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    Moscow must answer U.S. shield with Cuban 'spy' site - analyst

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    Russia should respond to U.S. missile defense plans for Central Europe by reopening a 'spy' facility in Cuba to gather intelligence on the United States, a Russian analyst said on Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia should respond to U.S. missile defense plans for Central Europe by reopening a 'spy' facility in Cuba to gather intelligence on the United States, a Russian analyst said on Wednesday.

    The electronic monitoring and surveillance facility near Havana at Torrens, also known as the Lourdes facility, the largest Russian Sigint site abroad, was shut down in October 2001 by then- president Vladimir Putin.

    "Cuba is a unique place to gather intelligence on the United States. I believe that the reopening of this station is both possible and necessary amid the threat that the Americans are creating for Russia," Alexander Pikayev, head of the disarmament and conflict resolution department at the Russian Academy of Sciences' World Economics and International Relations Institute, told a news conference at RIA Novosti.

    "Russia has every right to respond," he added.

    Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the U.S. of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security. Washington says the missile shield is needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states."

    A Russian military source was earlier quoted as saying that Russian strategic bombers could be stationed again in Cuba, only 90 miles from the U.S. coast, in response to the U.S. missile shield plans for Central Europe.

    The Lourdes facility reportedly covered a 28 square-mile area, with 1,000-1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel working at the base.

    The complex was capable of monitoring a wide array of commercial and government communications throughout the southeastern United States, and between the United States and Europe.

    Lourdes intercepted transmissions from microwave towers in the United States, communication satellite downlinks, and a wide range of shortwave and high-frequency radio transmissions.

    In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to the brink of nuclear war when Soviet missiles were stationed in Cuba.

    The crisis was resolved after 12 days when the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, backed down and ordered the missiles removed.

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