A mysterious new Russian compound has come to life within the proximity of a U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua. Globe-shaped devices and antennas can be spotted in the compound. Reports from the Nicaraguan government says it’s a tracking site of the Russian version of a GPS satellite system. Some folks are suspicious that it is an intelligence base intended to surveil Americans.
The GLONASS ground station in Managua, Nicaragua is its first in Central America. Reports claim that the station was created under a Jan. 26, 2012, agreements between the two countries to cooperate in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. The station consists of 24 satellites orbiting at a medium height of 19140 km in three planes with inclination of 64.8 degrees.
Russia is back in Nicaragua after the Cold War battle which saw the small nation become the prize in the war. The Russian government has increased its security partnership in the country by building facilities to train Central American forces to combat drug trafficking.
President Putin’s administration has been pursuing its expansionist foreign policy. In other parts of the world administration, the administration has deployed fighter planes to help Syria’s war-battered government and stepped up peace efforts in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials suspect that the new Russian facilities could have dual use capabilities, particularly for electronic espionage aimed at the United States. Security analysts see the military moves in Central America as a possible rebuttal to the increased U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe, showing that Russia can also strut in the United States’ back yard.
U.S. officials reported that they are vigilant of the growing Russia presence. The spy games and Washington-Moscow power struggles are a thing of the past for Nicaragua.
The Soviet Union and Cuba provided soldiers and funding to help the government of Daniel Ortega and his leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front after they overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator Anastazio Somoza in 1979. In response, the CIA backed the rebels known as the contras to fight the Sandinistas in a war that killed tens of thousands.
In the past decade, Russia has sought a bigger world presence. In Latin America, Russia has sold billions of dollars in weapons to Venezuela. Russian helicopters are used by militaries in Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. Russia has also intensified economic ties with several countries, including Mexico and Brazil.
After Ortega’s re-election in 2006, Nicaragua became a Russian friend. Russian revamped its relationship with the country by focusing on civilians. However, the executive director of the Center for Investigation and Strategic Analysis revealed that economic cooperation was a disguise, adding that the Russians really wanted an active military presence.
The partnership has been militarized in the recent years. Back in 2015, Nicaragua’s parliament, dominated by the Sandinistas, passed a resolution allowing Russian warships to dock in Nicaraguan ports, following earlier agreements to permit patrolling in coastal waters.
Russia started supplying armored personnel carriers, aircraft and mobile rocket launchers. It provided 50 T-72 tanks to Nicaragua, which Ortega paraded through Managua, generating criticism from the public. Reports from Nicaraguan security experts estimate that Russia has about 250 military personnel in the country.
It’s not yet clear what Putin is up to but some think that Russia’s military actions are a response to the Obama administration sending more U.S. troops and weapons to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Some think that Russia could be pursuing its spy goals, such as intercepting Internet traffic in the ARCOS 1 fiber-optic cable that runs from Miami down the Caribbean coast of Central America.
Nicaragua citizens have generated mixed reactions about Russian presence, some consider Moscow a long-standing ally. Some are worried that the Nicaraguan government could use the new Russian equipment to spy on its domestic critics.