Four Russian warships arrived at the Cuban coast. This is how the US reacted

Besides a frigate, the convoy had a nuclear submarine, a rescue tug and an oil tanker

TOPSHOT-CUBA-RUSSIA-WARSHIPS Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba, arrives at Havana's harbour | AFP

On Wednesday, Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov – the first of a four-ship convoy – entered Cuba's Havana harbour firing a 21-gun salute, to the amazement of hundreds who lined the seafront. Many waved Russian flags as they watched the largest show of force by the Russians with their longstanding ally Cuba. 

The Cubans welcomed the fleet, which also included the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, a rescue tug, and an oil tanker, with cannon fire from an 18th-century colonial fort built by the Spanish to guard the port. 

Now docked in berths usually occupied by cruise ships, the Russian ships will carry out a five-day official visit to the Caribbean island. The show of strength at Havana, just 90 miles from Florida, comes as tensions rise between the US and Russia over the Ukraine war.

Analysts believe the frigate is capable of long-range missions, anti-submarine warfare, and carrying surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems. However, the Cuban Armed Forces Ministry statement said none of the Russian ships were armed with nuclear weapons. It also sought to downplay the event, calling it a standard practice by naval units from countries friendly to Havana.

"Visits by naval units from other countries are a historical practice of the revolutionary government with nations that maintain relations of friendship and collaboration," a statement from Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said. 

Cubans can also tour the frigate for four hours each day for three days.

As for the US, though it downplayed Russian warships arriving in Cuba, U.S. Navy ships "actively monitored" the fleet as they made their way to a port of call in Havana. Six warships from the United States Navy, Canada, and France, including U.S. Navy destroyers USS Donald Cook, USS Delbert Black, USS Truxton, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stone, Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec, and a French Lafayette class frigate, shadowed the Russian fleet. 

At a Pentagon press briefing, spokesperson Sabrina Singh said such visits happened multiple times over the years. She, however, acknowledged that U.S. military assets had been tracking the ships on their way to Cuba. "We've been tracking the Russians' plans for this," Singh added.

"This is not a surprise we've seen them do these types of port calls before and these are routine naval visits that we've seen under different administrations," Singh said. "We're always constantly going to monitor any foreign vessels operating near U.S. territorial waters," she added. 

U.S. territorial waters stretch out 12 nautical miles from the coastline. However, the US officials confirmed that none of the ships ever came close to the American coastline as they transited the Atlantic Ocean. 


Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp