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Russia sends warships to Cuba for military exercises and experts see it as a show of force to the United States

"This is the Putin’s way of reminding Biden that Moscow can challenge Washington in its own sphere of influence," explained a professor at American University.

El submarino ruso de propulsión nuclear Kazán (L) y la fragata de clase Almirante Gorshkov, parte del destacamento naval ruso que visita Cuba, llegan al puerto de La Habana

(Adalberto Roque / AFP)

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This Wednesday, a fleet of Russian warships arrived in Havana Bay, located about 100 miles off the coast of Florida, to conduct military exercises in the Caribbean. This action has been interpreted as a show of force amid growing tensions with the United States over its support for Ukraine.

The fleet, consisting of the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, the tanker Pashin and the rescue tug Nikolai Chiker, arrived in Cuba carrying out a 21-gun salute, which was responded to from the battlements of La Cabaña, a fortress that once housed Che Guevara's office.

Although the reception was sparsely attended by locals, Russian diplomats and their families made their presence felt, waving Russian flags and chanting, "Russia! Russia!"

The arrival of the Russian warships was announced last week by Cuban officials, who stressed that it was a routine visit and assured that the Kazan would not carry nuclear weapons, so it did not represent a threat to the region. However, Havana's proximity to Key West, Florida, and the current geopolitical context suggest the visit has more profound implications.

William Leogrande, a professor at American University, commented on the situation: "The visiting Russian warships are Putin’s way of reminding Biden that Moscow can challenge Washington in its own sphere of influence."

Rebekah Koffler, a strategic intelligence analyst, explained that Putin is seeking to position himself close to the United States at a time of growing tensions with Ukraine following Biden's authorization for Ukraine to use long-range American weapons. " If something goes wrong and Ukraine strikes critical targets in Russia close to major cities, the Russian military can enable the Cubans to strike targets inside the U.S. or strike U.S. interests," Koffler added.

Benjamin Gedan, director of the Latin America program at the Wilson Center, also opined: “The warships are a reminder to Washington that it is unpleasant when an adversary meddles in your near abroad."

Military exercises in the Atlantic

Before their arrival in Cuba, the Kazan and the Gorshkov carried out missile exercises in the Atlantic, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The tests included the launch of precision missiles against targets more than 600 kilometers away, demonstrating the advanced capabilities of these vessels. The Kazan is considered one of the quietest submarines in the Russian navy, while the Gorshkov can carry Zircon hypersonic missiles, making them critical components of Russian naval strategy.