US submarine deployed to Gitmo as Russian warships gather for Caribbean exercises

The U.S. Navy has sent a nuclear-powered submarine to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after a fleet of Russian warships and a submarine reached the island Wednesday ahead of planned military exercises.

The USS Helena, a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, arrived at the waters near the U.S. base on Thursday, U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) said in a statement on social platform X.

The stop is “part of a routine port visit” as the submarine transits through the Southcom region, the command said. It said the vessel’s location and transit were “previously planned.”

The Russian nuclear-powered submarine the Kazan, the Russian frigate Gorshkov, fleet oil tanker Pashin, and a rescue tug Nikolay Chiker are expected to stay in Cuba through the weekend before anticipated air and naval exercises in the Caribbean. The drills are seen as a show of force amid tensions over Western aid to Ukraine.

Biden administration officials have said the exercises are not considered a threat to the U.S., but the Navy has sent several of its ships to shadow the Russian vessels. Those include two Navy destroyers and two ships towing sonar equipment meant to track the submarine. Another destroyer, a Coast Guard cutter and P-8 maritime patrol aircraft are shadowing the Kremlin ships.

“We’ve been tracking the Russians’ plans for this. This is not a surprise,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Wednesday when asked about the Russian war games. “We’ve seen them do this, these type of port calls before.”

She said the U.S. military is “always, constantly going to monitor any foreign vessels operating near U.S. territorial waters,” adding that while the Pentagon takes the drills seriously, they “don’t pose a threat to the United States.”

The Russian exercises come less than two weeks after President Biden gave Ukraine partial permission to use U.S.-provided weapons to strike targets inside Russia near the border, a move meant to protect Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Singh said it “wouldn’t come as a surprise” to see more Russian activity around the United States.

The U.S. military believes the Kremlin vessels could stop in Venezuela, another ally of Moscow, and could remain in the region through the summer.

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