Home » Sea » Polmar's Perspective » Potential Russian Launch Base in Cuba

Potential Russian Launch Base in Cuba

by Ward Carroll on September 30, 2008

cuban-missile-crisis.jpg

Even as a Russian naval task force enters the Caribbean for joint exercises with Venezuelan forces, and a pair of Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers fly from a base in the Kola Peninsula to Venezuela, the Russian government is discussing the possibility of a satellite launch facility in Cuba.

Revelation of the interest in Cuba came from Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, in a September statement. This may be the latest move by Russian prime minister (and former president) Vladimir Putin to reestablish Russia as a key “player” on the world political-military scene.

The Russian interest in the Caribbean-South America region is reflected in the high-level Russian delegation visiting the area, led by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. Perminov is part of the Sechin delegation.

(Sechin had visited Cuba on 30–31 July of this year for talks with Raul Castro and, possibly, the ailing Fidel Castro.Putin followed up Sechin’s visit with a 5 August announcement that Russia should “restore [its] position in Cuba and other countries.”)

The Soviet Union-Russia was the principal political and economic supporter of Cuba from the early 1960s through the demise of the USSR in December 1991. Indeed, Soviet attempts to establish Cuba as a strategic missile and military base led to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 when the United States and Soviet union came closer to a nuclear exchange than at any other time during the 45-year Cold War. After the demise of the USSR support for Cuba ended, causing considerable economic hardship in Cuba.

A major satellite launch facility in Cuba would permit placing satellites in certain orbits that cannot be done from Russian launch sites: Easterly launches close to the equator are the most efficient because of the earth’s rotation, maximizing the payload that a launch vehicle can boost into orbit. Such a launch facility and its support infrastructure would be a major source of employment and foreign investment for the Cuban economy.

From the Russian perspective, beyond the political impact of having a major technical facility less than 100 miles from the U.S. coast, it easily enables the reestablishment of a major intelligence collection capability in Cuba. (From the mid-1960s until 2002 the Soviet military intelligence agency — the GRU — operated a massive collection facility at Lourdes, Cuba. At its peak operation it was manned by more than 2,000 technicians, both military and civilian.)

Russia’s interest in the Western Hemisphere far exceeds Cuba and Venezuela, as the Moscow regime seeks to sell arms to other South American countries, gain access to South American resources (which is now subject to major Chinese efforts), and to develop improved commercial ties to an area that many feel has long been ignored by the United States.

While some Americans will see a satellite launch facility in Cuba as a “cover” for the possible use of such launch stands for military missiles, that concern is a non-starter. U.S. satellite surveillance and the presence of numerous American technicians and businessmen in Cuba, as well as visiting educational groups, would make such a clandestine effort impossible.

Further, because of the non-military nature of such a facility — which would take several years to establish — the U.S. government would be hard pressed to claim that it violated the 1962 agreements between Moscow and Washington that prohibited strategic weapons — missiles and bombers — from being installed in Cuba.

As the Russian government reacts to American anger over Russian intervention in Georgia, the continuing expansion of NATO, and U.S. plans to install ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, a non-military satellite launch installation in Cuba could be considered a valid action by the Moscow regime. Of more concern to American leaders should be the arms sales to Venezuela, especially the expected sale of up to five advanced diesel-electric submarines of the Project 877EKM or Varshavyanka series, known in the West as the improved Kilo class.

These submarines and other arms sales — and joint Russian-indigenous weapon programs — will enhance Russia’s influence and access to resources in South America. And that situation could greatly harm U.S. interests.

Norman Polmar

Share |

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

David September 30, 2008 at 11:57 am

It seems like now we could negotiate an agreement with Russia to say out of their backyard if they stay out of ours. We would have to give up stationing troops and missile defense in countries bordering them and they would give up all the efforts they are doing in the Caribbean and central/south America. It would be a small price to pay for not having Russian troops on our borders. I expected something like this to happen after the whole Georgia business and our involvement in the Ukraine. We ought to trade with those nations but hold back any military support.

Reply

mwfair September 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

Kourou is being configured to launch Soyuz rockets. Why would the Russians want Cuba? For one, there are lots of inhabitants downrange, not a good feature for a launch site.

Reply

SMSgt Mac September 30, 2008 at 2:09 pm

RE: “It seems like now we could negotiate an agreement with Russia to say out of their backyard if they stay out of ours. We would have to give up stationing troops and missile defense in countries bordering them and they would give up all the efforts they are doing in the Caribbean and central/south America. It would be a small price to pay for not having Russian troops on our borders.”
Obviously not written by someone channeling JFK. Chamberlin perhaps, but definitely NOT JFK.
Sorry, but that comment gives me the Willies.

Reply

stephen russell September 30, 2008 at 8:25 pm

Relive 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis but hide behind “satellite” launches.
Yea, right.
Is Russia that stupid or what.
Great spaceport Cuba is.
But for satellites & why Now vs in the 70s esp under Carter make moves for this Then vs Now.
Odd timing.
Remember Cuba Oct 1962

Reply

Yibin October 1, 2008 at 5:32 am

Space launch facility doesn’t make much sense. Venezuela is closer to the equator and less likely to be in the path of major hurricanes.

Reply

JJ October 1, 2008 at 8:16 am

Well, David, if “tit for tat” is the rule, does the Russian invasion of Georgia mean we get to invade Cuba or Venezuela whenever we want?

Reply

Dave October 1, 2008 at 8:18 am

Now would be the perfect timing for this incursion into not only Cuba and Venezuela, but also into Central America. We (in our vast stupidity) are too wrapped up in our own problems (economy, energy, war, politics etc.) to properly address this danger.

Reply

Fallout October 1, 2008 at 8:34 am

It’s a counter move by Russia and our missle defense. The only thing is. I dont care for a dieing man/commy to have a missle!

Reply

tommy October 1, 2008 at 8:59 am

this is what bigotry gets us, we don’t like the very people we stole their land from so we don’t deal with them, well ladies, the russians will be happy to deal with the people we so hate and call them iilegals, evevn thou they were here before us. stupid asses.

Reply

tommy smith October 1, 2008 at 9:09 am

weep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reply

Adam West October 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

I hope I’m wrong but I believe we are becoming an imperialistic government by invading countries that were of no threat to this great nation. We’ve gone into Panama, Granada, Iraq, and now we have Africom and the majority of the Africans do not want any military ties to the US because they believe more problems will exists. Africa is the richest continent on earth with the highest population of poor people. They fear the US is after their resources and further to use the Africans as slave labor.
The US Govt wants ties with the Ukraine, however the majority of the people in that country want no part of it as they do not want US military in their country. Ukraine people have much closer ties with the Russians than their current government.
In my opinion, Russia has the same rights as our great nation and that is to protect its sovereignity. We want missiles in Poland and we believe it’s fine while Russia wants to move closer to US borders but we don’t agree!

Reply

Virgil Mathis October 1, 2008 at 1:14 pm

with the banking issues of the United States and social problems of the united states, and the Presidential election process of the united states and with our Military spread around the world as thin as it is I THINK we as Americans may be sitting on a (powder key)meaning that other so called enemy countrys are waiting to find the weak pointin American History to Launch an Attack,
As being a vietnam veteran ,I would keep an eye on Russia in south America and what they may be up to close to the USA SIMILAR to the Cuban situation when president Kennedy was in office and use of an early warning systems for a Missiles defence launch May not be fast enough TO secure our country.
And our Military forces are spread out to thin as other conflicts around the world that draws more troops , I Think this weak posture need to be Reengineered and start the Draft to Beef up the Military ,starting with all of those young men that we see ,who walk with their pants hanging off of their Ass,
We load them up and make MARINES and Soldiers out of them calling them the (BUTT Platoon )Special Forces If you are caught wearing your pants where your under draws are showing the new public law Allow you to be sent to the military BASE for the BUTT PLATOON Special Forces.
this solves a National problem, But I Mean it

Reply

Pete October 1, 2008 at 2:22 pm

This is ‘tit for tat’ we negotiate with Poland and such to put up the missile defence system right on the Russian borders, well, they do the same under the guise of a satellite launch facility.. and there was one person who commented that our ‘satellite monitoring’ would or could rule out any hidden facility. You are so wrong, the module assembly building for the Energia system and missiles powered by the same was NEVER found until two years ago an Aviation Week and Space Technology editor was given a tour of the facility by the Soviets….guess where it is? Right under the city of Moscow…that is how good our spies etc were …we couldnt even find where they assembled what today is the largest launch payload lifter in the world…

Reply

buddy October 1, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Jack Powers: You are a FIRST class HEAD CASE.That’s Why are you so filled with FEAR.

Reply

DC2 Jennings October 2, 2008 at 6:07 am

Why do people always bring left/right politics into these discussions? What’s worse is their grammar and spelling clearly indicate their ignorance and intelligence levels.
The Russians want to put a space launch facility in Cuba? Great. Who really cares? I think they learned from the Cuban Missile Crisis what they should not put on that country’s soil. Besides, that will give us an excuse to put a new early warning radar in the Keys.
I do agree with most of the commentary focusing on what a creek we are in right now and our paddle might not be broken but it is definitely cracked.
On a different note, I wonder where we will be borrowing that $800B from? Hmmm, China and rich middle eastern princes is presume. But we should fear for our lives that Russia is building a space launch facility. Yep, that’s concern number one.
DC2

Reply

Nathan Sawyer October 2, 2008 at 11:19 am

OOPS! Entered wrong email address (isaw1@yahoo.com should have been isaw169@yahoo.com on last posting. Sorry about that.
Thanks
Nathan Sawyer

Reply

MOM October 2, 2008 at 11:30 am

Let us consider FIRST ,AT THE VERY BEGINING,
why Cuba have never been considered in the plan of dismounting of eastern Europe packige countres
well known as Berlin wall.Think about that my friends,………

Reply

NSawyer October 2, 2008 at 11:49 am

First: I enlisted in the US Air Force. This posting corrects the second signature block below posting entitled: “My Friends and Neighbors throughout the USA”.
The second signature block of that posting was added by someone else and is incorrect and was not meant to be part of the original posting. To set the record straight, that block is corrected to read:
Nathan Sawyer, Vietnam Vet

Reply

Ptsfp October 2, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Russia is just “retaliating” for the US involvement in Georgia. They are trying to once again make Cuba a thorn in our side. They are also just stirring up Latin America.
They, like the Germans in World War 2, are trying to make bases of support in Latin America. It’s a strategic move.
I just think that it is funny that we are currently watching a hijacked Ukrainian ship loaded with t-72 tanks for Russia and holding it so they can get a strike team in position. See, the love affair can’t be completely over…

Reply

Jimbo Jones October 2, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Well that discussion went well i see. All we need now is Roy Smith to top it off with incoherent rambling.

Reply

DC2 Jennings October 2, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Jimbo, couldn’t have said it better myself.
DC2

Reply

Greg October 3, 2008 at 8:25 am

What in the world does Obama have to do with Cuba? Why are you mixing politics with a Russian space launch station. What are you rambling about, and why in this thread?

Reply

rigma October 5, 2008 at 8:44 pm

This proves Russia’s involvement with Iran!
And Russia wants to us down again…

Reply

angel October 23, 2008 at 1:18 am
Mike December 17, 2008 at 9:22 pm

I think we should Position a sub or two in close range of there ship and let them know intimidation of any kind will not be ACCEPTED BY THE WORLDS LEADING NATION. GET REAL AND GROW A SACK….MIKE

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: