Russian warships enter Havana Bay as part of scheduled exercises

Russian warships arrived in Cuban waters Wednesday as part of planned military exercises that experts said were a symbolic show of force in reaction to continued U.S. support for Ukraine and a reflection of growing ties between Russia and Cuba.

The group of four ships poses no real threat, U.S. officials said, despite tensions between the United States and Russia over the war in Ukraine. The group includes the nuclear submarine Kazan and the frigate Admiral Gorshkov and contains no nuclear weapons.

The warships, which carried out military exercises before their arrival in the Caribbean, will remain in Havana until June 17 while the crew meet officials and visit cultural and historical sites, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said.

Capable of engaging in surface warfare, using land-attack missiles and defending against sea and air attacks, Admiral Gorshkov flew both the Cuban and Russian flags, according to reports, and was greeted with 21-gun fire as he sailed into the Bay of Havana. Kazan was expected to follow, lurking beneath the surface.

The U.S. Department of Defense believes the routine activity of ship arrivals poses no threat to the United States, a spokeswoman said. The department monitored the progress of the ships in the Atlantic Ocean, he added.

While en route to Havana, crews of warships carrying hypersonic missiles practiced locating targets and using high-powered precision missiles to simulate the destruction of those targets, at ranges of more than 600 kilometers, or more than 350 miles, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

While this may cause discomfort for the United States and other allied nations, Russia is not breaking any international laws by traveling through the Caribbean, experts said.

“They are operating in international waters, which they have every right to do,” said Samuel Cox, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral. “We do the same.”

“They are using a routine deployment to declare that they are operationally relevant outside their own waters,” he said.

Russian ships have traveled to the Caribbean in the past, including visits to Cuba and the Venezuelan coast in 2008 for scheduled exercises with the Venezuelan navy, and near Cuba in 2015.

Cuba and Russia are historically friendly. While Cuba is not a key player in Russian foreign policy, the island is important because “Cuban friendship offers Russia entry into the Global South, where Cuba remains respected and influential,” said expert William M. LeoGrande in Cuban affairs from American University in Washington.

In 1962, the threat of nuclear catastrophe reached an all-time Cold War high, when the Soviet Union responded to America's installation of missiles in Turkey with its own deployment of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to Cuba, triggering a standoff of 13 days. known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The crisis was averted when the Soviet Union removed the missiles, but Cuba and Russia maintained close ties.

The rift between Russia and the United States recently deepened with President Biden's authorization for Ukraine to use American-supplied weapons for limited attacks inside Russia, reversing what had been the administration's long-standing policy.

However, experts have not read much about sea travel.

While the show of force is likely a reaction to continued U.S. support for Ukraine, LeoGrande called the visit largely “symbolic,” an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to wave his country's flag.” within the sphere of influence of the United States. “

The exercise serves, LeoGrande said, “to remember that Russia can also project its military power globally.”

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