Thursday, July 24, 2008
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Wednesday said Cuba does not have to explain or “ask forgiveness” about a report out of Russia this week that Russia might use its Cold War ally Cuba as a refueling base for nuclear-capable bombers.
He did not address whether the report was true or false, and Cuban officials have made no comment.
“Raul did very well keeping a dignified silence,” Castro wrote, referring to his brother, President Raul Castro, in a column published online at www.cubadebate.cu .
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“One doesn’t have to give explanations nor ask excuses or forgiveness,” the ailing 81-year-old said in one of his increasingly frequent opinion pieces.
Russia’s Izvestia newspaper this week quoted a “highly placed source” as saying Russia could land Tu-160 supersonic bombers nicknamed “White Swans” in Cuba in response to a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Europe that Moscow opposes.
On Tuesday, U.S. Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that if the Russians did refuel the bombers in Cuba “we should stand strong and indicate that that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America.”
Russian officials have denied the Izvestia report, but the dust-up has stirred memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the United States and Russia faced each other down after the discovery of Soviet missiles on the island 90 miles (144 km) south of Florida.
The two-week crisis brought the Cold War foes close to a full-blown war until the Soviets agreed to take down the missile sites in exchange for a U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba and to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.