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Russia may answer Western pressure with bases in Cuba - analyst

Russia may resume a military presence in Cuba in response to growing military-political pressure from the West, a Russian political analyst said on Monday.
MOSCOW, August 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia may resume a military presence in Cuba in response to growing military-political pressure from the West, a Russian political analyst said on Monday.

Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the U.S. of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying tracking radar in the Czech Republic as a threat to its national security. Washington says the defenses are needed to deter a possible strike from Iran, or other "rogue" states.

Moscow has also expressed concern over NATO's expansion to Russia's borders and pledged to take "appropriate measures."

"It is not a secret that the West is creating a 'buffer zone' around Russia, involving in the process countries in central Europe, the Caucasus, the Baltic states and Ukraine," said Leonid Ivashov, the former head of the Russian Defense Ministry's department for international cooperation, and currently president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

"In response, we may expand our military presence abroad, including in Cuba," Ivashov said, commenting on the recent visit of Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to Cuba on July 30-31.

He said during the visit Patrushev had most likely discussed the possibility of a renewed Russian military presence in Cuba with the Cuban defense and interior ministers.

"Cuba has convenient harbors which may host Russian reconnaissance and combat ships, and a network of forward landing airfields. With the Cuban leadership's consent and our own political will we may also consider resuming the work of an electronic listening post in Lourdes," the general said.

However, a high-ranking Cuban diplomat said on Saturday that the Cuban leadership had no intention of resuming military cooperation with Russia, especially after the surprise closure of the Lourde's listening post.

The electronic monitoring and surveillance facility near Havana at Torrens, also known as the Lourdes facility, the largest Russian SIGINT site abroad, was shut down in October 2001 by then- president Vladimir Putin.

"We were not even notified about the decision [by the Russian leadership]," the diplomat said.

The Lourdes facility reportedly covered a 28 square-mile area, with 1,000-1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel working at the base.

The complex was capable of monitoring a wide array of commercial and government communications throughout the southeastern United States, and between the United States and Europe.

Lourdes intercepted transmissions from microwave towers in the United States, communication satellite downlinks, and a wide range of shortwave and high-frequency radio transmissions.

Russia reportedly paid a yearly rent of $200-million for the facility.

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