Russia warns it will deploy troops to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the US escalate
Russia increased the stakes in its dispute with the West over Ukraine on Thursday, with a top diplomat suggesting a Russian military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela would not be ruled out if tensions with the US worsened.
In televised remarks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who headed the Russian team in Monday’s discussions with the US in Geneva, said he would neither confirm nor dismiss the idea of Russia sending military assets to Cuba and Venezuela.
The Geneva talks and the NATO-Russia conference in Vienna on Wednesday failed to reduce the gap on Moscow’s security demands amid the deployment of Russian forces near Ukraine.
While Moscow sought a halt to NATO expansion, Washington and its allies flatly refused, calling it a non-starter.
In an interview with Russian RTVI TV, Ryabkov stated that “it all relies on the conduct of our US colleagues,” adding that President Vladimir Putin has warned that if the US provokes Moscow and increases military pressure on it, Russia may take military-technical actions.
The failure of the US and its partners to address the fundamental Russian demand for safeguards against the alliance’s extension to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics, according to Ryabkov, casts doubt on the discussions’ continuation.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said the discussions had “some good components and subtleties,” but were “unsuccessful” due to sharp disagreements on Russia’s key demands.
“The talks were launched to obtain precise answers to concrete primary concerns that were addressed, yet disputes remained on those basic issues, which is terrible,” he stated during a press conference.
If planned penalties targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior civilian and military figures are enacted, Peskov has warned that US-Russian relations will be completely shattered.
Senate Democrats proposed legislation that would also target key Russian financial institutions if Moscow deploys soldiers into Ukraine.
Peskov dismissed the ideas as a ploy to increase pressure on Moscow during the discussions, arguing that it would fail.
“It concerns sanctions, which taking into account the inevitable adequate response, effectively amount to an initiative to rupture relations,” he said, adding that Russia will retaliate in kind to preserve its interests.
The negotiations are taking place as an estimated 100,000 combat-ready Russian troops, tanks, and heavy military equipment gather near Ukraine’s eastern border.
The buildup has fueled fears in Kyiv and the West that Moscow is ready for an invasion.
Russia denies considering an invasion, accusing the West of endangering its security by stationing military personnel and equipment in Central and Eastern Europe.
Peskov rejected the West’s plea for Russia to help deescalate tensions by withdrawing soldiers from areas bordering Ukraine, stressing that Russia is allowed to relocate troops anywhere it sees fit on its own territory.
“It’s impossible for NATO to tell us where we should relocate our troops on Russian soil,” he added.
Peskov emphasized that Russia is willing to continue the negotiations as long as they achieve results. “There will be no shortage of political will to continue the talks,” he added.
Tensions over Ukraine and Russia’s demands on the West resurfaced during the Organization for Security and Cooperation summit in Vienna on Thursday.
In his inaugural address as OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau stated that “the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years.”
“For several weeks, we have been faced with the possibility of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe,” he continued. “We have recently heard a demand for security guarantees related to an important part of the OSCE area and the renewed discourse about spheres of influence. All these aspects require a serious international assessment and a proper reaction.”
Rau emphasized the need to “focus on a peaceful resolution of a conflict in and around Ukraine … in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
After the fall of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly leader in 2014, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula and backed a separatist insurgency in the country’s east, which has killed over 14,000 people in more than seven years of war.
A 2015, peace pact backed by France and Germany helped bring large-scale warfare to a halt, but periodic skirmishes have continued, and efforts to reach a political settlement have failed.