MOSCOW — Russia is in talks to set up naval bases in former Cold War allies Cuba and Vietnam as President Vladimir Putin undertakes the country’s biggest military overhaul since the Soviet era.
‘‘We are working on establishing navy bases outside Russia,’’ Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov told the state-run RIA Novosti news service. ‘‘We aim to set up resupply bases in Cuba, the Seychelles, and Vietnam.’’
Russian plans for overseas military expansion threaten to further strain relations with the United States at a time when the former superpower rivals are at odds about US missile- shield plans and fighting in Syria. Putin’s government plans to spend $712 billion this decade on defense.
‘‘There’s a lot of tension between Washington and Moscow right now, as Syria is creating a lot of bad feeling between them,’’ said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent policy analyst.
Russia risks losing its only military base outside the former Soviet Union, a naval depot in a Syrian port, as President Bashar Assad fights for survival in a 17-month uprising.
US Air Force General Norton Schwartz in 2008 warned Russia not to cross a ‘‘red line’’ by placing bombers in Cuba, where the deployment of Soviet missiles brought Moscow and Washington close to nuclear conflict in 1962. Schwartz commented when the newspaper Izvestia said Russia planned to build a refueling base for strategic aircraft in the communist island state in response to US plans to deploy elements of a missile defense system in Europe. The Russian Defense Ministry later denied the report.
Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang said his country would allow Russia to put a servicing facility in Can Ramh Bay, a former Soviet naval base .
In Moscow, Sang held talks with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday and was to see Putin on Friday. Cuban leader Raul Castro held talks with Putin this month.
Russia does not have the naval resources at the moment for a permanent presence outside its territorial waters, with only about 30 major warships divided among five fleets, so the possibility of opening resupply bases does not mean an expansion of Russian maritime power, Felgenhauer said.