The Guardian October 31, 2001


Removal of Cuban base "detrimental to Russia"

Last week The Guardian published a statement by the Government of 
Cuba concerning the decision of the Russian President to close the Russian 
listening post in Cuba. Here are some comments by the Russian news media 
and Duma members on the issue.

"[The] Russian President comes to the (APEC) meeting in Shanghai with a 
present nobody expected him to make. The decision to close down its 
military base in Vietnam and the Electronic Radar Station in Lourdes, Cuba 
seems like too decisive a step towards the recent enemy", commented the 
Russian newspaper Vremya Novostei on October 19.

The newspaper also published a number of comments by Duma members on the 
President's decision.

Igor Rodionov, ex-Defence Minister and a member of the Veterans' Committee 
in the Duma. He is a representative of the Communist Party of the Russian 
Federation:

"The Cuban Electronic Radar Station at Lourdes is a defence establishment. 
Thanks to it Russia could listen to all the Western hemisphere and take 
adequate foreign and domestic decisions based on reliable information.

"Closing the Station is another strategic blow against Russia and its 
allies struck by its own hands in the interests of the USA and NATO. With 
the disintegration of the USSR there has begun a process of one-sided 
measures taken by Russia", said Mr Rodionov. "NATO is enlarging while the 
Warsaw Treaty does not exist anymore, we have removed our troops from 
Eastern Europe while NATO has settled in the Balkans, in Uzbekistan..."

Victor Alksnis, representing Russian Regions in the Duma was even more 
forceful:

"The decision to remove our Electronic Radar Station from the Cuban 
territory means that the USA leadership wants to liquidate the Castro 
regime within the framework of the present war against terrorism. One may 
assume that after the removal of the Station the USA will announce that the 
Cuban leadership is aiding and abetting terrorists and the rest will follow 
the well-known scenario.

"Thus, the consequences could be quite dramatic. Geopolitical withdrawal of 
Russia has been total. A widely promoted idea that our president is a 
Russian patriot is nothing but a myth. He is pro-western in his convictions 
and his main task is to integrate Russia into the western world. To do this 
he, among other things has to get rid of such irritants as our bases in 
Vietnam and Cuba".

Andrei Nikolayev, chairman of the Duma Defence Committee (Peoples' Deputy) 
said:

"We'll never return to the places we are leaving. Economic gains following 
our withdrawal cannot be measured against our losses politically and 
militarily. Electronic Radar Station in Lourdes (I was there and speak from 
first-hand experience) provides information of such volume and quality that 
it will be impossible to substitute by any other sources, even by 
increasing the number of orbital stations. In my opinion the removal of the 
Station will be extremely detrimental for Russia".

Russian news services and print media have mainly supported Putin's 
decision. The removal of the bases was presented as an economic decision 
and opposing views were dismissed as "old cold war thinking".

Alexei Arbatov, deputy chairman of the Defence Committee and a Yabloko 
representative is typical of the pro-western lobby. He siad:

"As to the Cuban Station, gathering of information is always necessary be 
it during 'cold war', in peace time and even under partnership 
arrangements. But here is a purely economic question, a question of 
technical need  do we continue to spend 6 billion roubles ($200 million) 
every year when we could buy 20 spy satellites for that money.

"We are not losing any geopolitical positions either. Nowadays, when "cold 
war" is in the past, Cuba is of no importance to us in the geopolitical, 
geostrategic sense. The USA will not attack Cuba, they have given their 
assurances. Besides, if they wanted to do that, the Station would not have 
been a deterrent..."

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