Yahoo News explains: Russia’s the focus in diplomat attacks, but the cause remains a mystery

By Dean Arrindell

This week it was reported that U.S. intelligence agencies suspect Russia is behind mysterious attacks on diplomatic personnel in Cuba and China.

The attacks seem to have begun in November 2016, when U.S. diplomats and their families in Havana began suffering from symptoms that included dizziness, cognitive difficulties and problems with balance, hearing and vision. Half of the diplomatic personnel in Havana were sent home as a precaution.

Then, this May, diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China, began suffering from similar symptoms. Eleven diplomats were sent back to the U.S. for testing.  

The U.S hasn’t formally blamed Russia for the attacks, but is reportedly suspicious, based on intercepted communications.  

What is this illness?

Some researchers speculate the symptoms are consistent with traumatic brain injuries. Another line of research indicates that damage to the inner ear causes the symptoms.

The illness remains a mystery, as does the cause.

Last week, the Pentagon brought scientists together to present their research on the illness — dubbed the “Havana Effect” by some — and said they believe the attack was caused by a “neuroweapon.”

One popular theory is that some kind of microwave weapon was used. Other theories are that the symptoms were the unintended consequences of a new spy device or devices, or even that the victims were drugged. The military has been reportedly trying to reverse-engineer the weapon or device used to cause the illness.

Another consequence of the attacks is that they have strained relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Havana has denied involvement and has also said there is no evidence the attacks ever happened.

The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is delicate because the two countries just restarted diplomatic relations in 2015 following more than 50 years of hostility.