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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bugged Embassy Gets Second Look

Eight years after construction came to a grinding halt because bugging devices were discovered, the Clinton administration is considering opening up the abandoned, nearly completed embassy building in Moscow.


Secretary of State Warren Christopher told a Congressional subcommittee in Washington on Wednesday that the government could save $240 million by opening the building, rather than carrying out plans to destroy it and construct a new building because of the security problems.


The complex was one of the biggest Cold War fiascoes, and has been a sore point between the Kremlin and White House since American officials found that the building was riddled with listening devices shortly before the building was scheduled to open in 1985.


The new Russian Embassy facility in Washington became hostage to the flap with the U. S. government, refusing until last June to allow the Russians to occupy their embassy. The quid pro quo was for U. S. personnel to be able to move into a bug-free environment in Moscow.


Christopher said, "The existing facilities seem to be very, if not, adequate, at least on the way to being adequate to the security necessary". He added that "the bugged embassy can be used for less secure operations that don't require security".


"I think the opportunity is now to consider whether $240 million is necessary or what portion is necessary for the Moscow embassy", Christopher said. "Under new conditions in the new era, we can have a less expensive alternative", apparently referring to the end of the Cold War and improved U. S-Russian relations.


For Americans who have lived in Moscow or worked for the embassy, the redbrick building is legendary. The building has been dubbed the "transmitter" by some for its eavesdropping capabilities and "Swiss cheese" by others for rumored holes poked by inspection teams searching for bugs.


Though the United States imported all construction materials for the new embassy building. Soviet workers hammered away to erect the complex.


Ever since, it has been a tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow over what to do about the building.


The most recent move came in June when the Bush administration dropped its demand for $30 million from Moscow as compensation for rebuilding. President Boris Yeltsin agreed to give the United States more land in Moscow, favorable lease terms and the right not to hire local workers.


The latest news from Washington will not affect Russia's plans since June to move its nationals into the still unused embassy on American soil.


"We are just going through technical procedures to make all communications and preparations necessary", said an official at the Russian Foreign Ministry.