Ex-spy says US should be concerned by Russian ships visiting Cuba as Kremlin insists ‘nothing to worry about’

The Russian navy's Admiral Gorshkov frigate is seen en route to Cuba (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)
The Russian navy's Admiral Gorshkov frigate is seen en route to Cuba (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

An ex-spy has warned that the US should be concerned by Russian ships visiting Cuba, but the Kremlin has insisted that there is nothing to worry about.

Former KGB spy Jack Barsky, who spent a decade spying for the Soviet Union in the US before he was discovered by the FBI, told NewsNation that the US should be “worried” after Russia sent three warships and a nuclear-powered submarine into Cuban waters – just 90 miles from Florida – on Tuesday for routine military exercises.

“You can’t look at this as just a routine exercise. It has to be seen against the background where Putin is stating that he’s actually fighting the West in the Ukraine,” he said.

The Pentagon has maintained that it is not worried about the deployment of the ships, saying that they pose no threat because the deployment is part of routine naval activity. Cuba has also said the deployment poses no threat.

“Visits by naval units from other countries are a historical practice of the revolutionary government with nations that maintain relations of friendship and collaboration,” a statement from Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said.

According to a Cuban Armed Forces Ministry statement, none of the Russian ships are armed with nuclear weapons.

But Barsky said he disagreed with the Pentagon and Cuba’s stance. “Everything that Putin does is sending messaging, particularly threatening ones,” Barsky said, adding that Putin “likes to scare people.“

Barsky added that his fear stems from the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when the fear of nuclear war paralyzed America for nearly two weeks.

“With this kind of tension that we have, there’s always the possibility of an accidental launch,” Barsky said. “I’m worried about that.”

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark shared similar remarks on NewsNation’s “The Hill” on Tuesday, arguing that while Russia’s presence in Cuba’s waters does not signal war, it is clearly a show of strength by Putin who is trying to send a message to the world as the war in Ukraine continues.

“I don’t think it’s anything that will erupt in violence,” Clark said. “But does [Vladimir Putin] send a message to the United States and the world? Sure.”

Despite such sentiment, the Kremlin insisted on Thursday that there was no reason for any country including the United States to be worried by the exercise.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it was common practice for all states including major maritime powers such as Russia to carry out military exercises.

Cuba is a long-time ally of Russia, dating back to the Cold War years. The country hosted Russian ships every year between 2013 and 2020.

Cuba is also increasingly reliant on Russian oil and aid as the communist-run country weathers its worst economic crisis in decades.

The ships are expected to stay in Cuban waters for five days.