Sun, Jul 29, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Russia says not in talks to open overseas naval bases

AFP, MOSCOW

The Russian Ministry of Defense denied on Friday the nation was holding negotiations about opening military installations in Cuba, Vietnam and the Seychelles, dismissing as “fantasy” media reports saying as much.

The denial came after Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov as saying Russia was working on the deployment of overseas naval bases.

Late on Friday, the ministry said in a statement that Chirkov had made no official declaration on the subject.

“Questions concerning relations between nations are not within the jurisdiction of the Russian naval command so should not be presented to the media in that way,” the ministry said.

The purported statements from Chirkov came ahead of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang on Friday.

The Soviet Navy previously had a foreign base in Cam Ranh, in the south of Vietnam and still maintains a presence in Tartus, Syria.

Putin decided in 2001 to shut the Vietnamese base, which Moscow had rented since Soviet times as a result of a 1979 agreement between Vietnam and the Soviet Union. Russia left the base in 2002.

The Syrian base in Tartus, which was created in 1971 as a supply center for the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean, became Moscow’s only military base outside the USSR.

Although analysts see the Tartus base as a key strategic asset for Moscow in the Mediterranean, its infrastructure is extremely modest, with just a few dozen staff based there at any one time and naval vessels only visiting for brief calls.

During the early years of his presidency, Putin also closed a Russian listening post on Cuba, a key Soviet-era client, in what was seen at the time as a major step toward improving post-Cold War relations with Washington.

However, with relations between Russia and the West undergoing a new period of tension at the start of Putin’s third presidential term, Moscow seems keen to revive Soviet-era alliances.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the US was not concerned by Russian moves to re-establish foreign bases.

He said that the US is itself pursuing closer relations with Vietnam.

“They have allowed access for US supply ships to enter Vietnamese waters, including Cam Ranh Bay,” he said.

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