posted on Sep, 8 2008 @ 09:36 AM
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in late July sent one of his closest aides, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, and a large delegation to meet
with Cuban President Raul Castro.. The meeting was primarily about economic cooperation, including possible oil exploration off Cuba But Russian
officials made it clear that they were exploring resumption of other aspects of the relationship as well
Nikolai Patrushev, who is secretary of the Russian Security Council and former director of the FSB, the domestic successor agency to the KGB, met with
the Cuban defense and interior ministers on the trip Afterward, the council issued a statement saying that the two countries planned "consistent work
to restore traditional relations in all areas of cooperation"
Afterward, Putin said, "We need to reestablish positions in Cuba and in other countries"
Some Russian analysts remain skeptical of the Kremlin's intentions, seeing the whispers of renewed military activity in Cuba as a tactic meant to
rattle the United States
Russian officials "understand that the restoration of even an intelligence-gathering base in Lourdes would be a declaration of a new Cold War on the
part of Russia," said Alexander Golts, defense analyst with the online publication Yezhednevny Zhurnal "The Kremlin will never do it, because they
cannot afford it"
Despite talk of a return to the Cold War, Golts noted, Russia spends 27% of its gross domestic product on defense -- unlike the Soviet Union, which at
the height of the Cold War spent 40%
Although several Bush administration officials who have been hawkish on Russia say they find the Cuba ties worrisome, other U..S officials say the
threat should not be overstated
"The old days are gone, and people need to keep a sense of perspective," said one U.S.. official "That said, I wouldn't assume these [Cuban and
Russian intelligence] services never talk to each other"
That official said Cuban intelligence activities posed a concern even without rekindled Russian ties
"They were and are aggressive on their own," he said "If anything, the years that have passed since the end of the Soviet Union have convinced the
Cubans that, when it comes to intelligence, they themselves are the only people on whom they can rely"
Since becoming president, Raul Castro has generally avoided provoking the United States, said Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst and Cuba specialist.
Latell said he was skeptical that Castro would want to be caught in the middle of the rekindled U..S-Russian rivalry
"Why go out on a limb for Putin?" asked Latell, who has written a book, "After Fidel," about Cuba's political transition "I'm not sure I can
discern why the Cubans would want to get themselves wrapped around these great power issues"
Latell added, though, that he was ready to believe that the Cubans would cooperate on intelligence and would resume limited military contacts, such as
refueling of aircraft
The 28-square-mile Russian electronic surveillance complex at Lourdes was Russia's largest such base overseas, and reportedly had as many as 1,500
Russian engineers, technicians and military personnel working there. Less than 100 miles from Key West, Fla.., its position made it ideal for snooping
on the US
The Russian government ended its involvement there in 2001 because of its high cost as well as the strain it exerted on U..S-Russian relations
Mark Hackard, assistant director of the Nixon Center in Washington, said Russia's moves grew out of its sense that, although it has given ground on
security again and again since the 1990s, it has received little in return from the United States and its allies Yet, there are limits to how far the
Russians will extend their military, he said
"They're not seeking a new superpower standoff around the world," Hackard said "They do want primacy in the former Soviet sphere"