Military expert denies that Cuba overcharged Russia for using Lourdes intelligence gathering station

The allegations that Russia paid Cuba a lot of money for renting the Lourdes signals intelligence facility, which made its operations and maintenance too costly, are untrue, says Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

The allegations that Russia paid Cuba a lot of money for renting the Lourdes signals intelligence facility, which made its operations and maintenance too costly, are untrue, says Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

"These are lies. The Lourdes facility cost us nearly as much as it would have if we had operated it on our own territory. The Cubans didn't charge us anything," said Ivashov, who used to head the Russian Defense Ministry's main international military cooperation department from 1996 to 2001 and within whose purview the Lourdes station was.

A number of media outlets reported earlier that Russia paid Cuba tens of millions of U.S. dollars for keeping the Lourdes base.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro personally cared about the Russian center and its social facility maintenance, Ivashov said.

Asked what the Lourdes facility's operations would cost the Russian budget, Ivashov replied: "It won't cost us a lot."

"And besides, the ratio between the center's cost and efficiency will always be in favor of its efficiency and use," he said.

The Lourdes center could complement the space intelligence component. "Satellites are certainly a good thing. But look how the U.S. National Security Agency is keeping the entire world under its control and how it can tap, peep, and read," he said.

Asked why he believes the Lourdes facility was shut down, Ivashov replied, "There were illusions at the beginning of the last decade that they [the U.S.] were our friends. And if we conceded to them, including by liquidating such an important facility, they would worship us. This is wrong. We see how the Americans are behaving today."

According to information from open sources, the Lourdes facility was the main Soviet and then a most important Russian radio interception center. It operated in a southern suburb of Havana until January 27, 2002.

The center played a key role in intercepting intelligence during the Cold War era. The station was capable of intercepting data from U.S. communication satellites, ground telecommunications cables, reports from the NASA mission control located in Florida, and other sources.

About 1,000 Russian specialists were deployed at the station on a permanent basis in the post-Soviet time.

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