The secret Russian listening station in Lourdes, Cuba, photographed in October 18, 2001.
Russia wants to get closer to the United States — in a Cold War kind of way.
The Russian government and Cuba have agreed to reopen a massive Soviet-era spy base on the outskirts of Havana, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
The base, just 150 miles off the coast of the United States, originally opened in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis. Russia shut the spy installation down in 2002 because of lack of funds and as a goodwill gesture toward the American government in what was then a better diplomatic climate. If it reopens, the listening post would be Russia's only intelligence-gathering center in the Western hemisphere.
The deal between the two governments, announced after President Vladimir Putin's visit to the island last week, could not be independently confirmed.
"All I can say is — finally!""All I can say is — finally!" an anonymous Russian government source told the newspaper.
The images below show the location of the Lourdes spy base. The first picture was taken by an American spy plane and released in 1981; the second is a more recent image taken from Google Maps.
Dmitri Trenin, who served in the Soviet and Russian military from 1972 to 1993 and who is now director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, told Mashable that this move is "no surprise," given the current tensions between Russia and the United States.
"Moscow needs [intelligence] on the U.S., and has no incentive to abstain from an obvious move," he wrote in an email.
In an age when electronic surveillance can be done from any corner of the world (as the NSA revelations showed,) the location of the spying post is not as important as it once was, said Kimberly Marten, a professor at Barnard College and Columbia University who specializes in Russian foreign policy.
"This agreement could have enormous symbolic significance for Putin's goal of demonstrating Russia's geopolitical strength and global reach,""This agreement could have enormous symbolic significance for Putin's goal of demonstrating Russia's geopolitical strength and global reach," she told Mashable.
Russian-American relations have reached their lowest point since the end of the Soviet Union following the crisis in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, as well as the Russian government granting asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the U.S. on espionage charges.
The reopening it's not official yet but Putin said last week that Russia would establish a ground station for its GLONASS satellite navigation system in Cuba.
The move is strategically important to Putin, according to Anna Vassileva, a professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. It's not just about monitoring the United States, but also about reestablishing Russia's influence in the region.
"Putin is taking off his gloves — carefully,"
Tags: CUBA, RUSSIA, SURVEILLANCE, U.S., US & World, WORLD