141653 2/15/2008 13:29 08TALLINN66 Embassy Tallinn CONFIDENTIAL 08TALLINN693 VZCZCXRO9547 RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHTL #0066/01 0461329 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 151329Z FEB 08 FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0501 INFO RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 1229 RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TALLINN 000066
FOR EUR/NB - ROBERT GILCHRIST, KATHERINE GARRY
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2018 TAGS: PREL, PARM, EN SUBJECT: ESTONIA: DAS GARBER VISITS ESTONIA
Classified by: DCM Karen Decker for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)
REF: TALLINN 693
1. (C) Summary. Estonian government and political leaders told visiting EUR DAS Garber that GOE priorities for the NATO summit in Bucharest are NATO membership for the Adriatic 3 and "positive messages of progress" for Ukraine and Georgia. Estonian interlocutors expressed continued support for NATO operations in Afghanistan, but predicted political concerns and staffing shortages "may" preclude Estonian military participation in Iraq past 2008. On Kosovo, GOE counterparts emphasized Estonia will not be "first or last" on recognition, and provided a frank assessment of their attitudes towards the rhetoric emanating from Russia. DAS Garber offered the GOE positive assurances on CFE and Missile Defense (MD) and gave a media interview in which she outlined the status of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and assured Estonia that they were on track to join. Energy experts briefed DAS Garber on Estonian efforts to expand alternative energy resources to reduce dependence on oil shale. They also shared concerns that unregulated electricity production in Russia could provide the Russians with a competitive advantage. End Summary.
LOOKING AHEAD TO BUCHAREST
2. (SBU) During her visit to Tallinn, February 5-6, EUR DAS Judith Garber discussed the agenda for the upcoming April NATO Summit in Bucharest with interlocutors from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Defense (MOD), the President's office and parliament. Christian Liflander, MOD Director of Policy Planning and Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, stressed the importance of giving clear and positive signals to Ukraine and Georgia at Bucharest in order to encourage further reforms. However, he acknowledged that offers of MAP are unlikely. In separate meetings, Sven Jurgensen, Foreign Policy Advisor to President Ilves, Aivo Orav, MFA Political Director, and several members of the Estonian Parliament all commented that the events of November 2008 in Georgia had done considerable damage to Georgia's MAP aspirations. Each expressed concern that silence or negative comments on the issue at Bucharest could cause a further regression in reforms and provide Russia an opportunity to destabilize Georgia and Ukraine.
3. (SBU) GOE interlocutors stressed their interest in encouraging Greece and Macedonia to settle the name issue, but said it is unfair to deny Macedonia membership in NATO for this reason if all other stipulations have been met. In their meeting with DAS Garber, four Members of Parliament stressed the destabilizing effects the failure to offer NATO membership to Macedonia would have on the already precarious situation in the Balkans.
4. (C) Estonian officials expressed relief at the outcome of the recent Presidential elections in Serbia. One leading opposition MP commented that Tadic's election has improved the situation in the region and slowed the urgency with which events are unfolding. On the question of timing of Estonian recognition of Kosovo, MFA's Orav reiterated the Estonian preference not to be among the first or the last. However, Orav told DAS Garber, the GOE is prepared to act - the MFA has already drafted a statement of recognition. Estonia is trying to coordinate with Nordic and Baltic countries to declare on the same day.
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
5. (C) DAS Garber thanked and praised Estonia for its support and contributions to the War on Terror, specifically highlighting the continued dedication of the Estonian military forces despite their having suffered casualties. DAS Garber also lauded Estonian assistance efforts in Afghanistan while at the same time stressing that Afghanistan is the greatest challenge currently facing the Alliance. (NOTE: DAS Garber also made a point of clarifying that Secretary Gates was not referring to Estonia in his recent letter calling on Alliance members to step up their contributions. END NOTE). MOD's Christian Liflander agreed that success in Afghanistan is going to require a sustained effort, but questioned whether the Alliance can realistically deliver on all of the goals outlined in the NATO paper by 2010.
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6. (SBU) Sven Jurgensen, reflecting upon a recent SHAPE meeting, commented that the biggest issue facing the Alliance in Afghanistan is caveats. Citing the fact that 90 percent of the problems in Afghanistan take place in 10 percent of the territory, Jurgensen said NATO needs the ability to move troops from region to region and address different problem sectors as appropriate. Jurgensen also pointed out that the Alliance effort is hampered by the lack of cross communication between the EU and NATO on Afghanistan.
7. (C) While DAS Garber's interlocutors were positive on continued participation in Afghanistan in 2009, few expressed optimism regarding extension of Estonia's military mandate in Iraq beyond 2008. Aivo Orav and Christian Liflander both commented that the political mood within the Estonian Parliament towards Iraq is much more contentious and fragmented than it was in 2007. This makes it very difficult to predict whether another mandate extension beyond 2008 will be possible. Orav said continued participation in Iraq would be dependent largely on the actions of the U.S., while emphasizing "Estonia will not stay in Iraq alone." Liflander also noted that the MOD is facing "tremendous" recruitment and rotation problems. Liflander predicted that the GOE may be forced to "cannibalize" their contributions to the Nordic Battle Group or reduce their presence in the Balkans in order to meet troop requirements for Afghanistan in the second half of this year.
MD AND CFE
8. (SBU) MFA's Aivo Orav summarized the GOE position on CFE succinctly, noting that Estonia does not want to negotiate on this issue before NATO Allies are in agreement on a fixed position concerning Russia. DAS Garber assured Orav that the U.S. position on CFE remains firm and that we have no intention of betraying Estonian interests. She also reiterated the importance the U.S. places on holding Russia to their Istanbul commitments, but cited a lack of optimism that Russia will comply any time soon.
9. (SBU) GOE officials were considerably more optimistic on the topic of Missile Defense (MD). There was a general consensus that public opinion towards MD has improved in the Czech Republic and that Poland has not been dissuaded by the "threatening rhetoric" emanating from Russia. At the same time, GOE counterparts expressed concerns about the interoperability of the U.S. system with the one that is being developed in Europe. DAS Garber gave assurances that the systems will be compatible and that the goal is protection for all European allies.
RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
10.(SBU) Several Parliamentarians observed that most Russian rhetoric amounts to little more than "bully" tactics and is tailored for the home audience. Christian LiflQlander pointed to the drawdown of the 76th Airborne Division at the border with Estonia as evidence of the Russian military's dire straights and lack of capability. However, both Liflander and MP Mati Raidma (Chair of the Defense Committee) pointed out that the events surrounding the relocation of the Bronze Soldier statue proved that Russia can still disrupt Estonia when it sets its mind to it. MP Tarmo Kouts (the former Chief of Defense Forces) also voiced his fear that concerns over energy security in Europe may influence some countries to close their eyes towards Russian misbehavior in exchange for access to Russian energy resources. DAS Garber responded that energy security is a high priority for the United States and the USG is committed to working closely with the EU to try and establish alternate sources of energy in Europe.
THE FUTURE OF ENERGY IN ESTONIA
11. (SBU) DAS Garber discussed energy security at length with Einari Kisel, Energy Director of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication (MOE), and Jaanus Arukaevu, Strategy Manager for Eesti Energia, Estonia's state-owned leading power utility. Estonia is pursuing a number of options to move "step by step" away from its dependence on domestic oil shale, the country's primary source of energy. (Note: Oil shale provides 93 percent of Estonia's current electricity needs, and 54 percent of total energy consumption. End Note). One option is participation in the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) in Lithuania. Kisel, who had just returned from Ministerial- level discussions in Vilnius on the INPP, noted that a
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large stumbling block - political questions about ownership shares in the plant - is now largely settled. The remaining issues, he said, are largely technical and financial.
12. (C) Both Kisel and Arukaevu expressed their dissatisfaction with the EU's use of 2005 vice 1990 as the base year against which to measure CO2 reductions. Arukaevu speculated whether other methods of calculating CO2 limits - such as emissions per unit of GDP rather than per capita - might be a fairer way of assessing caps within the EU. If this were the case, he noted, Estonia could be in 3rd place in the EU by 2015. Both men acknowledged the serious challenges ahead for Estonia to meet emissions targets. "But when it's a question of survival, people get clever," Kisel said. Both men concurred with DAS Garber that the best way to spur industry to make the necessary upgrades is to allow free market mechanisms to provide stimulus. Kisel noted that Latvia and Lithuania have not always "played by the rules" in terms of the subsidies they have provided to state utilities under the guise of economic development. Nevertheless, the GOE is committed to its path of upgrading current power plants and pursuing greater use of biofuels and renewables (currently less than 2 percent of total energy consumption).
13. (C) According to Kisel, Estonia's biggest concern in the short- to mid- term will be competition from unregulated electricity generated in Russia. If Russia is allowed to operate coal-fired plants that are not subject to EU CO2 caps, they could enjoy a competitive advantage of EUR 25 per megawatt (MW). Russia's strategy, noted Kisel, is to use more coal for electric power generation (and sell what its domestic market does not need to the Baltic market at dumping prices) in order to maximize available gas for export to Western Europe. The GOE supports the EU imposing an import tariff on electricity imports from all 3rd countries that are not subject to the same environmental regulations as the EU. As a net exporter of electricity, the GOE does not always find a sympathetic ear in neighboring Latvia - a net electricity importer - which is content with Russian prices remaining low.
13. (U) DAS Garber gave an extensive interview to Eesti Paevaleht, one of Estonia's leading Estonian language newspapers. Reflecting local interest, the interview focused on Estonian entry into the Visa Waiver Program and the future of American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
14. (U) DAS Garber cleared this cable.