No plans to reopen Russian military bases on Cuba – Foreign Ministry

The secret Russian listening station at Lourdes some 30 km (approx. 18 miles) south of Havana is seen in this December 13, 2000. © Andrew Winning
Russia will not reopen its military base on Cuba but it will maintain close economic relations with this country, a top Russian diplomat has said.

“We have no plans to open a military base on Cuba. This has not even been discussed, ever. We are developing our relations with Cuba on a completely different plane. The issues of combat readiness of the Cuban military forces are a completely different aspect and there is absolutely no grounds to suggest that we are planning to set up anything there,” the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Latin America, Aleksandr Schetinin, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

The diplomat added that despite the current normalization of the relations between Cuba and the United States, Russia had no plans to reduce its own cooperation with Cuba. Shchetinin said that he had an impression that there was a deliberate campaign aimed at pushing Russian companies toward leaving Cuba and that this campaign could be a part of the global struggle for markets. “Our task is not to buy into this logic,” the diplomat told reporters.

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Russia had a major electronic intelligence base, the SIGINT facility, in Lourdes, Cuba, since 1967. The base was the largest of all Soviet intelligence centers abroad with 3,000 personnel. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the base was downscaled, but continued operation. In 2001, the Lourdes intelligence center stopped its operations mainly because of high costs.

Rumors that the Lourdes base could be reopened circulated in July 2014, but shortly after the Russian Embassy in Cuba refuted it, claiming the report was an attempt to blacken the improving relations between the states.

President Vladimir Putin personally denied any plans to reopen the base during his visit to Cuba, adding that Russia can “meet its defense needs without this component.”

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