How Cuba Became A Launch Pad For Russian Spying On America

Here’s What You Need To Remember: The Soviet Navy dispatched 756 Bear patrols from the Cuban base before it was finally shut down in 1989 as the Soviet empire began dissolving. The Tu-95 flights had gathered useful intelligence and generated military pressure on the U.S.’ Atlantic coastline. However, Moscow could no longer afford the economic assistance needed to maintain the distant Cuban base.

On December 10, 2018, two Russian Tu-160 supersonic bombers with huge condor-like swing-wings swooped down to land at Simón Bolívar International Airport in Caracas, Venezuela. Over the next few days the huge, pointy-nosed bombers flew two ten-hour patrols over the Caribbean, at times escorted by Venezuelan F-16 and Su-30MK2 multirole jets, then flew back to Russia on Dec. 14. Russian media reported that Moscow and Caracas were discussing opening a permanent base on La Orchila island, expanding on facilities already present.

As discussed in this article by Michael Peck, the expense and escalatory political risks for the parties involved make such a move far from assured. In fact, the provocation itself may be more valuable than actually building such a bomber base.

Both Russia and the United States already routinely deploy bombers and spy planes on patrols skirting each other’s airspace for both political and military reasons. For example, Blackjack bombers had previously visited Caracas in 2008 and 2013, on the latter occasion conveying Moscow’s defiance of criticism of the Russo-Georgian War. In 2008-09, the Russian military also loudly aired the idea of basing nuclear bombers in Cuba or Venezuela.

However, the presence of Russian bombers in the Caribbean has a nearly fifty-year-old precedent, as detailed in this article by Ruben Urribarres and later expanded upon in a blog by Miguel Vargas-Caba.

While building up the Soviet garrison that would trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Moscow struggled to find a means to quickly transport high-ranking personnel to the island nation. Its long-range Tu-114 airliners, a civilian version of the Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bomber, needed to layover in Africa, but Washington pressured the governments of Guinea, Senegal and Algeria to deny access to the Tu-114s after only a handful of flights.

Thus Soviet engineers modified three special Tu-114D planes by swapping out 60 percent of the seating for fifteen extra fuel tanks, boosting range for an eighteen-hour-long Moscow-Havana connection, with a layover in Murmansk. The trans-Atlantic flights crossing were difficult: headwinds from the Jetstream could reach nearly 200 miles per hour, adding hours of flight time and gas consumption.

Though Moscow agreed to withdraw nuclear-armed forces from Cuba, the island remained an important Soviet sally on the doorstep of its chief international adversary. Between May 18 and 21, 1970 three pairs of Tu-95s of the 392nd Long-Range Reconnaissance Regiment flew from the Arctic Kola peninsula down to San Antonio airport near Havana. They accompanied a Soviet Navy task force dispatched to the Caribbean to retaliate against increased U.S. Navy patrols.

For the next eleven years, Tu-95RTs or (Bear-D) regularly flew thirty to forty patrols from Cuba a year across the Eastern Seaboard, shadowing the movements of U.S. carriers. Over that time one Bear vanished without a trace in transit, and another experienced a non-fatal landing accident.

The Tu-95RT was a “reconnaissance-targeting” variant of the iconic Bear bomber, a long-range four-engine beast propelled to up to 575 miles per hour by four epically noisy turboprops, each with two contra-rotating propellers spinning faster than the speed of sound. Though the RT model did not carry bombs or missiles, it was far from harmless: it was specifically designed to guide submarine-launched P-6 missiles to annihilate U.S. aircraft carriers with 350 kiloton nuclear warheads.

The supersonic P-6 cruise missile (codenamed SS-N-3a Shaddock by NATO) was mounted on the Juliet and Echo II-class diesel-electric submarines and could theoretically strike ships up to 310 miles away. However, the submarines’ radar couldn’t actually see targets that far away, and approaching close enough to a well-escorted U.S. carrier group while surfaced to provide radar-guidance was a risky business.

Here the Tu-95RT stepped in, using its belly-mounted “Success” radar to track the position of U.S. carriers, then using the data link in its distinguishing bulbous “chin” pod to remotely guide the missiles, or transmit course corrections back to the submarine using the Arfa relay on its tail. Only in the terminal approach would the P-6’s radar activate to home in for a kill.

Urribarres’ article implies the P-6 could also have been used to deliver nuclear strikes on inland North American targets. However, most sources state the P-6 was not designed with land-attack capabilities.

Nonetheless, the Tu-95s were routinely intercepted by U.S. F-4 Phantom and F-15 Fighters, and Canadian CF-101 Voodoos armed with Genie nuclear-tipped rockets. However, the Bear crews and their NATO escorts typically just took photographs of each other over international airspace. Cuba-based Tu-95s did occasionally intrude into American airspace, though, eliciting diplomatic complaints, and in one 1980-incident, an escort of F-15s had to lead away a Bear close to Langley Air Force base in Virginia.

Urribarres claims that the NATO interceptors performed dangerous, harassing maneuvers while shadowing the Soviet patrol planes. However, in exchanges published by the Aviationist, Robert Sihler, back-seat weapons-systems officers of an Iceland-based F-4, gives the impression that the routine intercepts were not so hostile.

“At that time, we probably averaged two intercepts of “Bears” per week…Generally, the intercepts occurred on Fridays and Sundays, at the “Bears” flew from Murmansk to Cuba on training and, we guessed, “fun” missions. Generally, we did these barrel rolls at the request of the Soviet crewmembers. They gave us hand signals to let us know they wanted us to do it. They photographed us as well. The Cold War was winding down and the attitudes on both sides had improved,” Sihler explains.

You can see a remarkable photo of an upside-down F-4C barrel-rolling around the Tu-95 in that article.

In 1973 the Cuban Revolutionary Air Force also dispatched MiG-21F fighters to intercept Bears executing a mock raid on Cuba at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The Bears were standing in as proxies for high-flying U-2 spy planes. The FAR found that its MiGs were able to make the intercept only by using fuel-gulping afterburners.

In November 1981, Moscow decided to permanently base up to twelve Tu-95RTs at San Antonio and even began building facilities to repair the bomber’s fan blades. Predictably, the Bear’s “Oriental Express” deployment to the Caribbean was popular with Bear crews and mechanics, who could enjoy a break from deployment in the Arctic circle residing in full-service hotel rooms in Havana.

In March 1983, the Tu-95s were joined by Tu-142M Bear-F patrol plane variants with a very different mission: tracking the position of U.S. submarines by lacing dozens of sonar buoys across the Caribbean. According to Urribarres, Tu-142s detected six submarines on their first ten flights alone. Later, the Bear-Fs combed the southern Atlantic Ocean, shuttling back and forth to a base in Luanda, Angola. Presumably, the Tu-142s were armed with anti-submarine torpedoes.

The Soviet Navy dispatched 756 Bear patrols from the Cuban base before it was finally shut down in 1989 as the Soviet empire began dissolving. The Tu-95 flights had gathered useful intelligence and generated military pressure on the U.S.’ Atlantic coastline. However, Moscow could no longer afford the economic assistance needed to maintain the distant Cuban base.

That calculus would need to change for Russian bombers to permanently return to the Caribbean in the present day.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in January 2019.

Cuba declares coronavirus pandemic ‘under control’

Havana (AFP) – Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has declared the coronavirus pandemic “under control” after the island nation registered an eighth straight day without a death from COVID-19.

It paves the way for an announcement next week on Cuba’s strategy to gradually lift its lockdown.

The country of 11.2 million has recorded just under 2,200 cases and 83 deaths from the virus.

With 1,862 people having recovered, Cuba has only 244 active cases.

However, Diaz-Canel said the country could not become complacent given a spate of new infections since May 28.

“This was a week in which the number of active cases and the number of daily cases increased in comparison to the previous weeks in which, as already announced, we were at the tail end of this epidemic,” he said on Saturday.

“We need to keep focusing on how we’re going to eliminate the residues that remain, especially those associated with the incompetence or poor functioning of any institution, which give rise to events that can provoke a rebound,” he added.

In any case, next week “we will be able to inform the people about how we will approach this phase and when we can do so.”

Schools and borders remain closed, public transport has been suspended and the wearing of masks in public is mandatory.

But with an economy largely dependent on tourism and external trade, and crippled by a six decades-long US embargo, Cuba can ill afford to remain in lockdown for much longer.

Lockdown has worsened the social situation for millions of Cubans in a country that was already suffering from food and fuel shortages.

Your Silence Isn’t Enough, Violance does not justify violance

If you’ve followed the news in recent weeks, you’ll have noticed that the Left’s social-justice brigades have not cooled in their passion for banishing speech with which they disagree. But these days have also revealed a more dangerous tactic: conscripting speech by means of social pressure. Instead of enforcing strict silence, progressives aim to craft a public square in which we are all obliged to echo their views.

It is abundantly clear that social-justice activists — and, increasingly, mainstream left-wing Americans — do not intend to relent in wielding the cultural power of rage mobs to erase all trace of contrary opinions. Consider three examples from the last week alone.

The New York Times published an op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton, arguing that the president should invoke the Insurrection Act, sending federal troops to help restore order across the country. In response, reporters and editors at the Times took to Twitter to insist that the paper must “retract” Cotton’s op-ed as it “puts Black New York Times staff in danger.”

Failing to offer an iota of evidence that the article contained substantial errors, they and other journalists asserted en masse that Cotton’s argument causes literal danger, leveraging their social power to insist that the Times is morally obligated to rectify the mistake of having published it. It worked.

By nightfall on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Times had faulted the paper for inadequately fact-checking the op-ed — without identifying a factual error — and promised, in essence, that nothing of the sort would happen again. Eventually, a lengthy editor’s note was appended to the piece, saying, among other things, that it shouldn’t have been published at all.

Earlier last week, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees offered his opinion that he would never support kneeling during the National Anthem, suggesting that to do so is “disrespectful.” Within a day, Brees had knelt before the livid masses, offering not one but two obsequious apologies for having voiced this supposedly insensitive view.

Finally, on Thursday, a progressive writer at Vox was bullied by his peers on the Left into deleting tweets that acknowledged he had been wrong to think campus silencing tactics would stay confined to the campus. The irony was breathtaking to behold.

Over the course of the same few hours, one of his colleagues at Vox was shamed into apologizing for having uttered the heretical view that perhaps rushing to defund or abolish the police — as activists are now demanding — might not be the most prudent course of action.

As Andrew Sullivan has pointed out, restrictive speech taboos that were once confined to college campuses have reached the professional ranks. We are witnessing the “woke” brigades, trained in shutting down speech on college campuses, grown up and working alongside us in the real world, striving to cancel any of us who would dare offend their delicate sensibilities. A quip from our own Michael Brendan Dougherty aptly summarizes their absurd position: “Opeds are violence, acts of arson are opeds.”

But the Left’s view of speech is growing more insidious even than that. As the current social unrest has unfolded, vast numbers of Americans have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the unjust killing of George Floyd — a laudable choice, if a bit surprising in light of the global pandemic — or to engage in vandalism, looting, and arson. Many more have taken to social media to promote Black Lives Matter and fundraise for bail funds to release rioters from jail. Almost uniformly, these culture warriors have begun parroting the troubling notion that “silence is complicity,” demanding that we all vocally sign on to their agenda.

According to this view, if you fail to use your platform to speak out about the progressive issue du jour, you are guilty of perpetrating injustice against the oppressed. It is our civic responsibility and obligation to “educate ourselves” — by which they mean accepting and memorizing the prevailing progressive dogma — and then to repeat what we’ve learned, faithful comrades in their holy war.

On one hand, then, progressives work to ensure that contrary beliefs are disallowed in polite discourse. On the other, they insist that we are compelled by the demands of justice to speak publicly about every social-justice issue. If we articulate a view that challenges the progressive creed, they will drum us out of polite company. If we do not speak at all, we are guilty of sinning by omission.

What are we to make of these two contrasting tactics?

The only way to reconcile them is in an insidious belief: that each and every one of us must speak — so as not to be complicit in evil — but only to utter the words that the progressive movement puts in our mouths. The result is ideological servitude, a society in which a culturally powerful, tyrannical minority owns the voice of every person willing to go along.


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Joe Biden to meet with George Floyd’s family in Houston


Joe Biden is expected to travel to Houston on Monday to have a private meeting with the family of George Floyd whose death while in police custody has sparked protests against police brutality across the country and around the world, according to a report.

The former vice president opted for a private meeting because he doesn’t want his Secret Service protection detail to disrupt the family’s funeral service and because he wants to pay his respects in private, CBS News reported on Sunday.

Biden will record a video message for the funeral service, his spokesman told the outlet.


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Protests in the US for Floyd’s murder cause shock


Thousands of people protest against racism in SpainMadrid, Jun 7 (Prensa Latina) Thousands of people took to the streets of Spain’s main cities on Saturday to protest against racism, following the Afro-American George Floyd’s murder in the US, on May 25.

Floyd’s death, suffocated by a white police officer having pressed his knee to the victim’s neck in Minneapolis, stirred the United States and unleashed a wave of outrage across the world.

In Madrid, protesters gathered in front of the US embassy and then walked down the central Serrano street with banners such as ‘For peace and diversity,’ ‘Discrimination to exploit more’ or ‘Silence is also oppression.’

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government authorized a 200-people mobilization but the call of the Black African and Afro-descendant Community in Spain (CNAAE) exceeded expectations as happened in other European cities.

Despite the fact that the arrangers asked to keep the safety distance due to the likely spread of the novel coronavirus, the huge crowd thwarted so in the massive demonstration and later in the march.

‘No person is illegal,’ ‘Papers for all,’ ‘Racists in our neighborhoods out,’ ‘Donald Trump is a criminal’ or ‘Enough of police violence’ were some of the slogans chanted by protesters during the journey through downtown Madrid.


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Thousands of people protest against racism in Spain


Thousands of people protest against racism in SpainMadrid, Jun 7 (Prensa Latina) Thousands of people took to the streets of Spain’s main cities on Saturday to protest against racism, following the Afro-American George Floyd’s murder in the US, on May 25.

Floyd’s death, suffocated by a white police officer having pressed his knee to the victim’s neck in Minneapolis, stirred the United States and unleashed a wave of outrage across the world.

In Madrid, protesters gathered in front of the US embassy and then walked down the central Serrano street with banners such as ‘For peace and diversity,’ ‘Discrimination to exploit more’ or ‘Silence is also oppression.’

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government authorized a 200-people mobilization but the call of the Black African and Afro-descendant Community in Spain (CNAAE) exceeded expectations as happened in other European cities.

Despite the fact that the arrangers asked to keep the safety distance due to the likely spread of the novel coronavirus, the huge crowd thwarted so in the massive demonstration and later in the march.

‘No person is illegal,’ ‘Papers for all,’ ‘Racists in our neighborhoods out,’ ‘Donald Trump is a criminal’ or ‘Enough of police violence’ were some of the slogans chanted by protesters during the journey through downtown Madrid.


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