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Russian media report: Kremlin considering reopening bases in Cuba, Vietnam

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, and Cuba's President Raul Castro applaud at Revolution Palace in Havana, Cuba, on July 11, 2014. A Russian deputy defense minister has said the Kremlin wants to reopen bases in Cuba.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, and Cuba's President Raul Castro applaud at Revolution Palace in Havana, Cuba, on July 11, 2014. A Russian deputy defense minister has said the Kremlin wants to reopen bases in Cuba. AP

A report published Friday by Russia Today, an English-language cable channel funded by the government, quoted Russia’s deputy defense minister as saying Russia is considering relaunching military bases in Cuba and Vietnam.

In recent years, there have been other similar reports in the Russian media about the imminent reopening of the Lourdes base, an intelligence-gathering facility about 18 miles from Havana that was once operated by 1,500 KGB and GRU military-intelligence officers. The Lourdes listening post was phased out in 2001 and 2002.

The latest report quoted a story released by RIA, Russia’s international news agency, saying Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov had said: “We are working on this.” There was no further elaboration.

“I will believe this is a real possibility when I hear it from Cuba and Vietnam. A country needs to want this,” said Olga Oliker, director of the Russian and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Russia Today said Pankov also was referring to the Cam Ranh base in Vietnam, which the Soviet Union and then Russia leased rent-free from 1979 until 2004. At the end of the lease, the Vietnamese government said it “would not sign an agreement with any country to use Cam Ranh Bay for military purposes.” However, a 2014 agreement allows Russian warships to enter Cam Ranh by simply giving Vietnam prior notification.

“Russia is looking to increase its global posture from a prestige point of view, to show that it is a world power and like the United States it also has global bases,” said Oliker. “The question is what would Russia offer [Cuba and Vietnam] in exchange for the countries allowing these bases. I’m not sure how interested the Cubans are given the recent restoration of relations with the United States.”

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