Venezuela also temporarily offers island site as Moscow eyes Caribbean
updated 4:19 a.m. PT, Sat., March. 14, 2009
MOSCOW - Russian strategic bombers may be based in Cuba in the future, a Russian Air Force chief told Interfax news agency on Saturday.
Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, chief of staff of Russia's long-range aviation, said Cuba had air bases with four or five suitable runways.
Interfax reported that he said Cuba could be used to base Russian bombers if the two countries "display a political will", adding "we are ready to fly there."
Zhikharev also said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered an island as a temporary base for Russian planes.
Zhikharev said Chavez had offered "a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers," the agency reported. "If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island ... by the Russian Air Force is possible."
Two Russian bombers landed in Venezuela last year in what experts said was the first Western Hemisphere touchdown of Russian military craft since the end of the Cold War.
Cuba has never permanently hosted Russian or Soviet strategic aircraft. But Soviet short-range bombers often made stopovers there during the Cold War.
Russia resumed long-range bomber patrols in 2007 after a 15-year hiatus.