27 October 1988

Ronald Reagan stops construction of the new US Embassy in Moscow after Soviet listening devices are found in the building structure.

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United States President Ronald Reagan has decided to tear down its new Moscow embassy building, which is heavily penetrated by Soviet listening devices and build a replacement. The Administration has been trying to decide what to do about the building since the existence of the listening devices was disclosed last year.

Government intelligence experts would be reluctant to certify that the American embassy structures are protected against Soviet spying unless an entirely new structure is built. Because Congress has adjourned, Mr. Reagan’s decision to consult lawmakers apparently postpones final action on demolishing the building to his successor and the 101st Congress, which will be asked to provide the money, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars, for the job.

Construction of the chancery was halted in 1985 because of suspicions that the Soviets had planted listening devices. American intelligence specialists have been examining the structure to try to determine how the Soviet spying techniques work. If the chancery is saved, the building would be used for unclassified activities, while the old embassy building next door would be refurbished and used for classified activities. Soviet officials will not be able to occupy a new Soviet Embassy office building until the American chancery is demolished and replaced.