Russia’s contended plan to reinstate Cold War-era spy base in Cuba is an added disturbing sign of the weakening association between Washington and Moscow.
The news that Russia would recommence work at the Lourdes observation station near Havana, around 150 miles off the Florida coast was first broadcasted in the Russian newspaper. Several other media outlets then cited anonymous Kremlin sources authenticating the development.
Then President Vladimir Putin inserted to the sense of political theater by refuting what was reported. “Russia is capable of fulfilling the defense capacity tasks without this component,” he said during a summit in Brazil. Still the incident has garnered numerous inquiries regarding the result of the tensions that have surfaced between the US and Russia since Putin utilized troops to seize Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
“It’s a slap in the face of the US,” Brian Latell, an ex-CIA agent and senior research associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, told the media. “It’s a ratcheting up of things.”
‘Putin is kind of like a one-man show. He doesn’t have to deal with anybody. Whatever his latest whim is, he does it. He’s always riding horses without his shirt.’
It was closed in 2001 when Russia was economically down. The 28 square mile facility used to employ 3,000 spies and technicians. Their goal was to listen in phone calls conveyed by American satellites and manage the Red Fleet’s comings and goings in the Western Hemisphere.
The technology advances of today make the place an anachronism, sites Gene Poteat, a retired CIA scientist. “There is no technical advantage,” Poteat the media. “Russians have good facilities inside the US. They have that new embassy in Washington, DC on a hill overlooking the whole East Coast. It’s designed to be an ideal location to intercept all sorts of signals and communications. They have trawlers off our coast. They have planes flying on our periphery.”
To the retired CIA scientist, the story was an intended rebuke by Putin on the same day President Barack Obama disclosed tougher US sanctions against Russia for its hostility in Ukraine.
“I’d call it an electoral-political move, to get our attention, pull our chain,” Poteat said. “Putin is kind of like a one-man show. We have to have Congress debate forever. He doesn’t have to deal with anybody. Whatever his latest whim is, he does it. People around the world marvel at his antics and charisma. He’s always riding horses without his shirt.”
Other were panicking. “This is a big deal,” Vince Houghton, historian and curator at the International Spy Museum in Washington, told the media.
According to Houghton, the Russians do not have a structure of surveillance satellites around the planet. Their surveillance ships are little and their embassy has sophisticated spy materials but the US is capable of squashing them if needed. Lourdes would fill a big opening in the Russians’ spying operation, which includes a vantage point on their American counterparts in electronic surveillance in Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the NSA.
“This gives the Russian coverage where they didn’t have coverage before,” explained Houghton. “If this does reopen and a lot of resources are put into it, this really does increase Russian capabilities.”