July 18, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination

“HAVANA SYNDROME” AND ITS ALLEGED LINK TO A RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE UNIT

TAG: GS 2: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

THE CONTEXT: The term “Havana syndrome” refers to a collection of symptoms experienced by United States intelligence and embassy officials across various countries.

EXPLANATION:                          

Havana syndrome:

  • Havana syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by United States intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.
  • Generally, the word ‘syndrome’ simply means a set of symptoms.
  • It does not mean a unique medical condition, but rather a set of symptoms that are usually experienced together whose origins may be difficult to confirm.
  • Havana syndrome typically involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss, and balance issues.
  • The origins of the syndrome are traced back to Cuba in late 2016, shortly after the reopening of the US embassy in Havana.
  • A joint media investigation has suggested a possible connection between Havana syndrome and a Russian military intelligence unit known as 29155.
  • The investigation proposes that members of this unit may have targeted US officials using “directed energy” weapons, with evidence indicating their presence at locations where suspected attacks occurred.

Global Reports of Havana Syndrome

  • Since the initial cases in Cuba, similar incidents have been reported by American officials stationed in various countries.
  • In China, reports emerged from the Guangzhou consulate in 2018, while incidents within the US, including Washington DC, were reported in 2019 and 2020.
  • Other countries where such incidents have been reported include Russia, Poland, Georgia, Taiwan, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Austria.

Suspected Causes

  • Initially, the syndrome was thought to be a result of sonic attacks, attributed to Cuba.
  • However, subsequent studies suggested the involvement of high-powered microwaves that could damage or interfere with the nervous system, generating auditory sensations.
  • The use of microwaves, a tactic experimented with during the Cold War, has been associated with both the US and Russia.
  • Reports indicate that beams of high-powered microwaves may have been directed using specialized equipment, colloquially referred to as a “microwave weapon.”

Havana Syndrome in India

  • As of July 2023, the 2021 incident was the only reported occurrence of the syndrome in India.
  • Sources in the Indian security establishment said in 2021 that they were not aware of any weapon with such capacities being in the possession of an Indian agency.
  • Even if there was one, it was unlikely the government would admit to having acquired such counter-espionage technology given the sensitive nature of intelligence work.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-global/havana-syndrome-russian-intelligence-unit-9245485/

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