Venezuela, Cuba may join Russian military's navigation system

Russia could include Cuba and Venezuela into a satellite navigation system originally designed for missile targeting by the Soviet military, the head of Russia's space agency said Wednesday.

"We discussed the theme of joint use of the Glonass satellite navigation system," Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying, referring to talks with the authorities in Venezuela.

Perminov said similar negotiations had been held with Cuban authorities and that Moscow and Havana had talked "in a preliminary way about the possibility of building a space centre in Cuba with our assistance," RIA Novosti reported.

Glonass was developed for missile targeting by the Soviet army in the 1980s to compete with the GPS system used by the United States. The project is expected to be completed, with 24 satellites in orbit, by 2009.

Glonass is currently administered by the Russian defence ministry.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last week boosted financing for the long-delayed project by 1.85 billion euros (2.61 billion dollars). Glonass also aims to compete with the European Union's Galileo system.

Russia has boosted military cooperation with Venezuela in recent months, reviving memories of tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War in the Caribbean region.

In a move seen as a direct response to US plans to set up missile defence installations in the Czech Republic and Poland, Russia this month announced it was dispatching warships and long-range bombers to Venezuela for exercises.

[Source: Space Daily, Moscow, 17Sep08]

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