Russia does not rule out military deployments in Cuba and Venezuela

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Russia on Thursday raised the stakes in its confrontation with the West over the Ukraine issue, after a prominent Kremlin diplomat warned that a Russian military deployment in Cuba and Venezuela cannot be ruled out if tensions with the United States rise.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation in Monday’s negotiations in Geneva, said in televised remarks on Thursday that he could neither confirm nor exclude the possibility of Russia establishing a military infrastructure in Cuba and Venezuela. Talks in Geneva and Wednesday’s meeting between Russia and NATO in Vienna failed to reduce discrepancies over Russian security demands, as Russia maintains troops mobilized near Ukraine.

In an interview with Russian television RTVI, Ryabkov reported that “it all depends on the actions of our American counterparts,” adding that President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia could take military-technical measures if the United States acts to provoke Russia and raise military pressure.

Ryabkov said the United States and NATO have rejected Moscow’s main claim: a guarantee that the alliance will not incorporate Ukraine and other former Soviet nations. He added that the great differences in the strategies of the two sides cast doubt on the continuity of the negotiations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reported “some positive elements and nuances” during the talks, although he noted that the talks “failed” due to sharp disagreements on key Moscow demands.

“The conversations were started to receive specific responses to specific major issues that were raised and disagreements remained on those major issues, which is bad,” he said in a teleconference with reporters.

Peskov warned of a complete breakdown of US-Russian relations if the proposed sanctions against President Putin and other top civilian and military leaders are adopted. The measures, proposed by US Senate Democrats, would also target Russia’s major financial institutions if Moscow sends troops to Ukraine.

Peskov criticized the proposals as an attempt to increase pressure on Moscow during the talks, saying it would not work.

“These are sanctions, which taking into account the inevitable adequate response, effectively amount to an initiative to break relations,” he warned. He added that Russia will respond in kind to protect its interests.

The talks come as an estimated 100,000 combat-ready Russian soldiers, tanks and heavy military equipment are gathering near Ukraine’s eastern border. The buildup has caused deep concerns in Kiev and the West that Moscow is preparing for an invasion. Russia denies that it is considering an invasion and, in turn, accuses the West of threatening its security by placing military personnel and equipment in Central and Eastern Europe.

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and supported a separatist insurgency in the east of the country, where more than seven years of fighting has killed more than 14,000 people.

A 2015 peace accord brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles, but frequent skirmishes continued and efforts to negotiate a political settlement failed.

Russia on Thursday raised the stakes in its confrontation with the West over the Ukraine issue, after a prominent Kremlin diplomat warned that a Russian military deployment in Cuba and Venezuela cannot be ruled out if tensions with the United States rise.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation in Monday’s negotiations in Geneva, said in televised remarks on Thursday that he could neither confirm nor exclude the possibility of Russia establishing a military infrastructure in Cuba and Venezuela. Talks in Geneva and Wednesday’s meeting between Russia and NATO in Vienna failed to reduce discrepancies over Russian security demands, as Russia maintains troops mobilized near Ukraine.

In an interview with Russian television RTVI, Ryabkov reported that “it all depends on the actions of our American counterparts,” adding that President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia could take military-technical measures if the United States acts to provoke Russia and raise military pressure.

Ryabkov said the United States and NATO have rejected Moscow’s main claim: a guarantee that the alliance will not incorporate Ukraine and other former Soviet nations. He added that the great differences in the strategies of the two sides cast doubt on the continuity of the negotiations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reported “some positive elements and nuances” during the talks, although he noted that the talks “failed” due to sharp disagreements on key Moscow demands.

“The conversations were started to receive specific responses to specific major issues that were raised and disagreements remained on those major issues, which is bad,” he said in a teleconference with reporters.

Peskov warned of a complete breakdown of US-Russian relations if the proposed sanctions against President Putin and other top civilian and military leaders are adopted. The measures, proposed by US Senate Democrats, would also target Russia’s major financial institutions if Moscow sends troops to Ukraine.

Peskov criticized the proposals as an attempt to increase pressure on Moscow during the talks, saying it would not work.

“These are sanctions, which taking into account the inevitable adequate response, effectively amount to an initiative to break relations,” he warned. He added that Russia will respond in kind to protect its interests.

The talks come as an estimated 100,000 combat-ready Russian soldiers, tanks and heavy military equipment are gathering near Ukraine’s eastern border. The buildup has caused deep concerns in Kiev and the West that Moscow is preparing for an invasion. Russia denies that it is considering an invasion and, in turn, accuses the West of threatening its security by placing military personnel and equipment in Central and Eastern Europe.

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and supported a separatist insurgency in the east of the country, where more than seven years of fighting has killed more than 14,000 people.

A 2015 peace accord brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles, but frequent skirmishes continued and efforts to negotiate a political settlement failed.

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