Maj. General Anatoly Zhikharev, Chief of Staff of the Russian Air Force has told Interfax-AVN military news agency that Russia could use air bases for its strategic bombers in Cuba and Venezuela.

He said: “There are four or five airfields in Cuba with 4,000-meter-long runways, which absolutely suit us.” San Antonio de Los Baños airfield (see Google Map below), Southwest of Havana, would most likely be one of the airfields used.

Zhikharev also said Russian bombers would be prepared to use airfields on Cuba if the political leadership of the two countries allowed the use of Cuban bases.

President Hugo Chavez has offered a military airfield on La Orchila island (see Google Map below) as a temporary base for Russian strategic bombers.

In September 2008 two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack multi-mission strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela after a 13-hour flight over the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Russia has nothing to gain strategically from basing long-range craft within relatively short range of US shores, independent military analyst Alexander Golts said, calling the military statement a retaliatory gesture aimed at hitting back after US ships patrolled Black Sea waters near Georgia.

Sources: AFP, CNN, RIA Novosti, Reuters, La Nueva Cuba, The Jerusalem Post