Russia Closes Cuban Spy Base

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

( - The Castro government officially confirmed Sunday that Russia has closed the Lourdes spy base in Cuba. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last year that the base would be closed because it was too expensive to maintain, given the state of the Russian economy.

Russia had set up the base back in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis and used it to monitor American communications throughout the cold war.

The Russians had paid the Castro government around 200 million dollars a year for the base.

The Castro government, one of Russia's most important allies in the Western Hemisphere during the Cold War, was angered by Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to close the base. The decision was announced in October.

Granma, the official newspaper of the Castro government, said in an editorial that the Russian military base has collected 75 percent of the strategic information necessary to prevent U.S. "aggression," and was the principle instrument for monitoring compliance with disarmament accords.

"Russia will now be without vital defense information," the editorial said. The newspaper called it "laughable" that "Russia now asks Washington to dismantle its similar electronic radar station in Norway, just 40 kilometers from Russian borders."

Granma also refuted Russia's economic arguments for closing the base, rejecting Russia's argument that it could launch 20 reconnaissance satellites with the $200 billion in savings.

"An abyss separates our thinking from the opportunism, the egoism, and the lack of ethics that today prevails in the decadent field of the imperialist and capitalist system, or of those that aspire to it," said Granma's editorial.

Granma said Cuba would incur "terrible damages" from Russia's "abrupt and total default" on all agreements that the former Soviet Union had signed with the island.

However, BBC Radio quoted Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro as saying that a few Russians are remaining at the base to oversee the shipping of base equipment back to Russia. He also invited reporters to visit the facility once the last Russian leaves. He didn't say when that would take place.

There was some good news for the Castro government over the weekend. Honduras announced it was resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba. Honduras had severed relations with Cuba in 1962. The Honduran action leaves the United States and El Salvador as the only nations in the hemisphere that do not have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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See Earlier Story

Russia Will Dismantle Cuban Spy Station in January