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U.S. Navy Monitors Russian Naval flotilla near South Florida coast

Nuclear submarine, missile frigate among vessels expected in Havana next week

The U.S. Navy has deployed warships and aircraft to monitor a Russian naval flotilla that sailed within 30 miles of South Florida’s coast on Tuesday, U.S. officials confirmed to McClatchy and the Miami Herald. This move follows Moscow's dispatch of three ships and a nuclear-powered submarine to the Caribbean last week for extensive military air and naval exercises, marking the first such maneuvers in at least five years.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the drills commenced on Tuesday in the Atlantic, featuring a hypersonic-capable frigate and a nuclear-capable submarine simulating an attack on a group of enemy ships. While it remains unclear if the frigate is equipped with hypersonic missiles, the U.S. intelligence community believes that none of the Russian vessels are carrying nuclear weapons.

Details of the visit and US response

The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces confirmed the arrival of the Russian vessels in a statement on Thursday. The statement identified the ships as the Admiral Gorshkov, a missile frigate; the Kazan, a nuclear-powered submarine; the Pashin, an oil tanker; and the Nikolai Chiker, a salvage tug. The Russian warships are expected to arrive on June 12th and remain in port for a week.

According to Cuban officials, the visit is part of the long-standing friendly relationship between the two countries and adheres to international law. They further emphasized that the presence of the Russian warships does not pose a security threat to the region, as none of the vessels carry nuclear weapons.

However, a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed disappointment with Cuba's decision to host the Russian ships. The official acknowledged that while the presence of a nuclear-powered submarine is notable, US intelligence assessments indicate it is not carrying nuclear weapons and does not pose a direct threat to US national security.

The official speculated that Cuba's approval of the port call might be partially motivated by a similar visit by a US nuclear submarine to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base last year, which reportedly angered the Cuban government. They further stated that such port calls are not uncommon for Russia and are often part of larger military exercises, which have intensified due to US support for Ukraine and exercises conducted with NATO allies.

Scenic ocean view with pier and lighthouse in the background.

Russian warships and potential military exercises

The arriving vessels are part of the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet and embarked on a long-distance voyage in mid-May. According to the Russian government news agency TASS, the stated purpose of the deployment is to "demonstrate the Russian flag and ensure naval presence in important areas of the distant oceanic zone."

Reports from TASS also indicate that the Admiral Gorshkov frigate recently engaged in an artillery fire exercise against an aerial target in the Atlantic Ocean. This particular ship is noteworthy as it was upgraded in 2018 to carry the hypersonic Zircon cruise missile, a new and advanced weapon system recently developed by Russia.

Another vessel of particular interest is the Kazan submarine, which joined the fleet in 2021. This submarine is reportedly capable of launching long-range precision missiles capable of striking targets on land, sea, and underwater.

While the Cuban government has made no mention of military exercises in their official statement, US officials suspect otherwise. A US official commented that they are "not surprised" by the possibility of military exercises considering Russia's history of conducting such activities in conjunction with port visits.

According to the US Naval Institute, Russian submarines have been visiting Cuban ports since 1969. Additionally, reports indicate sightings of unannounced Russian spy ships at the port of Havana on several occasions, including before the 2014 annexation of Crimea, the resumption of US-Cuba talks in 2015, and in March 2018. The most recent known visit by a Russian naval vessel was the training ship Perekop, which docked in Havana in July 2021.

The arrival of Russian warships in Cuba next week adds another layer of complexity to the already tense geopolitical climate. While the exact nature of the visit remains unclear, the potential for military exercises and the presence of advanced weaponry cannot be discounted.

The coming days will likely see further developments and clarifications from both Cuban and Russian officials. Stay informed with Calle Ocho News for the latest updates on this evolving situation. Sign up for our newsletter to receive breaking news alerts and in-depth analysis directly in your inbox. Are you a small business owner in Miami looking for a way to reach your target audience? Get in touch with us to discuss advertising options.

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