MOSCOW: Russia is holding talks about opening naval bases in Moscow's Soviet-era allies Cuba and Vietnam as well as the Seychelles, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy said on Friday.

“It is true, we are working on the deployment of Russian naval bases outside Russian territory,” Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov told the RIA Novosti news agency.

“Within this work we are discussing the possibility of creating material and technical supply centres on the territory of Cuba, Seychelles and Vietnam,” Chirkov said ahead of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang later on Friday.

The Soviet Navy had foreign bases in Cam Ranh, in the south of Vietnam, and Tartus in 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 centre 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 towards improving post-Cold War relations with Washington.

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

RIA Novosti said that the necessity to open the new naval bases abroad was first mooted in 2008 when the Russian fleet participated in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

At that time Russian Navy thought about the possibility of opening a base in the African state of Djibouti, said the news agency.

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

“The Russian government has interest in various parts of the world, it's their right to promote those interests,” said George Little.—AFP


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