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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 41, November 1999

Speculation over Russian Plans to Fly Nuclear Bombers to Cuba and Viet Nam

In early November, the Russian military weekly newspaper Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye reported that the Russian Air Force was planning to send nuclear-capable Tu-160 Blackjack bombers on flight missions to Cuba and Viet Nam beginning next year. The paper quoted the chief of Russia's long-range aviation forces, Mikhail Oparin, as stating that the missions would cause great surprise in NATO. The paper stated: "According to [Oparin], in 2000 it is planned to carry out a flight to the air base at Cam Ranh in Viet Nam, and also fly to Cuba..." However, on November 12, Air Force spokesperson Colonel Nikolai Baranov would only comment, to the Reuters news agency: "If the Government considers it essential to do this, the military will do it. If they give us the money we will fly, if not we won't fly... Such a possibility does not yet exist because the money is not there." The same day, US State Department spokesperson James Rubin commented: "We're obviously going to monitor this situation closely and talk to Russia about it." The following day, the provisional nature of any plans appeared to be confirmed when Cuba's Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, said that the Russian newspaper story was "really the first time I have heard anything like this." Roque added: "It's a matter of such importance that it would have to be analyzed, of course."

Reports: Russia may fly nuclear bombers to Cuba, Reuters, November 12; New US-Russia Cuban crisis unlikely - experts, Reuters, November 12; Cuba surprised by Russian bomber flight plan, Reuters, November 13.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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