A Russian Nuclear Submarine and Frigate Are Near the Coast of Cuba. The U.S. Is Sending in Drones—Just in Case

The arrival of powerful Russian naval assets with missile capabilities in Cuban waters offers several interpretations.

Russian nuclear submarine and frigate are off Cuba. Just in case, the U.S. is bringing in drones
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On Wednesday, a somewhat unusual fleet arrived off the coast of Havana: a frigate and a nuclear-powered submarine, along with two other ships, all from the Russian Navy, docked for a five-day visit. After the initial surprise, questions soon followed.

A Russian “invasion” in Havana. It’s no secret that Russia is in the eye of the hurricane of several geopolitical controversies. Just this week, it was revealed that the country is facing a $32 billion bill for the carbon emissions its spewed in its war with Ukraine. Questions have also been raised about the possible evasion of sanctions in the war using U.S. chips for its armament. And a few weeks ago, the planet was once again made to feel uneasy when Russia announced that it had found an unusual oil and gas reserve in Argentine Antarctica.

Under these circumstances, Russia stranding part of its naval fleet in Havana Bay was unusual. Nevertheless, the Kremlin quickly sent out a peace message, arguing that this was a common practice “for all states, including a naval power as large as Russia. So we see no cause for concern in this case.”

Gorshkov frigate. The Gorshkov frigate.

Nuclear submarine. In this case, a Kazan of the Severodvinsk class is in Havana Bay. The model, which began its service in 2021, is a very hard-to-detect submarine that combines stealth with great striking power and can fire Yasen-M class guided missiles with a range of 1,000 nautical miles.

Gorshkov Frigate. This model is the latest generation of the Russian Navy. The frigate entered service in 2018 and has participated in multinational maneuvers and training exercises, including the launch of Tsirkon hypersonic missiles in 2023. These weapons, which the Kremlin claims are unbeatable, are relatively new to Moscow’s arsenal.

Responses from Cuba and the U.S. The Cuban Foreign Ministry issued an institutional statement stating that the ships posed no threat. For its part, the Pentagon limited itself to saying that it was monitoring the situation but didn’t see any danger from the warships.

“I think what’s important here is that what Russia is doing in these exercises [doesn't] pose a threat to the United States, but of course we’re going to continue to monitor,” Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said.

Kazan submarine The Kazan submarine.

Still, the U.S. moved closer. Interestingly, the U.S. brought the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Helena close enough to sail to Guantanamo Bay, some 500 miles away from the Russian ships. The government quickly issued a statement explaining that the submarine was there for a routine port visit. According to CBS, the Navy also moved naval drones closer.

Russia's reason. That’s the big question beyond the typical protocol statements. Moscow’s Defense Ministry has said that its crews were “practicing the use of high-precision missiles by computer simulation against naval targets.”

In any case, it isn’t just a “visit.” Some interpret it as a show of force amid Moscow’s tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine. Let us remember that Havana is 90 miles from Florida. Geopolitically, the visit also suggests an important symbol of support for the communist government of Cuba and its ally, Venezuela, a country the warships could sail to next after leaving Havana Bay.

Peace in Ukraine? Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin has set his conditions for peace with Ukraine before the Switzerland summit. According to the Putin, Moscow will declare a ceasefire if Kyiv retreats from the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia regions and renounces its bid to join NATO.

The Russian president added that if Kyiv rejected his proposal, “the conditions for negotiations will be different,” he said.

He didn't have to wait long. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky soundly rejected the proposal on Friday.

Image | Ministry of Defense of Russia

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