Moscow and Havana have agreed to reopen a Cold War-era signals intelligence (SIGINT) base in Lourdes, Cuba.
An agreement was reached during Putin’s visit to Cuba last week to reopen the base, Russia business daily Kommersant reported last week. That was confirmed by a Russian security source who told Reuters: ”A framework agreement has been agreed.”
The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis had brought the U.S. and Soviet Union close to confrontation over Moscow’s proposal to place nuclear weapons on Cuban soil.
Havana shut it down in 2001 because of financial issues and American pressure. (Editor’s Note: This statement is incorrect. Russia’s shut down of Lourdes infuriated Fidel Castro).
Located south of Cuba’s capital Havana and just 150 miles from the U.S. coast, the base left many parts of the U.S. vulnerable to Soviet communication intercepts, including exchanges between Florida space centers and U.S. spacecraft. (Editor’s Note: The first statement is partially incorrect — Lourdes is roughly 100 miles from the U.S. coast).
Here’s what a Congressional report from 2000 said about the facility:
• The Secretary of Defense formally expressed concerns to Congress regarding the espionage complex at Lourdes, Cuba, and its use as a base for intelligence directed against the United States.
• The Secretary of Defense, referring to a 1998 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment, reported that the Russian Federation leased the Lourdes facility for an estimated $100 million to $300 million a year.
• It has been reported that the Lourdes facility was the largest such complex operated by the Russian Federation and its intelligence service outside the region of the former Soviet Union.
• The Lourdes facility was reported to cover a 28 square-mile area with over 1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel working at the base.
• Experts familiar with the Lourdes facility have reportedly confirmed that the base had multiple groups of tracking dishes and its own satellite system, with some groups used to intercept telephone calls, faxes, and computer communications, in general, and with other groups used to cover targeted telephones and devices.
• News sources have reported that the Lourdes facility obtained sensitive information about United States military operations during Operation Desert Storm.
• Academic studies cite official U.S. sources affirming that the Lourdes facility was used to collect personal information about United States citizens in the private and government sectors, and offered the means to engage in cyberwarfare against the U.S.
• The operational significance of the Lourdes facility reportedly grew dramatically after Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a 1996 order demanding the Russian intelligence community increase its gathering of U.S. and other Western economic and trade secrets.
Read more here: The Lourdes SIGINT Base
Editor’s Note: The caption under the lead photo in the Business Insider posting of this article is highly misleading. During the Cold War, Moscow provided Havana with subsidies exceeding three billion dollars annually. Given this massive foreign aid influx, it is grossly disingenuous to claim that Cuba allowed the Russians to stay there “rent-free” through 1992.