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Russia Seeks Response to Base Closure

From Reuters

The government urged the United States on Thursday to respond in kind to its closure of a spying base in Cuba and shut down Cold War surveillance centers monitoring Russia.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, speaking a day after President Vladimir V. Putin announced that Russia was shutting its Lourdes electronic spying center outside Havana, particularly singled out a U.S.-built radar installation in Norway.

Spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement that Russia was pleased with President Bush’s statement welcoming the closure of the Lourdes center, a “listening post” about 90 miles off the Florida coast.

He said Russia was ready to build a new relationship with the United States based on “pragmatic cooperation.”

“Of course it goes without saying that we expect corresponding, reciprocal steps,” Yakovenko said.

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He said it was no secret that in countries bordering Russia there were U.S. electronic intelligence centers, set up during the Cold War.

“Specifically, as we have said more than once, there are serious questions regarding the [U.S.] radar in [the Norwegian town of] Vardo,” he said. Vardo is near the Russian border.

Norway and the United States say the station, which is used by the Norwegian armed forces, is able only to track space debris. But Russia says it has broader uses and violates the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty.

Russia sees the station as part of U.S. preparations for a proposed missile defense system, which Moscow opposes.

Bush, due to meet Putin in Shanghai at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, hailed Moscow’s decision to close the Lourdes base as a sign of improving U.S.-Russian ties and a further indication that the cloak-and-dagger days of the Cold War are over.

“The withdrawal from the Lourdes station, which the Americans regarded as a constant irritant, can be interpreted as the beginning of a completely new relationship with the United States,” the Russian daily Izvestia said.

But Cuba, Russia’s erstwhile Communist ally, called the closure of the Lourdes surveillance center “a grave risk” to security.

Moscow dismissed Cuba’s criticism.

“We have been discussing the issue of that center with our Cuban colleagues for a long time, and the decision could not have come as a surprise,” the Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement.


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