By ANDREW E. KRAMER, New York Times
MOSCOW — Russia has decided to reopen an electronic eavesdropping post in Cuba that it closed more than a decade ago, reaching out for a onetime symbol of its global superpower status, Russian officials and newspaper reports said on Wednesday.
President Vladimir V. Putin agreed with Cuba’s leader, Raúl Castro, during a visit to Cuba last week to reopen the post. In exchange, Mr. Putin agreed to forgive about 90 percent of Cuba’s Soviet-era debt to Russia, or about $32 billion. News of the debt relief emerged last week, but the agreement to reopen the listening post was first reported Wednesday by the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
Members of the Russian Parliament appeared to confirm the report in public statements praising what seemed to be a step by Russia toward re-establishing a military presence in Cuba, at a time when the conflict in Ukraine has sent Russian-American relations spiraling to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
Russia vacated the listening post site at Lourdes, outside Havana, in 2001. At the time, Mr. Putin cited the strapped finances of the post-Soviet Russian government and said the war in Chechnya was a higher priority than maintaining a Cold War relic half a world away.
The United States Congress had also pressed Russia to move out of Lourdes, linking the abandonment of the site with deals to restructure Russia’s heavy foreign debt.
Russia closed a listening post at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, at that time as well. There were no indications on Wednesday that the Kremlin intended to revive that post.
In its heyday, the Soviet signals intelligence base at Lourdes enabled Moscow to listen in on microwave transmissions of telephone conversations in the southeastern United States, keep an eye on the United States Navy in the Atlantic, monitor the space program at Cape Canaveral and communicate with its spies on American soil. In 1993, when Mr. Castro was chief of the Cuban armed forces, he boasted that Russia obtained 75 percent of its strategic intelligence on the United States through Lourdes.
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