Russia Postpones Dismantling Of Cuban Spy Base

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

( - A high-ranking Russian military official has announced a postponement in dismantling Russia's Lourdes spy base in Cuba, something that was supposed to begin on Jan. 15.

The official Russian Interfax-Military news agency reported Tuesday that Lt. Gen. Viktor Denisov, the commander of the operation, said three heavy cargo planes that were supposed to pick up radar and other equipment from Lourdes had been delayed because the military didn't receive funding in time for the planned beginning of the operation.

Denisov did not say when the flights would be rescheduled. But he did say the flight crews were ready to take off at any time.

For nearly 40 years, Russia maintained the spy station in Cuba to keep tabs on the United States. It was set up in 1964 during the Khrushchev regime after the Cuban missile crisis.

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.

Putin said Lourdes was too expensive to maintain, given the state of the Russian economy. However, he stressed that the decision did not mean its relations with Cuba were being downscaled.