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Russia To Close Cuban Radar Base, Withdraw Troops from Vietnam - 2001-10-17

Russia says it will close its radar base in Cuba and withdraw troops from a navy base in Vietnam. The actions are seen both as a cost-cutting effort and a response to what Russian leader Vladimir Putin calls a rapidly changing world.

Russian news agencies report that President Putin made the decisions during what was described as a "stormy" meeting of defense ministry officials and government ministers.

The reports said the decision to shut down the facilities was made for economic reasons and the move should not be seen a sign of any change in relations, in particular with the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Mr. Putin was quoted as saying that Russia still wants the United States to end its economic sanctions against Cuba.

Russian Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin told journalists after the meeting that the installation in Cuba is too expensive, costing about $200 million a year in rent alone. Total operating expenses there are about $300 million, according to military analysts. There are about 15,000 Russian engineers, technicians and soldiers at the Cuban base, which Washington has said is used to spy on the United States. Moscow will start closing the facility sometime this year.

Russia also says it will withdraw troops from the Cam Ranh Bay navy base in Vietnam. The Cam Ranh Bay facility was built by the United States in the 1960s during the Vietnam war. It is Russia's most important military facility in Southeast Asia serving as an intelligence post as well as a port for Russia's nuclear fleet.

Mr. Putin was quoted as saying that closing the two sites will allow Russia to "resolve a lot of financial matters."

In a related development, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Mr. Putin has also ordered what was termed a step-by-step increase in spending on military equipment that will amount to about $900 million in 2002. Mr. Putin was quoted as saying the U.S. led campaign in Afghanistan has forced Russia to change its priorities so it can respond to a rapidly changing world situation.