The chief of staff of the Russian armed forces reportedly said that Russia is planning to conduct joint military drills with Cuba, North Korea, Brazil, and Vietnam.
“We are planning an expansion of the communication lines of our military central command,” Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian military, said last weekend, a local Russian publication reported. “We are entering preliminary negotiations with the armed forces of Brazil, Vietnam, Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
“We are going to conduct a series of joint naval and air force exercises, as well as joint drills of our ground troops and air assault troops,” he added.
Gerasimov made the comments at a meeting also attended by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and the chiefs of all the military branches in Russia.
Newsweek cited Steven Pifer, the former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, saying that the move comes in response to Russia’s international isolation, which stems from the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.
The sanctions, which were also imposed on certain Russian individuals, came after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
North Korea is also facing sanctions from the U.S. due to its nuclear weapons program and human rights violations.
“Russia already stands in an advantageous position as for its plan to ameliorate relations with North Korea is concerned,” noted the International Business Times (IBT).
Rumors are that Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea, sent a special envoy to Russia last November. North Korea was also reportedly seeking to purchase Russian fighter jets, which IBT pointed out is an indication that the country is preparing to face what it considers growing U.S. “threats.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. sanctions against Cuba seemed to be thawing as the two countries seek to improve relations.
A Russian intelligence warship was docked in Cuba late last month, on the eve of the first official diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Cuba.
According to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency’s Worldwide Threat Assessment prepared for a House panel, “Foreign intelligence threats from Russian, Chinese, and Cuban intelligence services continue to be a challenge.”
“We remain concerned by North Korea’s illicit proliferation activities and attempts to evade UN sanctions,” the assessment also said, later adding that “outside actors [in Latin America] are increasingly seeking to challenge the U.S. as the defense partner of choice in the region.”