Pravda & Agence France-Presse & Reuters – 2008-07-24 08:14:50
Report: Russia Mulls Sending Bombers to Cuba
(July 22, 2008) — Russia may start regular flights by long-range bombers to Cuba in response to US plans to build missile defence sites in Eastern Europe, the newspaper Izvestia reported Monday, quoting an official.
“Such discussions exist,” the unidentified senior Russian air force official was quoted as saying, adding that the measure would be a response to the United States “deploying missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.”
It was not clear whether he meant permanently basing the bombers in Cuba or using the island as a refuelling stop, but former top defence ministry official Leonid Ivashov told the newspaper that Cuba was best used for brief stopovers.
Cuba should be used “not as a permanent base — this is unnecessary — but as a stopover airfield, a refuelling stop,” Ivashov was quoted as saying.
Spokesmen for the air force and the defence ministry declined to comment about the report to AFP.
Starting long-range bomber flights to Cuba would signal a reawakening of military cooperation by former Cold War allies Moscow and Havana. In 2002 Russia closed its last military base on the island, a radar base at Lourdes.
Plans to fly long-range bombers to Cuba “would be a good answer to attempts to place NATO bases new Russia’s borders,” former top air force commander Pyotr Deinekin told the RIA Novosti news agency in response to the Izvestia report.
In a speech last year, then president Vladimir Putin likened the US missile defence dispute to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, though he added that relations between Moscow and Washington “have changed a lot” since then.
The discovery in 1962 that Moscow was secretly building nuclear missile launchpads in Cuba pushed the world close to nuclear war in a terrifying two-week brinkmanship between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Moscow would take countermeasures against US plans to build an anti-missile radar facility in the Czech Republic and site interceptor missiles in Poland.
Russia argues that the installations threaten its national security despite US assurances that they are directed against “rogue states” like Iran.
Venezuela’s Chavez Seeks Arms Deals in Russia
Reuters North American News Service
MOSCOW (July 21, 2008) — Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez will seek to buy Russian diesel submarines, mobile missile systems and tanks, this week during a trip aimed at boosting trade, Russian media reported on Monday.
A self-styled socialist revolutionary who frequently bates the United States, Chavez has made regular visits to Russia, the world’s second biggest oil exporter, and praised Moscow for standing up to Washington.
Chavez, who has used revenues from record oil prices to stock up on Russian and Chinese military hardware, will arrive in Moscow early on Tuesday and is expected to meet President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The Venezuelan leader was originally expected in Moscow on Monday evening but postponed his arrival until Tuesday early morning, a diplomatic source said. No reason was given.
“VERY MODERN, FAST TANKS”
The Venezuelan Embassy in Moscow refused to respond to requests for information about the visit but Russian media said Chavez’s shopping list included 20 TOR-M1 air defence systems and several diesel-powered submarines for a total of more than $1 billion.
Venezuela is seeking loans from Russian banks, partly to fund arms purchases, while some of Russia’s biggest companies — including Gazprom, LUKOIL, TNK-BP and Russian Railways — are interested in boosting trade with the OPEC member.
Chavez told Itar-Tass news agency he wanted to buy Russian tanks during the visit: “These are very modern, fast tanks,” he said. Chavez also told Tass he wanted to discuss the creation of a joint investment fund.
“During the visit to Russia by Venezuelan President H. Chavez, new contacts to deliver Russian arms and military equipment could be signed,” the Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified source in Russia’s defence sector as saying.
Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport declined to comment on the reports.
Chavez, a former soldier, is a vocal critic of what he calls U.S. imperialism. Washington considers him a danger to Latin American stability in and has urged Russia to rethink weapons sales to Caracas.
Last month Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he was looking forward to Chavez’s visit.
In his former post as president, Putin hosted Chavez’s last visit to Moscow in June 2007.
During that trip, Chavez called Putin “brother” but the Kremlin kept him at arm’s length and avoided endorsing his more extreme positions.
Washington says Chavez’s military build-up could destabilise Latin America.
Tensions remain high between Venezuela and neighbouring Colombia, a close US ally, which accuses Chavez of helping Marxist insurgents fight the Bogota government.
Russia is seeking to boost arms exports to Latin America as some of its traditional customers, such as India, express concerns over late deliveries and price rises. Algeria earlier this year sent back 15 MiG warplanes, citing quality problems.
Local media said Russia is offering Venezuela coastal defence systems, warships, patrol aircraft and Kilo-class diesel submarines. Venezuela has already purchased Sukhoi fighter jets, 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles and dozens of helicopters from Russia.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Matthew Jones)
Source: Reuters North American News Service
Iran to get new Russian air defences by ’09 -Israel
Dan Williams / Reuters North American News Service
TEL AVIV (July 23, 2008) — Iran is set to receive an advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft system by year-end that could help fend off any preemptive strikes against its nuclear facilities, senior Israeli defence sources said on Wednesday.
First delivery of the S-300 missile batteries was expected as soon as early September, one source said, though it could take six to 12 months for them to be deployed and operable — a possible reprieve for Israeli and American military planners.
Iran, which already has TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, announced last December that an unspecified number of S-300s were on order. But Moscow denied there was any such deal.
Washington has led a diplomatic drive to deny Iran access to nuclear technologies with bomb-making potential, while hinting that force could be a last resort. Israel, whose warplanes have been training for long-range missions, has made similar threats.
But the allies appear to differ on when Iran, which denies seeking atomic arms, might get the S-300. The most sophisticated version of the system can track 100 targets at once and fire on planes 120 km (75 miles) away.
“Based on what I know, it’s highly unlikely that those air defence missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon,” U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said in a July 9 briefing when asked about the S-300 — also known in the West as the SA-20.
An Israeli defence official said Iran’s contract with Russia required that the S-300s be delivered by the end of 2008. A second source said first units would arrive in early September.
The official agreed with the assessments of independent experts that the S-300 would compound the challenges that Iran — whose nuclear sites are numerous, distant, and fortified — would already pose for any future air strike campaign by Israel.
TIME TO LEARN
Israel does not have strategic “stealth” bombers like the United States, though the Israeli air force is believed to have developed its own radar-evading and jamming technologies.
“There’s no doubt that the S-300s would make an air attack more difficult,” said the official, who declined to be named.
“But there’s an answer for every counter-measure, and as far as we’re concerned, the sooner the Iranians get the new system, the more time we will have to inspect the deployments and tactical doctrines. There’s a learning curve.”
Israel, which is assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, carried out a large-scale air force drill over the Mediterranean last month which was widely seen as a “dress rehearsal” for a possible raid on Iran. Some analysts also described it as a bid to pressure the West to step up sanctions.
The exercise involved overflying parts of Greece, which is among a handful of countries to have bought and deployed S-300s. But Greek media quoted Athens officials as saying that the system’s radars were “turned off” during the Israeli presence.
According to the Israeli official, it would take a year for Iran to deploy the S-300s and man them with trained operators.
Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, said: “The minimum work-up time to be comfortable with the system is six months, but more time is preferable.”
Hewson said the Iranian S-300 deal was being conducted via Belarus to afford discretion for Russia, which is already under Western scrutiny for helping Iran build a major atomic reactor.
“Belarus is the proxy route whenever Russia wants to deny it is doing the sale. But nothing happens along that route without Moscow saying so,” he said. (Additional reporting by David Morgan in Washington and Daniel Flynn in Athens; Editing by Catherine Evans)
Source: Reuters North American News Service
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