At a session in the Russian Defense Ministry on October 7, 2001 President Putin told the servicemen, Russia was going to withdraw from its last military bases in Cam Ranh (Vietnam) and Lourdes (Cuba). The relevance of the action can be discussed a lot, but it is a fact that the Russian troops will leave the bases.
In December of 2000 Vladimir Putin visited Lourdes during his tour about Cuba; the president liked the base.
A political intrigue has arose about the military base in Lourdes in summer of 2001. Izvestia, Russian newspaper, reported about possible closure of the electronic tracing station, that held a half of the USA controlled, in August of 2001. Rather high rent and, more likely, closed agreements achieved by Putin and Bush during the meeting in Ljubljana in June of 2001 are the reasons for the closure.
Information with reference to the Federal agency for government communication and information (FAPSI), that is in charge of the station in Cuba, appeared at the same time. FAPSI sources informed, the station could not be closed, there was no rent at all due to Cuba for the station, but Cuba asked for no payment as it remembered perfectly well about its own debts to Russia. Another version appeared, that probably the closure of the military base in Lourdes was a struggle for the military budget between the Kremlin and Kremlin-related groups. As it is known, financing of the defense sector is to be increased soon, that makes the military budget rather tempting for the Kremlin groups. After the statement of Russia’s commander-in-chief about withdrawal from the military bases in Cuba and Vietnam the situation seemed to be close to its end. However, as it turned out, that was just a beginning of the struggle.
FAPSI and Exterior Intelligence Service (SVR) objected against the hasty present to the USA.
As we know now, the suggestion to dismantle the military base was a lobby move of the General Staff and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). The decision was not coordinated with FAPSI, that is also interested in presence in Cuba, and with the Exterior Intelligence Service.
The opposition of the force structures has been touched upon by the media, and now it will be impossible to hush up the scandal. To take the strain off and explain the USA, why the base’s dismantling was delayed, a statement as for lack of financing was made. The statement looked rather believable, as the state of Russia’s army is well-known to everyone. But, as it often happens, intentions are hard to be realized sometimes.
And now a slight reference to explain, what we have given up.
Construction of listening centers was very popular in the Soviet Union. Powerful radar stations for control over the Atlantic ocean were built in Angola (in the cities of Lobito, Benguela and Kobindu), where Soviet military councilors appeared in 1975. Four secret radio intelligence stations were built in Nicaragua. Later, that was the place where the State Security Committee (KGB) built a state security school (a similar school was also built in Afghanistan). Unfortunately, the objects were left afterwards. Not only the port itself was upgraded in the bay of Cam Ranh, but a radio intelligence center was constructed. According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), in 1993 Russia and Vietnam signed a contract on prolongation of the center’s work, as the object was very important for the Russian intelligence service.
The base in Lourdes was built in 1964; it is a complex situated on the area of over 70 square kilometers. Up to 3,000 Soviet specialists worked there in the cold war period. The USA considers that about 1,000 officers and ensigns from GRU and FAPSI together with their families are stationed in Lourdes now. The information obtained from Cuba must be very precious for Moscow, as it managed to find $100 million for the center’s financing even during the hard periods for the defense budget (the years of 1996-99). This was Russia’s best base. Cuba’s Defense Minister Raul Castro says, Russia gets up to 75% of intelligence information from the base in Lourdes.
According to the US’s statements, Russia spent about $300 million on the base. Commander of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin said, the annual rent for the base in Lourdes made up $200 million. Who is deceiving and who is deceived then?
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva