Numerous international press agencies reported today that the
President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, declared
that as of January 2002, his country would close its military
Electronic Radar Stations in Cam Ranh, Vietnam and Lourdes,
With regard to Cuba, he stated that "after lengthy negotiations
with our Cuban partners, it was recognized that withdrawing the
Electronic Radar Station from Cuba would be a positive move."
Also today, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed
Forces, Army Commander Anatoly Kvashnin, declared that
"Russia is withdrawing its military bases from Cuba and
Vietnam as a result of the change in the military-political
situation in the world, and in view of the savings in financial
resources for the army and navy. The annual lease on the
Electronic Radar Station is around 200 million dollars, without
taking into account the maintenance of staff. With this money we
can buy and launch 20 reconnaissance satellites, and purchase
around 100 radars."
To avoid any errors or confusion, the Government of Cuba
would like to clarify that the two facilities should not have been
lumped together in the Russian declaration, because they differ
greatly in their origins, functions and importance.
Cam Ranh was a naval base built by the United States some 20
thousand kilometers away from its territory and leased to the
USSR in 1979, years after the war had ended. It is of barely any
use for a country like Russia, which has had practically no
surface vessel fleet since the demise of the Soviet Union.
At this moment, Vietnam faces no danger of military aggression
from the United States since relations between the two
countries are normal. For Vietnam, the United States poses no
risk whatsoever. There can be no doubt that the decision was
previously discussed and approved by both countries.
The Lourdes Electronic Radar Station was established in 1964,
two years after the Missile Crisis. The USSR did not pay a cent
for the services it received from Cuba, in view of the close
cooperation between the two countries at that time in both the
economic and military fields.
In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the Russian
Federation fully assumed the rights and privileges of the former
Union, Russia unilaterally withdrew the military brigade that had
remained in Cuba after the Missile Crisis for a period of some
30 years, all this as a result of negotiations and agreements with
the United States. At the same time, however, Russia
expressed interest in maintaining the Lourdes Electronic Radar
Station as an important element for its strategic security,
particularly as a means of verifying strict compliance with the
agreements on nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapons
reduction adopted by the United States and Russia.
Despite flagrant violations of agreements, economic losses and
risks faced by Cuba, our government allowed the facility to stay
with no charge whatsoever for the services that our country
provided to Russia. This was the case for a certain period of
time only, given that there was no longer the slightest political or
ideological connection between Cuba and Russia. The leaders
of Russia had unilaterally destroyed all of the agreements
between the two countries. There was absolutely no reason left
to provide it with free services of any kind.
Russia’s reiterated interest in maintaining, expanding and
modernizing the Lourdes Electronic Radar Station, for the
reasons mentioned above, led to an agreement which included
payment to Cuba in Russian commodities or hard currency in
exchange for the services provided to the station. That payment
totaled 90 million dollars in 1992, 160 million from 1993 to
1995, and the 200 million mentioned by Army Commander
Anatoly Kvashnin from 1996 to 2000. This sum is not at all
extraordinary when one considers that it is barely 3% of the
damage caused to our country’s economy by the disintegration
of the socialist bloc and the USSR and the unilateral annulment
of all agreements. At the same time, Cuba benefited from some
of the information obtained related to our own country’s security.
The United States has relentlessly pressured Russia over the
existence of this facility, despite the fact that the United States
itself has maintained a military base in our territory for over 100
years now, against our people’s will.
During President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Cuba in December of
2000, the heads of state of our two countries spent several
hours at the station on December 14. Not a word was said
about its closure. On the contrary, there was talk of further
developing and modernizing it. President Putin literally said that
day; "Russia and Cuba are interested in continuing to foster its
activity. It has been fully functioning for some time, in
accordance with international standards and regulations. It has
done so successfully, and Russia and Cuba declare themselves
as countries interested in continuing to foster its activity."
At that time, only minor differences emerged between the
Cuban and Russian military authorities involved, since the
Russians desired to reduce, by a relatively small margin, the
economic compensation paid to Cuba. This had become
customary every year during the reviews of the Russian side’s
repeated failure to meet its obligations.
Months later, a curious change was observed in Russia’s policy
towards the Lourdes Electronic Radar Station. This took the
form of non-compliance with its financial obligations, resulting in
an accumulation of unfulfilled payments, and unjustifiable and
exaggerated demands for a reduction in the amount paid for
services rendered, despite the threefold increase in the price of
oil, one of Russia’s main exports, and an obvious improvement
in the Russian economy, reflected by the growth of its reserves
from some 12 billion dollars to over 30 billion, among other
It was at this stage that the current international crisis broke out,
creating considerable tension throughout the world. There had
been, at all times, contacts and fluid, friendly relations between
our two governments, despite the fact that they have adopted
rather different positions: Cuba is opposed to terrorism and
opposed to the war, while Russia has offered broad support
and cooperation for the war unleashed by the United States.
But, both fully agree on the fight against terrorism and the need
for the United Nations to play its role.
The negotiations we have been carrying out with regard to the
Lourdes Electronic Radar Station have yet to be concluded.
Yesterday, October 16, at 2:00 p.m., we had not reached an
agreement. A special envoy urgently proposed the closing of the
station. Our response was that this would be a most untimely
measure to adopt. At this very moment, the U.S. government’s
stance is more aggressive and belligerent than ever, many
countries are threatened in light of the U.S. president’s speech
on September 20, and military operations have already begun
in Afghanistan. Under such circumstances, the withdrawal of the
station would be a message and a concession to the
government of the United States, which would constitute a grave
threat to Cuba’s security, and therefore we were not in
agreement with its closure.
Just last night, we addressed the issue once again, putting
forward a great many arguments with the Russian envoy, who
had requested an urgent meeting. This envoy had brought
another message from the Russian president, proposing
something even worse: the advisability of publicly and
immediately declaring that the agreement on the Lourdes
Electronic Radar Station was cancelled. We responded that we
were in absolute disagreement, and proposed that they study
other options. We noted that they have a reputation for being
good chess players, and were therefore aware that there were a
hundred other moves they could make, and not just the one they
Russia’s urgency, it was explained, stemmed from their wish for
President Putin to meet President Bush at the Asia-Pacific
Cooperation Forum in Shanghai bearing these two pieces of
news. It is easy to understand how much they would please their
recipient: the one regarding Cam Ranh, although unimportant in
reality, is highly symbolic; the one concerning Cuba would be a
Consequently, the agreement on the Lourdes Electronic Radar
Station has not been cancelled, since Cuba has not given its
approval. Russia shall continue negotiating with the Cuban
government, given that there are still important issues to resolve
with regard to the matter.
Unfortunately, perhaps President Putin, because of the time
difference, did not have a chance to hear our well-founded
arguments and suggestions on the matter in time, before
making his public announcement.
Still, Cuba holds him and the enormous State of Russia in great
esteem and deep respect.
For this reason, Cuba will refrain for the moment from making
any judgments or criticisms regarding what was announced
today by the press agencies. It will simply limit itself to offering
absolutely factual information to our people, and to hoping that
this disagreement can be resolved in a reasonable, fair and
There is something that should be clearly understood by
everyone, and on which no one should entertain false illusions:
in Cuba there is not and there never will be either panic or fear.
This is the perfect atmosphere for serenity, cool-headed
wisdom, integrity, dignity, and unlimited courage.
The Government of the Republic of Cuba
Havana, October 17, 2001