Tuesday, July 22, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Russia would cross “a red line for the United States of America” if it were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba, a top US air force officer warned on Tuesday.
“If they did I think we should stand strong and indicate that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America,” said General Norton Schwartz, nominated to be the air force’s chief of staff.
He was referring to a Russian news report that said the military is thinking of flying long-range bombers to Cuba on a regular basis.
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It was unclear from the report whether that would involve permanent basing of nuclear bombers in Cuba, or just use of the island as a refueling stop.
In his confirmation hearing to become the air force’s chief of staff, Schwartz was asked what he would recommend if Russia were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba.
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“I would certainly offer the best military advice that we engage the Russians not to pursue that approach,” he said.
The newspaper Iszvestia on Monday cited an unnamed senior Russian air force official in Moscow as saying that Russia may start regular flights by long-range bombers to Cuba in response to US plans to install a missile defense system in eastern Europe.
A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the Russian report because there had been no “official response from the Russian government.”
Conducting long-range bomber patrol to Cuba would signal a reawakening of military cooperation by former Cold War allies Moscow and Havana, and recall the 1962 missile crisis that brought Washington and Moscow to the brink of war.
Over the past year, Russia already has revived long-range strategic bomber patrols in the Pacific and north Atlantic.