MOSCOW, July 16 (UPI) -- Russia will reopen an electronic eavesdropping post in Cuba closed since 2001, Russian officials said Wednesday.
The agreement to reopen the facility in Lourdes, near Havana, was made last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban leader Raul Castro when Putin visited Havana. It came in exchange for Russia's forgiveness of $32 billion, or 90 percent, of Cuba's Soviet-era debt, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.
Before Putin left Cuba, he spoke of a return to military and technological cooperation between Russia and Cuba.
Russia left the site, a 28-square mile array of satellite dishes and antennae, because of the cost of maintaining it and the belief that its war in Chechnya was a higher priority. While it was in use, the eavesdropping site listened in on U.S. microwave transmission of telephone conversations, U.S. Navy maneuvers in the Atlantic Ocean, and the space program at Cape Canaveral.
In 1993, Raul Castro claimed Russia received 75 percent of its strategic U.S. intelligence through the site.
Officials made no mention of the cost of funding the site. It remains unclear if the equipment left at the Lourdes site is of any use, with technological innovations since 2001 likely obsoleting much of its capability.