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A senior Russian lawmaker has revived discussion about how Russia could level the playing field by basing Russian military equipment close to the United States to balance out NATO forces positioned near Russia’s borders despite promises made on March 6, 1991according to documents published in Der Spiegel (The Mirror) today.

‘We have enough military-technical measures that will force the United States to take care of its own security, and not Ukraine, which is too far away from them. For example, the deployment of military bases in Latin America may be part of the answer,’ United Russia MP Yuri Shvytkin, who is Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defence Committee, told Russian online news outlet Gazeta.Ru on Friday.

‘The United States is afraid of this because it will be close enough for our missiles to home in on strategic targets including cities involved in the American military complex. I think that the Americans do not really want the missiles to reach New York or Washington quickly,’ Shvytkin added.

The MP was echoing comments by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov last month, who suggested in an interview with RTVI television network that Moscow might deploy Russian military infrastructure to Cuba or Venezuela. ‘I don’t want to confirm anything, I won’t exclude anything. It depends on the actions of our American colleagues,’ Ryabkov told RTVI’s Tina Kandelaki on January 13.

‘The President of Russia has repeatedly spoken out on this topic, including what measures could be taken by the Russian Navy if things go completely in the direction of provoking Russia and further strengthening military pressure on us,’ he said, adding, ‘We do not want this, the diplomats must come to an agreement.’

Several days earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was unacceptable for Moscow to expect NATO to respect its sphere of influence by pledging not to expand further eastward or to station certain weapons in Eastern Europe. Seemingly, it is okay for Washington DC to station its military might 8,500km distant in Europe?

Following Ryabkov’s comments, US President Joe Biden firmly asserted a US sphere of influence across Latin America, upgrading the region from the popular term ‘America’s backyard’ to declare that ‘everything south of the Mexican border is America’s front yard.’

Soviet deployments to Cuba were common during the Cold War, most notoriously the R-12 and R-14 nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and Il-28 bombers that triggered the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. However, after the missiles were withdrawn following an agreement between US President John Kennedy and Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev Soviet ship and aircraft stopovers in Cuba were common, including Tu-95 and Tu-142 reconnaissance aircraft on patrol.

More recently, Russian Tu-160 White Swan bombers made several trips to Venezuela, including in 2018 amid another tense situation with Ukraine and NATO. Caracas and Moscow reportedly agreed on the principle of establishing a Russian military base on La Orchila Island in the Caribbean Sea at the time.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in late January about the situation, and the Kremlin said the two leaders have ‘synchronized positions,’ although not on the deployment of Russian military forces to the island.

NATO has accused Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine by deploying large numbers of troops in Russia (really?), although Moscow denies any plans for attacking Ukraine and says its troops are performing military manoeuvres and drills in Russian and Belarus territories with Belarusian forces. Moscow has said the crisis stems from a lack of guarantees of its security by NATO, which despite agreements not to expand has continued to expand eastward and incorporate many former Soviet allies and even former Soviet republics.

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They have also expressed fears of NATO weapons deployed in Eastern Europe, including two Aegis Ashore installations in Poland and Romania that the US claims are for missile defense, but which are technically capable of firing offensive cruise missiles capable of reaching beyond Moscow.

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