Soviet Union knew U.S. plans for gulf war, defector claims Spy gear used in Cuba

Iraq was not told, he says

April 04, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MIAMI -- The Soviet Union knew U.S. battle plans in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, including the surprise "left hook" into Iraq, through an electronic spy network anchored in Cuba, a Russian defector says.

Moscow did not leak the plans to Baghdad at the time, the defector said. But improved Russian-Iraqi relations these days may lead Moscow to be more friendly to President Saddam Hussein if U.S. troops plan to attack Iraq again.

Moscow's Lourdes spy center in Cuba is far bigger than publicly known, the defector added, a "monster" that collates data intercepted by Russian spy satellites, ships and planes in the entire Atlantic region.

CIA spokesmen would not comment on the claims by Stanislav Lunev, 50, a colonel in Soviet military intelligence, GRU, who defected in 1992 while working as a Tass news agency correspondent in Washington.

But U.S. intelligence experts said Lunev's description of Lourdes was on target and that he is a high-level defector who has lectured at the Pentagon, CIA and National Security Agency, which is in charge of U.S. electronic eavesdropping.

Built by the GRU in the 1970s in the Havana suburb of El Wajay, Lourdes' antenna array can reportedly pick up electronic signals -- cellular, cordless or microwave phone calls plus CB and radios -- up to 1,000 miles away.

Lourdes also receives and collates intercepts by spy satellites, ships and planes in the Atlantic region, making it a full-fledged regional command and control center with some 2,000 Russian staffers, Lunev said.

Lourdes' defenders argue that Washington cannot force the Russians to close the base because it is critical to Moscow's efforts to ensure that the U.S. military is not cheating on international disarmament treaties.

But U.S. critics say the center is a threat to U.S. security.

Pub Date: 4/04/98

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