worth noting that two big Turkish naval bases, which are effectively NATO bases, are already operational in Libya. The deployment of Russian Navy bases in Benghazi and Tobruk is only discussed in the media and to a limited extent.

Russia is currently engaged in the active demonstration of its naval capabilities and the expansion of its global maritime presence. The Russian Navy’s recent activities, which include potential training agreements, exercises in various seas, and visits to Cuba and Libya, seem to be part of a broader strategy to project power and influence beyond its borders. Western nations, notably the US, are apprehensive about these maneuvers, as they have the potential to disrupt the current balance of power in strategic regions. Russia’s diplomatic engagements in countries such as Cuba and Libya, in conjunction with the deployment of sophisticated weapons systems and vessels, indicate that the country is trying to reestablish its status as a global naval power. This development has the potential to significantly affect international relations, regional stability, and the ongoing geopolitical tensions between Russia and NATO countries. As these naval maneuvers persist, it is probable that Western powers will intensify their scrutiny and response, which could result in additional diplomatic and strategic adjustments in the regions affected.


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