​Russian Spy Ship Docks At Cuban Port Amid Talks With U.S.

Author: Rob AdamsBy:
Follow Twitter:
Jan, 22, 2015 | 10:55 AM

A Russian spy ship named the Viktor Leonov has docked in Havana amid official diplomatic talks between Cuba and the United States. Sources say that the vessel is described as an intelligence warship and was not officially announced before the talks. But U.S. defense officials said it’s not alarming.

The ship, with a crew of about 200, was first put into service in 1988. The ship also made unannounced docks in last February and March in Havana. It is part of a complicated dance between Cuba, the US, and Russia as the three sides seek to define new terms in the country.

“Everybody’s got something they want to say here,” says Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. From the US’s desire to “maximize the penetration of democratic ideas,” to Cuba’s hope of opening up, yet still maintaining its regime and relations with Russia, Mr. Makarkin says. “As for Moscow, it wants to maintain its ties with Cuba too.”

The Viktor Leonov has been in the Western Hemisphere for some time, and Russian experts say it is tasked with spying on US communications and military installations. In recent months it’s reportedly been spotted in international waters near naval facilities such as the nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia. It has visited Havana twice in the past year, though both of those port calls were officially announced by the Cuban government.

President Obama announced a new proposal that could loosen elements of the US-imposed embargo that’s been in place since 1961. The talks are expected to create waves across the isolated communist island nation. The U.S. is seeking to normalize relations after more than 50 years of animosity.

The Viktor Leonov hovering in Havana harbor definitely sends a clear message, Russian experts say.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Roberta Jacobson, is slated to hold three days of talks in Havana, settling practical matters related to reopening the US Embassy after more than half a century, and meeting with Cuban government, opposition, and business representatives.

So far Washington’s reaction to the Russian ship’s sudden appearance has been calm. “It’s not unprecedented. It’s not unusual. It’s not alarming,” an unnamed US defense official said in a statement. Cuba reportedly agreed to let Russia re-open spy efforts at the sprawling former-Soviet intelligence gathering base at Lourdes, near Havana, though the move has never been officially confirmed.

Share this article