By Daniel Lastra / VOXXI
February 28th, 2014 – A Russian warship was found docked in Havana’s harbor this week, with no explanation or announcement by the Cuban government, leaving many to wonder if this is the start to build a Russian naval base in the island, a move reminiscent of the Cold War.
French news wire agency AFP reported the finding on the same day that Russia announced its plans to expand its military bases outside its borders in several foreign countries, including Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Sychelles on Wednesday.
RIA Novosti news agency reports that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the announcement saying Russia plans “to expand permanent military presence outside its borders by placing military bases in a number of foreign countries.”
The Viktor Leonov CCB-175, measuring 300 feet long was spotted docked at the port of Havana’s cruise ship area, near the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
The last vestige of Russian military installations after the Cold War in Cuba was a radar base they shut down in 2002 because of financial constraints. According to RIA, Moscow’s only naval base currently outside of the Soviet Union resides in Tartus, Syria, but the ongoing civil war in that country is making the fate of that base uncertain. Russia is on a campaign to expand its military presence worldwide to protect its interests.
Yesterday it was revealed that Russia also has its eye on developing a military or naval base in Nicaragua, and Costa Rica is not thrilled about the idea.
Unlike with other tours by Russian warships making a stop in Cuba, state media have not announced the ship’s visit or its purpose this time around, adding to the mystery surrounding the ship.
The AFP reports: “The Vishnya, or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, Russian media sources said.”
Cuba has been seen as one of the last outposts of communism in the Western hemisphere and has been considered instrumental in exporting its brand of communist-socialism to Venezuela under Chavista rule. With the rising tide of unrest in Venezuela more international attention has been placed on the two Latin American countries, while the stronger presence of Russia on the island could mean stronger economic and financial ties between the three.