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U.S. pledges "decisive" response if Russia deploys military in Cuba, Venezuela over Ukraine crisis

Pool Photo via AP
From left: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman , NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin at the NATO-Russian Council in Brussels this week.

Russia "won't rule out" sending military to the Americas if the U.S. keeps aiding Ukraine. Washington is warning Moscow not to act on its "bluster."

Russia on Thursday threatened to deploy its military in Cuba and Venezuela in response to the Ukraine crisis. Even if that’s empty rhetoric, it touches a nerve in this hemisphere — especially in Miami — and the U.S. has said it will respond "decisively" if Moscow acts on its "bluster."

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he “couldn’t rule out” his country sending troops or weapons to Cuba and Venezuela if the U.S. and NATO continue their military assistance to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears poised to invade Ukraine — but insists it's because Washington, he claims, is using its alliance with Ukraine to encroach on Russia. Moscow, therefore, says it has the right to do likewise using its allies in the Americas.

But it’s a threat fraught with history — including the former Soviet Union’s military presence in Cuba during the Cold War. The scariest moment of that period was the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

A State Department spokesperson told WLRN the Biden Administration is “not going to respond to bluster. If Russia actually started moving in that direction, we would deal with it decisively.”

The spokesperson did not elaborate. But both domestic politics and national security are at stake.

In South Florida, the Russian rhetoric was especially jarring to Cuban and Venezuelan exiles, most of whom did not support President Biden in the 2020 election. And it's a reminder that any such Russian incursion in the hemisphere would be an alert to the U.S. military’s Southern Command, or Southcom — which is based here in Doral.

For their part, neither the Cuban nor Venezuelan government had responded to the Russian diplomat's remarks by early Thursday afternoon. Venezuela has already been an avid, multi-billion-dollar customer of Russian military weapons and aircraft for the past two decades.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.