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Russia's latest naval mission is a flex to cover for its embarrassing losses in the Black Sea, US official says

Thibault Spirlet   

Russia's latest naval mission is a flex to cover for its embarrassing losses in the Black Sea, US official says
  • Russia is sending four warships to Havana, Cuba announced this week.
  • A US official says it's part of efforts to show Putin's navy is still a global power, per Reuters.

Russia sending warships to Cuba next week is an attempt to show its navy is still a global power after losses in the Black Sea, an unnamed US official told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

On Thursday, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Russia was deploying four warships to Cuba, including a nuclear-powered submarine, with the vessels expected to be in Havana between June 12 and 17.

The visit of the ships, none of which will carry nuclear missiles, does not represent a threat to the region, the Cuban statement read, but was instead part of the historically cordial relations between the two countries.

But according to the US official, the deployment is an effort by Russia's navy to flex its muscles on the world stage, after suffering losses in the Black Sea.

"This is about Russia showing that it's still capable of some level of global power projection," they said, per Reuters.

Russia's navy has suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks in the Black Sea, where Ukraine claims to have destroyed a third of its fleet.

Ukraine has used drones, missiles, and other weaponry to take out many Russian warships, and has forced its fleet to seek safer ports further away from Crimea.

In March, the UK's defense ministry declared Russia's Black Sea Fleet "functionally inactive" after Ukraine claimed to have struck another two of its vessels.

"Russia has sailed the Black Sea since 1783 but is now forced to constrain its fleet to port," UK Defence Minister Grant Shapps wrote. "And even there Putin's ships are sinking!"

This week, it was reported that Ukraine was using its exploding naval drones to go after smaller Russian vessels after Moscow pulled back its larger warships to reduce their vulnerability to attacks.

Russia also shuffled its naval leadership earlier this year.

According to the unnamed US official, while the US expects "heightened" Russian naval and air activity this summer, and more going forward, deployments like those to Cuba incur costs for the Russian navy, which is "struggling to maintain readiness and conduct deployments with an aged fleet."

Not everyone agreed on Russia's motive.

In a military assessment on Thursday, the Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War said it was likely part of an effort to bring back memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and dissuade the US from offering further support to Ukraine.

The deployment also comes after Putin threatened to send long-range weapons to "regions around the world" that want to strike Western targets.

Meanwhile, Russia's Ministry of Defence said its goal was to keep a Russian naval presence in operationally important areas of the "far ocean zone," RBC-Russia reported.


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