Reports of a Chinese spy base in Cuba

China and Cuba have reportedly agreed to build a secret “eavesdropping facility” in Cuba to intercept US communications, according to The Wall Street Journal(WSJ).

But the word “reportedly” is doing a fair bit of heavy lifting in that sentence. Both Cuba and China were quick to deny the report, which is hardly surprising. But then US officials started denying it, too. So what’s going on here?

First, there’s nothing new about spies in Cuba:

  • 🇷🇺 Russia ran its largest signals intel facility in Lourdes until 2001
  • 🇮🇷 Iran once used Cuba to jam critical broadcasts out of the US
  • 🇨🇺 A US spook just did two decades in jail for spying for Cuba, and
  • 🇺🇸 The US has intel capabilities on its Guantanamo base there

But there’s not even much new about China’s spies in Cuba:

  • 📡 It’s long had access to an intel facility at Santiago de Cuba, and
  • 🏗️ It was already rumoured to be upgrading another one at Bejucal

So then… what’s the big deal?

  • First, it’s China: America’s top strategic competitor
  • Second, it’s Cuba: the last time a strategic competitor aimed something at the US from so close, we almost had a nuclear war
  • And third, the WSJ said China was building an entirely new base

Things got a little clearer over the weekend: a US official clarified that China upgraded its intel facilities in Cuba back in 2019. So it’s possible the WSJ report was referring to this 2019 renovation.

Intrigue’s take: Just as we were recovering from balloon-gate, this story breaks. And while it seems maybe there’s no new Chinese intel facility in Cuba after all, there’s a bigger picture here.

Like the spy balloon saga, this latest story is a reminder that Washington’s rivalry with Beijing is no longer limited to the far side of the Pacific Ocean.

Whether it’s floating 22km above the US mainland, or sitting 160km off the Florida coast, or steaming through the South China Sea… US-China competition is global.

Also worth noting:

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