Russia comments on possibility of sending troops to Latin America
Russian soldiers could be sent to Nicaragua under laws already in place in the Central American nation, Moscow’s ambassador in Managua has argued amid a new standoff with Washington over the prospect of the Kremlin stepping up its military presence in the region.
Speaking to RIA Novosti on Friday, Alexander Khokholikov, who also serves as the envoy to Honduras and El Salvador, commented on the possibility of hosting overseas forces within Nicaragua's borders.
“The government passes a law annually on the foreign military presence in Nicaraguan territory,” he explained. “It provides for the possibility of the transit and presence of servicemen, as well as military equipment from a number of countries, including Russia and, incidentally, the US, for the exchange of experience in the field of military cooperation, joint exercises, and activities in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime.”
According to the diplomat, military cooperation between Moscow and Managua “is not directed against third countries,” despite a worsening row with the US over the potential deployments.
Khokholikov added that “regardless of the current political situation in the world and the opportunistic outbursts of tension by the West in relations with Moscow, an increase in Russian-Nicaraguan cooperation in trade, economic, cultural, and humanitarian spheres, as well as in the military field is envisaged.”
His remarks come after Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed last month to strengthen partnerships with the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua in a range of spheres, including stepping up military cooperation.
Earlier that month, Moscow’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov refused to rule out sending troops to Latin America, saying only that “it’s the American style to have several options for its foreign and military policy.”
“The president of Russia has spoken multiple times on the subject of what the measures could be, for example involving the Russian Navy, if things are set on the course of provoking Russia, and further increasing the military pressure on us by the US,” he added.
Washington, however, hit out at the suggestion that Moscow’s troops could be stationed in Venezuela and Cuba, which is barely 100 miles off the US coast. In mid-January, United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned that “If Russia were to move in that direction, we would deal with it decisively.”
Tensions between the US and Russia have been strained in recent months, with Western leaders sounding the alarm that Moscow’s armed forces are gearing up to invade Ukraine. The Kremlin, however, has repeatedly stated that it has no intention of attacking its neighbor, and has instead looked to gain written guarantees ruling out NATO expansion closer to the country’s borders - a request which has since been turned down.