US Submarine Makes Routine Stop in Cuba As Russia Holds Drills

Aldgra Fredly
By Aldgra Fredly
June 14, 2024Americas
US Submarine Makes Routine Stop in Cuba As Russia Holds Drills
People visit Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov, docked in Havana's bay, Cuba, on June 13, 2024. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

A nuclear-powered U.S. submarine arrived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of what officials said was previously planned visit, a day after a fleet of Russian warships arrived at the island as part of their military drills in the region.

The USS Helena, a fast attack submarine, arrived at the naval base for “a routine port visit as it transits the U.S. Southern Command geographic area of responsibility,” the U.S. Southern Command said on X.

The Los Angeles-class submarine’s transit was “previously planned,” the military said.

The visit comes a day after Russia’s Admiral Gorshkov frigate, nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, fleet oil tanker Pashin, and rescue tugboat Nikolay Chiker, arrived at the port of Havana. The port is 95 nautical miles (109 miles) from the port of Key West, Florida, where the U.S. military operates a naval air station.

On the way to Cuba, the Russian ships conducted a “high-precision missile weapons” exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, simulating an attack on a mock enemy 600 kilometers (372 miles) away, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a June 12 statement on Telegram.

The U.S. Defense Department has downplayed the Russian warships’ visit to Cuba, and Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said it is consistent with “routine naval visits that we’ve seen under different administrations.”

“We’ve been tracking the Russians’ plans for this. This is not a surprise. We’ve seen them do these type of port calls before,” Ms. Singh said at a press briefing.

“We’re always, constantly going to monitor any foreign vessels operating near U.S. territorial waters. We of course take it seriously, but these exercises don’t pose a threat to the United States,” she added.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry has previously said the four Russian ships would not carry nuclear weapons during their visit to the Caribbean from June 12 to June 17.

The ministry said the Russian sailors will meet with Cuban government officials and visit places of “historical and cultural interest,” as well as undertaking other “activities.”

“None of the ships carry nuclear weapons, so their stopover in our country does not represent a threat to the region,” the ministry said in a June 6 statement.

Russia is a longtime ally of Venezuela and Cuba, and its warships and aircraft have periodically ventured into the Caribbean.

The mission comes less than two weeks after President Joe Biden authorized Ukraine to use U.S.-provided weapons to strike inside Russia to protect Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, prompting President Vladimir Putin to suggest his military could respond with similar measures elsewhere in the world.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, said on June 13 that there’s no reason for the United States and other countries to be concerned about the Russian warships in Cuba, as “such visits are a common practice,” according to state-run media outlet TASS.

Russian ships have occasionally docked in Havana since 2008, when a group of Russian vessels entered Cuban waters in what state media described as the first such visit in almost two decades.

In 2015, a reconnaissance and communications ship arrived unannounced in Havana a day before discussions between U.S. and Cuban officials on the reopening of diplomatic relations.

Jack Phillips and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times