The Danger of Russia Reopening Its Electronic Espionage Base in Cuba

Sunday, October 9, 2016
Both significant and concerning, here's what Putin's analysts at Sputnik News have to say about the reestablishment of Russia's electronic espionage base in Cuba:

On Friday, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said that the Defense Ministry was looking into reestablishing Russian bases in Cuba and Vietnam. Analysts speaking to one of Russia's leading online newspapers suggested that if Russia does return, its bases will be a cost-effective deployment compared to that of the old Soviet juggernaut.

Asked whether the Defense Ministry has any plans to reopen Soviet-era bases in countries including Vietnam and Cuba, Pankov confirmed that "we are engaged in this work." The deputy minister did not go into detail, but noted that the military was 'rethinking' the decision taken in the early 2000s to end the Russian military presence in these countries [...]

Pondering the significance of Deputy Defense Minister Pankov's comments, and the likelihood of a serious redeployment of Russian forces to Cuba and Vietnam, independent online newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa turned to several respected Russian military analysts for their thoughts on the issue.

Speaking to the paper, Vladimir Karjakin, a professor at the Military University of the Russian Defense Ministry of Defense, suggested that reopening the Lourdes SIGINT facility would significantly improve Russian radio intelligence, whose effectiveness is low compared to that of the US.

"In its own time, the intelligence center at Lourdes kept virtually the entire Western Hemisphere in its view, monitoring the US at a depth of several thousand kilometers," the retired Air Force colonel recalled.

"The facilities in Cuba allowed for the collection of information on the US's adherence to arms control agreements, to conduct the interception of telephone conversations in the US, to track submarines and engage in industrial espionage," Karjakin added.

Moreover, "according to Raul Castro, the [Cuba-based] radar system gave Russia three-quarters of its intelligence on the US. In turn, the Cubans received information necessary to ensuring the island's security." After the collapse of the USSR, the base stationed staff of Russian military and foreign intelligence. In 1997, the base had its equipment modernized.

The expert suggested it it's entirely possible that Pankov's comments "may be only a demonstration of intent, and an element of information warfare against the background of deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington. But really the present is a very opportune moment to return to Cuba as far as politics is concerned. It would be better to settle in in Cuba today, while the Obama administration is packing its bags, and get a trump card in our hand, than to do it after the elections, while we sort out our relations with the next president."

Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Russia's Arms Export magazine, agreed with his colleague, suggesting that "in spite of developments in satellite technology, the radar at Lourdes would allow us to capture a great deal of information, including cellular communications, whose analysis could be of interest." In its own time, the Lourdes complex was even said to be capable of recording the takeoff and landing of US military planes. Restoring this capability would certainly be a benefit, Frolov noted [...]

For his part, Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, suggested that when it comes to any talk of a possible return of Russian military forces to Cuba and Vietnam, the key question is: "Are the Cubans and Vietnamese ready to have us?"

"I think that the Cubans would happily agree to the restoration of the Lourdes station," the expert noted.