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Russia will not rule out military deployments to Cuba and Venezuela

MOSCOW (AP), Russia has sharply increased the stakes in the dispute with the West over Ukraine. A top diplomat refused to rule out a Russian military presence in Venezuela and Cuba if tensions rise with the United States.

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Russia will not rule out military deployments to Cuba and Venezuela

Sergei Ryabkov (Russian Deputy Foreign Minister), led the Russian delegation to Monday's talks in Geneva with the U.S. He said that he couldn't "neither confirm or exclude" the possibility that Russia might send military assets to Cuba or Venezuela in the event of talks failing and increasing U.S. pressure.

Despite a buildup in Russian troops near Ukraine, the Russia-U.S. talks in Geneva and subsequent NATO-Russia meetings failed to close the gap on Moscow’s security demands. Moscow requested a halt in NATO expansion. Washington and its allies strongly rejected this as non-starter.

Ryabkov stated that it all depends on U.S. counterparts' actions. He referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning about the possibility that Moscow might take military-technical steps if the U.S. provokes Moscow and puts up military pressure.

Although NATO may be able to use Ukrainian territory for missile deployments that can reach Moscow in five minutes, Putin noted that Russian warships equipped with the most recent Zircon hypersonic missile cruise missile would provide Russia with a similar capability if they were deployed in neutral waters.

Zircon, which Putin claimed flies at nine-times the speed of sound and has a range greater than 1,000 km (620 miles). It is difficult to intercept and can be fitted with either conventional or nuclear warheads. The Russian navy will commission it later in the year to install it aboard its submarines and frigates.

Ryabkov made the statement following his comments last month in which he compared the current tensions with Ukraine to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union sent missiles to Cuba and then the U.S. placed a naval blockade on the island. The crisis was ended when U.S. President John F. Kennedy met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to agree that Moscow would withdraw its missiles in return for Washington's promise not to invade Cuba and the withdrawal of U.S missiles from Turkey.

In an effort to strengthen ties with Washington, Putin ordered the closing of the Soviet-built military surveillance center in Cuba shortly after his 2000 election. As tensions between the U.S. government and its allies grew, Moscow has increased contacts with Cuba over recent years.

Russia sent two of its nuclear-capable Tu160 bombers to Venezuela as a support for Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan President. This was done amid Western pressure.

Ryabkov stated that the refusal of the U.S. to address the Russian demand for guarantees regarding the alliance's expansion into Ukraine and other exSoviet countries makes it difficult to discuss issues such as arms control or confidence-building measures. Washington claims it is ready to negotiate.

He stated that the U.S. wanted to have a dialogue about some aspects of the security situation to reduce tensions and continue the process of military and geopolitical development in the new territories. This would be closer to Moscow. "We don't have any other options."

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, also called this week's talks "unsuccessful", despite pointing out "some positive elements" and "some nuances." He said that the talks were started to get specific answers to principal issues. However, disagreements remained about those principal issues which was bad.

Peskov warned that there would be a complete breakdown in relations between the U.S. and Russia if sanctions against Putin and other high-ranking civilian and military leaders were adopted. Senate Democrats proposed the measures to target top-ranking Russian financial institutions in case Moscow sent troops to Ukraine.

He warned that sanctions, taking into consideration the likely adequate response, amount to an initiative for rupturing relations. Russia will also respond.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, also denounced the proposal sanctions as an expression of U.S. "arrogance," and said that Moscow is expecting a written reply from NATO and the U.S. next week to discuss further steps.

These talks are taking place as 100,000 Russian troops, including tanks and heavy weapons, are positioned near Ukraine's east border. Russia dismissed fears that it was invading Ukraine and accused the West, in turn, of threatening its security through its presence in Central and Eastern Europe.

Peskov rejected the West's request for a Russian troop withdrawal from Ukraine. He said, "It's not possible for NATO to dictate where we should deploy our armed forces to Russian territory."

At Thursday's meeting in Vienna of the Organization for Security and Cooperation, tensions around Ukraine and Russia's demands for the West were again on the agenda.

Zbigniew Rau (Polish Foreign Minister) was elected OSCE Chairman in Office. He stated in his opening speech that the "risk of war in the OSCE region is now greater than any time in the past 30 years."

He stated that for several weeks we had been confronted with the possibility of an Eastern European military escalation.

After the death of the Moscow-friendly leader, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It also supported a separatist insurgency within the country's eastern region, where more than 14,000 people were killed over seven years of fighting.

At a meeting of European Union foreign minsters in Brest (France), tensions over Ukraine were also high on the agenda. Jeppe Kofod, Danish Foreign Minister, stated that Putin must understand that his military threats and the game he is playing to bring us back to the darkest days during the Cold War are completely unacceptable.

Josep Borrell (EU's chief of foreign policy), reiterated that Russia will be unable to resist any further aggression against Ukraine. He said that 31 million euros ($35.5 Million) is being provided by the bloc to provide logistical support to the Ukrainian army. The EU is also preparing to send a mission in cyber-defense.

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