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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

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Cuba, which once threatened to be the greatest global flashpoint of them all, could soon be a source of trouble again.

Fidel Castro's health may be improving, but the "biological solution" so long awaited by Cuban exiles and some U.S. government officials is now clearly close at hand. Castro knows that too and, intensely conscious of his place in history, may decide to go out with a bang. He has said that he considers war with the U.S. imperialists as his "true destiny." The danger here is not only what he might do, but also what the United States itself might do preemptively.

Fidel's brother Raul has been running the country since last summer. One of Raul's first official acts was to sign a deal with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov for $350 million in credits, in part to upgrade Cuba's military. Russia believes it is owed $20 billion from the Soviet era but is not pressing for the money at the moment. This does, however, mean that Russia has a vested interest in Cuba remaining pro-Moscow.

Russia also has a Cuban bone to pick with the United States. In the early 1960s, the Soviets set up an enormous -- 70 square kilometers -- listening post in Lourdes, about 80 kilometers from Havana. Vast amounts of data, useful for everything from blackmail to disrupting essential systems, was collected and processed there. The base continued to function even after the Soviet collapse. Visiting Cuba in August 2001, President Vladimir Putin declared Lourdes was needed "not only by the military, but by the political leadership of the country." Then, on Oct. 17, 2001 Putin announced he was closing the base. What happened between August and October? Sept. 11, of course.

After the attack, the United States was not at all happy about having an intelligence gathering installation so close to home and on enemy territory. Leakage of information from the Russians to the Cubans, and then to terrorists was too real a danger to be ignored. In May 2001, Castro declared in Tehran that the United States was "extremely weak ... the imperialist king will finally fall ... Iran and Cuba have reached the conclusion that together they can tear down the United States."

The $20-per-barrel Putin of 2001, who agreed to pull out of Cuba, and the $60-dollar-per-barrel Putin of 2006 are two different people. Not only has Russia grown stronger in the meantime, but Russian-U.S. ties have weakened. Russia, which is outraged by U.S. plans to place anti-Iranian missiles in Poland and radar stations in the Czech Republic (and possibly Georgia) would feel justified in reopening the listening post in Lourdes.

The Cuban situation is volatile for many reasons. The waning of Fidel Castro may cause the Cuban-American community, to press for action or at least the maintenance of strict sanctions. The transfer of power to Raul Castro may cause him to crack down extra hard, exacerbating the internal situation and causing a new refugee crisis. The involvement of Russia, Venezuela, and Iran -- all to varying degrees resentful of U.S. hegemony -- makes the situation even more jumpy. Moreover, the Chinese reportedly now have a listening post of their own in Bejucal, Cuba. China's interest in U.S. satellite communications dovetails nicely with their recent proven ability to shoot satellites out of the sky.

Trouble in Cuba could arise just when new presidential administrations in Russia and the United States are settling in. The spark could be the U.S. base on Guantanomo. It is unheard of for a country to have a military base on enemy territory. The United States acquired it for a song back in the 1930's, when Cuba could be bought off cheap. But now that Guantanomo has become almost synonymous with Abu Ghraib, the Cubans may decide it's time they got it back.

Richard Lourie is the author of "The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin" and "Sakharov: A Biography."