Deployment points for espionage and intelligence gathering
By Ivan Olivares (Confidential)
HAVANA TIMES – Two experts, John Feeley, former US ambassador to Panama, and Roberto Cajina, a Nicaraguan civilian consultant on security and defense issues, argue that the new authorization for Russian troops to enter Nicaragua does not pose a military threat against the United States. states. However, they warned of what the Russian military can do in the country, in terms of espionage and intelligence gathering.
The Official Gazette of June 7 published Presidential Decree 10-2022, which authorizes the arrival on Nicaraguan territory of military personnel of nine nationalities, including Central Americans, Cubans, Venezuelans, as well as United States and Russians.
Russian TV presenter Olga Skabeeva’s recent comment suggesting the deployment of “something powerful” near the United States, and the swift response of Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman María Zakharova, explaining that everything is ‘routine procedure’, have raised the level of news, and put it on many front pages.
“I think we have to look at the executive order and the news in context. This is not the first time that Nicaragua has published a bulletin of this nature in the Gazette. The difference is that this time it is much more detailed about what the Russians are going to do,” the diplomat detailed in an interview for the Esta Semana program broadcast only online, due to censorship by the regime led by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
“If Russian soldiers are going to arrive in Nicaragua to carry out humanitarian activities, I invite the Nicaraguan people and any observer to see what Russian soldiers are doing in Ukraine. Without wanting to sound too cynical, I think it’s fair to say that Russian troops and the Russian military machine have no idea what it means to protect human rights or serve humanitarian causes, which the American Southern Command demonstrated for more than 30 years after the Cold War, with humanitarian interventions, with hospital ships, with the deployment of troops to build clinics, etc. “, detailed Feeley.
“I think the Russian deployments will be low-key, mainly for intelligence purposes, but if we see that there is a humanitarian deployment and many Nicaraguans benefit from the hands of Russian soldiers, I will be the first to say, welcome.” , he says ironically.
Is Ortega a pawn or an ally of Putin?
Instead, Feeley and Cajina warn that the Russians could come into the country to spy on countries and citizens in the region, even though some of them are actually carrying out “humanitarian activities”.
Cajina recalls that “the Russians never really left Nicaragua”, referring to the fact that they remained in the country throughout the administrations of Violeta Barrios, Arnoldo Alemán and Enrique Bolanos, to ensure the maintenance of the fleet helicopters, AN-26 planes, tanks and armored vehicles (including the T-72B1 obtained in 2016), as well as various artillery weapons, or C2M portable anti-aircraft missiles.
But it’s not just technicians and mechanics in the country, Cajina says the military facility at the bottom of the Nejapa Lagoon crater “is more important, because the Glonass system is a source of intelligence, where information from 24 satellites is being received. . It was built by Russian workers and is operated by Russian personnel. Nicaragua only provided the land,” he explained.
Feely agrees that “Russian troops will be used to gather intelligence in the region; maybe to work in this big building they have in Managua – which no one really knows exactly what they’re doing there, but we have a good suspicion – and as always, the intelligence services and the military American will watch very closely, ”he promised.
The former ambassador also dismissed any comparisons to the missile crisis, which erupted when US spy planes detected atomic missiles in Cuba in 1962, bringing the world to the brink of a nuclear confrontation. “I don’t expect there to be any surprises, as some media have said. I just don’t see it,” he repeated.
He refers to the thesis – inspired by presenter Skabeeva’s comment – that Russia should deploy some of its military power close to the United States, in the same way as the Soviet Union did there six decades ago, a conflict that was resolved by using Cuba as a mere bargaining chip between two superpowers.
Although Cajina also rules out that the world is witnessing another such confrontation, he acknowledges that “never say never”. The Russian presenter’s comment “is a veiled threat to plant missiles in Nicaragua, although our country plays no part in it”, he stressed.
The consultant assumes Ortega discovered the Russian ad when he saw it in the media or on social media, as it was “the message from elephant to elephant, from Russia to Washington, in which Nicaragua had no part”. And, if the president opened the doors to Putin’s troops – before a constitutional reform – it would “put us under the elephant’s feet”, he said.
Such a decision would place us in the same pawn role that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev assigned to Cuba in 1962. “They would solve their problems and our country would remain the same. It also reveals that the Kremlin sees Nicaragua as a pawn, because Spokesperson Zakharora’s message was not for Nicaragua: it was for Washington,” he argued.
Honestly… why are they coming?
While once again dismissing that Moscow is planning an adventure like the one sixty years ago, claiming that Russia cannot face two conflicts, as demonstrated by the logistical nightmare and the course of the war against the Ukraine. Cajina also spoke of the Russians’ ability to operate effectively from Nicaragua against drug trafficking.
He believes that “it is unlikely” that Russian personnel will fight against organized crime, because “the reality of drug trafficking in the West, especially in Central America, is radically different from what they face in their own environment. , and they don’t know how cartels work in Latin America and the Caribbean, because it’s not their priority.
On the other hand, the United States has a Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South), which depends on the Southern Command and is stationed in Florida, from where they control suspicious flights and boats coming from the south. On the other hand, he believes that Nicaragua is not so strategically important for maritime or air transport of drugs, which is the majority, since the amount that moves by land is much smaller.
“The Russians don’t have a DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) for Latin America, so I think they’re here for humanitarian and training duties, not stopping them from executing ‘other guys’ military activities,” he said. , without specifying which ones.
Regardless of what they will do in Nicaragua, former Ambassador Feeley acknowledges that “the United States always needs to keep a close eye on what Russia is doing, not only in our hemisphere, but in other parts of the world. world”, considering that “it is a government with different values from those of many Western democracies.
Read more about Nicaragua here on Havana Times