Russian Navy Lands In US Backyard Again; After Nuke Submarine, Its ‘Hypersonic Warship’ Arrives In Venezuela

Weeks after Russian naval warships made a dramatic entry into Cuba, two naval ships have now arrived in another Caribbean country – Venezuela. 

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After conducting drills in the Atlantic Ocean and a stopover in Cuba, two Russian naval vessels docked in the Venezuelan port of La Guaira on July 2.

TASS quoted the Russian Ministry of Defense as saying that since May 17, Russia’s Northern Fleet, which includes the frigate Admiral Gorshkov and the oil tanker Akademik Pashin, has been performing duties such as “guaranteeing the Russian naval presence” in “remote areas of the oceans.”

“A detachment of Northern Fleet ships comprising the frigate Soviet Union Fleet Admiral Gorshkov and the medium maritime tanker Akademik Pashin made a call at the port of La Guaira in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The call will last several days. Afterward, the seamen of the Northern Fleet will continue to carry out their mission in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean,” the fleet said.

After the lengthy cruise, the Russian ship crews will have a chance to relax and see the local sights during the port stop.

According to the Northern Fleet, the squadron departed for the long-distance mission on May 17. Russia laid down the voyage’s primary objectives as demonstrating the flag and guaranteeing naval presence in isolated yet strategically significant oceanic regions. 

The Soviet Union Fleet Admiral Gorshkov, for one, is a cutting-edge, multifunctional frigate equipped with high-precision guided missiles intended to conduct operations in far-off regions of the seas and oceans. The frigate’s main strike weapon is the Kalibr-NK missile system. It is also armed with the latest Zircon hypersonic missile.

The tanker and Admiral Gosrhkov were two of the Russian ships that anchored in Havana, Cuba, in mid-June. However, the most keenly watched by the West was the presence of a Russian nuclear submarine ‘Kazan.’ The submarine was spotted just 90 miles off Florida as it sailed into the Caribbean, which the US has traditionally considered its backyard.

The submarine remained berthed in Cuba for about five days after conducting drills in the Atlantic Ocean. The crews of the frigate and submarine practiced the use of high-precision missile weapons using computer modeling against naval targets, indicating naval groups of a mock enemy located at a distance of over 600 kilometers. 

File Image: Kazan

Although the United States said the drills posed no threat, some saw them as a show of force amid burgeoning tensions between the US and Russia.

However, analysts expressed concern that the visit could be in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat that Moscow could take “asymmetrical steps” elsewhere in the world in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to allow Ukraine to use US-provided weapons to strike inside Russia to protect Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

While the nuke submarine did not come to Venezuela, the deployment is still significant because it showcases Russia’s resolve to strengthen cooperation with countries in the Caribbean, specifically those that remain at odds with the United States. Much like his late predecessor, Hugo Chávez, Maduro has developed a strong bond with Russia.

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According to reports in Russian media, Russian Ambassador Sergey Melik-Bagdasarov, Admiral Mariani Mata, head of the Main Directorate of International Military Cooperation in the Venezuelan Defense Ministry, and Vice Admiral Edward Centeno Mass, deputy commander of the Venezuelan Navy, participated in the welcoming ceremony for the ships.

“This is a vivid symbol of unbreakable Russian-Venezuelan friendship, which demonstrates our firm desire to further strengthen strategic partnership in all areas,” the Russian ambassador told TASS.

He further announced that “as a special symbol of our unbreakable friendship and military cooperation, our honorable guard company will participate in the upcoming July 5 parade on the occasion of Venezuela’s Independence Day.” 

On his part, the deputy commander of the Venezuelan Navy, Vice Admiral Edward Centeno Mass, made a rather bold statement: “Today we are receiving warships of the brotherly Russian Federation. Venezuela and Russia are brothers in the fight against US imperialism.”

The two countries have been strengthening ties for several years. Russia even conducted joint war games in Venezuela in 2022. And, last fall, the Russian Pacific Fleet conducted major naval drills off Siberia and close to Alaska.

Admiral Gorshkov
Admiral Gorshkov

The Russian Navy training ship Perekop also participated in a naval parade in Venezuela on July 24, 2023, to commemorate the Battle of Lake Maracaibo’s 200th anniversary. The commander-in-chief and president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, visited the ship.

The relationship goes back several years, and Russia has traditionally condemned what it refers to as US interference. For instance, in 2019, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “We have warned against all interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs, including the use of force threatened by Washington and which is in violation of international law.” 

The engagement between the two states has seen an uptick after Russia invaded Ukraine. The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, has accused the West multiple times of attempting to “dismember” and “demolish” Russia by escalating the conflict in Ukraine. He referred to the Ukrainian leadership as a “neo-fascist elite” and labeled the Western sanctions on Russia “madness.”

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In February this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Venezuela on a Latin American tour that included Cuba and Brazil and called to “reinforce and strengthen the entire strategic map of comprehensive cooperation” between the two countries under their “unbreakable” friendship.

In a move to challenge the political and economic hegemony of the US and Europe, the Russian Minister also stated that Moscow would support Venezuela’s ambitions to join the BRICS organization, which was established in 2009 by South Africa, Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

This hasn’t gone down well with the US, though, as it views the Caribbean and Southern America as both its traditional spheres of influence and areas that need to be secured for the country’s overall security.

It does not help the US case that it has imposed heavy sanctions on Venezuela and has been backing Guyana. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has passed a law to create a new Venezuelan state around the oil-rich region of Essequibo in neighboring Guyana, which has been lamented as illegal by Guyana. 

However, the US continues to push against Venezuela, further pushing the South American country closer to the Kremlin.