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A new Cuban missile crisis? Russia eyes bomber bases in Latin America

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Last week, the two Georgian breakaway statelets of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose de facto independence was established by Russian military intervention against Georgia last summer, offered long-term leases for the construction of Russian military bases on their territory. South Ossetia has offered basing rights to Moscow for 99 years, while Akhazia says it is ready to lease facilities for 49 years. Russian media reports suggest those bases, housing thousands of troops and naval facilities on the Black Sea, are likely to be completed by year`s end.

The two statelets' self-declared independence has been recognized only by Russia and Nicaragua, while Georgia, with the support of most Western countries, insists that it has full sovereignty over the territories under international law.

"Russian troops are the only factor supporting the independence of South Ossetia, which is why they should stay there for a long time," Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert at the independent Institute for Military and Political Analysis, told the Moscow daily Novye Izvestia last week.

And Moscow has recently been in talks with former Soviet allies about re-establishing cold war-era naval bases at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and Tartus in Syria (see the Monitor's recent story here) as well as taking steps to beef up its own regional security alliance with several countries of the ex-USSR.

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