A report that Russia will reopen a Havana base that eavesdropped on U.S. communications from Key West to Washington has triggered fresh warnings of Moscow’s expansionism and predictions of a continued freeze in U.S.-Cuba relations.
Until its closure in 2002, the Lourdes base was Moscow’s largest intelligence facility abroad, with up to 1,500 KGB and GRU military intelligence officers manning an array of antennas and computers in the super-secret 28 square-mile base.
“If the report is true, there’s no question Washington will put Cuba engagement on the back burner,” said Andy Gomez, a retired Cuba specialist at the University of Miami and now senior policy adviser for the Washington law firm Poblete Tamargo.
Alvaro Alba, a Miami expert on Russia, said reopening Lourdes would underscore President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions and cast a pall on U.S.-Cuba relations as dark as Havana’s imprisonment of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross since 2009.
Asked why Cuban ruler Raúl Castro would do that when he has repeatedly declared that he wants to improve relations with Washington, Alba added, “Cuba hasn’t cared about the United States in more than 50 years.”