MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti) - The deployment of Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers in Cuba to counter U.S. missile defense plans in Europe would be a destructive move, a Russian military expert said Thursday.
Russian daily Izvestia on Monday cited a senior Russian military source as saying that Russian strategic bombers could be stationed again in Cuba, just 145 km (90 miles) from the U.S. coast, as a response to the U.S. missile shield in Europe.
"I believe that stationing Russian bombers in Cuba would be a destructive step because the advantage of these bombers is that they may launch missiles from outside the effective range of an enemy's air defenses," said Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin, former chief of staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, now vice president of the Academy of Security, Defense and Law Enforcement Studies.
Both Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers have been recently modernized and fitted with new X-555 cruise missiles with a range of over 3,500 km (2,200 miles). (Image gallery)
There is no need to deploy bombers 145 km from the U.S., where they would be easy targets for U.S. air defenses, if they are capable of hitting targets on U.S. soil from a distance of more than 3,500 km, the general said.
The reports about the possible return of Russian bombers to Cuba prompted an angry response from the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Commenting on the Izvestia article, U.S. General Norton Schwartz, nominated to be the air force's chief of staff, said in Washington that this move would be "something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America."
In response, the Russian military officials said the bombers would not threaten the U.S. and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said Havana owed no apologies to Washington over reports that Russia might station strategic bombers to Cuba.
"We need not offer any explanations or excuses nor ask forgiveness," he wrote in a letter posted on cubadebate.cu web site.
The Russian Defense Ministry said later on Thursday that reports regarding the nuclear-capable strategic bombers had been concocted by Russia's adversaries.
"We regard such reports from anonymous sources as misleading information and something of a 'red herring,'" Ilshat Baichurin, an acting Defense Ministry spokesman, said.