MOSCOW – Russia is talking to Cuba about housing Russian navy ships, the nation's navy chief said Friday, in a move seen as an attempt to challenge Washington.
Russia is also talking to Vietnam and the Indian Ocean island country of Seychelles as possible naval hubs.
Relations with Washington have deteriorated since President Vladimir Putin was re-elected to a third term in March largely in part to the violence in Syria.
Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov told the state RIA Novosti news agency that Russia is in talks about setting up maintenance and supply facilities for Russian ships in those countries but wouldn't give any further details.
The announcement comes on the heels of the U.S. government's attempt to reaffirm its willingness to "forge a new relationship" with Cuba on Thursday - as long as the country promises to end its' oppressive regime.
Russia's only existing naval base outside the Soviet Union is located in the Syrian port of Tartus. A squadron of Russian navy ships, including several assault ships carrying marines, is currently heading to Tartus in a show of support for a longtime ally whom Moscow protected from international sanctions and continued to supply with weapons.
Chirkov's statement marked a sharp about-face for Russia, which closed a Soviet-era naval base at Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay and a spy base in Lourdes on Cuba in the early 2000s during Putin's first term.
Along with financial reasons, that move was part of Putin's bid to improve ties with the United States. During his election campaign, he accused the U.S. of encouraging protest against his 12-year rule in order to weaken Russia, and pledged to strengthen the nation's military might.
Reporting by the Associated Press.