China Expands Influence in U.S. Backyard with Planned Military Training Facility in Cuba
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As part of its greater military and economic designs on Latin America and the Western Hemisphere, China has built a signals intelligence facility at Bejucal, Cuba, just 90 miles from the US mainland. It allows China to monitor US military communications throughout the southern United States.
When its existence was first reported last month, the Pentagon denied it.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, said that the time, "We are not aware of China and Cuba developing any type of spy station."
Later, National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby evaded, but admitted the base exists.
"We're not going to be able to get into too much detail about our own counterintelligence efforts," he remarked.
We now know that not only is there a Chinese spy base in Cuba, but it isn't new. A former intelligence official told the Miami Herald that it's been there since 1992, and the U.S. government has known about it.
Now there are reports the Chinese plan to expand the spy base into a military training facility. What form it will take is unclear, but clues might be gleaned from a base China built on Mischief Reef near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. It includes a landing strip, hangars and a listening post.
Cuba is a much easier place to install a military base, but Dr. Evan Ellis with the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute says the site at Bejucal is too close to the United States to be useful in any armed conflict, because it would be easy to destroy.
Ellis told CBN News, "The closeness of Cuba to the United States means that its value for PLA (People's Liberation Army) navy forces is probably pretty low because, again, that would be very, very vulnerable being that close to the United States."
The issue is about more than just a military base. China is helping keep a desperate Cuban government afloat.
With Cuba facing its biggest economic and political crisis in decades, China has thrown the Havana government a lifeline, giving it millions in cash and restructuring its debt.
"Cuba is short fuel, it's short medicine, it's short food," Ellis explained. "Cuba has been facing an economic crisis, but in the past 2 to 3 years, especially since COVID, the crisis has deepened to unprecedented proportions." Add to that, "a China who's willing to say, 'we'll bankroll you as long as we get paid.'"
This is the playbook China has used throughout Latin America to replace the US as the leading trading partner in the region and make nations dependent upon it.
Retired Air Force Brigadier General John Teichert says the US is too disengaged in Latin America, including Cuba.
"This is a neighbor of ours," Teichert noted. "And I think we need to start engaging in a real way economically and diplomatically with them. And I think that would take away some of that enticement that China can swoop in and fill the vacuum that we should have filled long ago."
China in the past was careful not to provoke the United States by basing troops in Latin America. But with the planned base in Cuba, Ellis says that may be changing.
"So, this is crossing the threshold. And clearly the fact that they've chosen to cross the threshold at a time when tensions are increasing over Taiwan and other issues indicates that there is a willingness to take risks – that they're not as worried as they used to be about provoking the United States," Ellis said.
In October, 1962, the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The US government stood up to the Soviets and the missiles were removed. With the Biden Administration seeking "dialogue" with the Chinese government, there would seem to be little chance the White House will stand up to this.
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