Wikileaks - MCDLXXXIV

Monday, 05 September, Year 3 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu





Classified By: Ambassador Mark A. Gitenstein for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d ).

1. (U) Summary. Vice President Biden met with President Basescu on October 22, 2009. The Romanian President and Vice President Biden discussed the motivations for Biden's trip to Europe; the U.S. and Romanian relationships with Russia; missile defense; and the coalition strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They also touched on energy security, the visa waiver program, and international adoptions. Biden thanked Basescu for Romania's continued presence in Afghanistan, calling Romania's troops there "warriors" who had earned the respect of the U.S. military. End Summary

2. (C) Biden opened by affirming that the United States has no better partner in Europe than Romania. On this trip, which was planned in response to both the recent controversy surrounding missile defense and the July 16th open letter questioning U.S. policy in the region, Biden affirmed that he wanted to come where things are going right, not only where there are problems. Assuring Basescu that the "reset" in U.S. relations with Russia did not mean "erase memory," Biden went on to say that the U.S. would not tolerate either "spheres of influence" or a Russian veto over the aspirations of any state to join whatever alliance- political, economic, or military- of which that state wished to be a part. The U.S. wants a strong relationship with Russia and hopes to continue to turn Russia towards the West, but not at the expense of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. It is for this reason that the U.S. is supportive of the continued expansion of both NATO and the EU. Saying that the Obama Administration was fully behind the NATO alliance, Biden underscored that one of the fundamental building blocks of U.S. national security is its status as a European power, which is only possible through NATO.

3. (S) Basescu raised Afghanistan as our biggest shared foreign policy problem. He referred to the McChrystal report and expressed Romania's view that more troops will be needed there, adding that Romania would contribute additional resources to the best of its ability. From the Romanian point of view, failure in Afghanistan would allow Taliban and international terrorists to move more easily throughout central Asia, directly threatening Europe. Basescu stated his belief that the U.S. must honestly answer the request from the military commanders on the ground for additional troops, if that is what is needed to confine the conflict to Afghanistan and keep it from moving into the Caspian Sea region. Failure in Afghanistan, according to Basescu, would not only hurt Europe, it would also harm the future credibility of NATO. One element of this strategy should include solving the drug problem, which provides a source of funding for the international jihadi effort. Basescu said that the Afghanistan drug trade occurs with the full complicity of President Karzai and that combating it might require the direct purchase of poppies to sap the resources that the Taliban needs to continue fighting coalition troops in Afghanistan. If such a strategy were adopted, Romania would be willing to provide agriculture specialists to encourage alternative cultivation efforts.

4. (S) Addressing U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Biden emphasized that under no proposal being discussed was the U.S. planning to retreat or draw down troops. The debate, according to Biden, is whether or not the counter-insurgency "COIN" strategy being deployed at present was working in Afghanistan, given the lack of a credible indigenous government. Of the Taliban, Biden said that they numbered about 25,000 fighters, 20,000 of whom were indigenous Pashtun upset about the large footprint left by coalition operations in Afghanistan. Calling the current government in Afghanistan "thoroughly corrupt" and penetrated by the drug trade, Biden said that until there is a government with the popular support of the Afghan people no counter-insurgency strategy is going to work, no matter how many troops are sent. Turning to Basescu's suggestion that the coalition partners purchase the poppy crop to keep proceeds out of the hands of the Taliban, Biden said that it was a good topic for further discussion, but noted that a similar strategy had been tried without success by the U.S. in Latin America. A better suggestion would be to try a variation on what proved to work in Iraq with the Sons of Iraq program, to pay potential insurgents to provide neighborhood security. Expressing appreciation for Romania's continued presence in Afghanistan, Biden said that the Romanian troops there had distinguished themselves in combat and that the U.S. greatly appreciated Romania's willingness to deploy with no restrictions or caveats.

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5. (S) Biden added that the Administration's current review is designed to evaluate a resource allocation which deploys 30 USD in Afghanistan for every dollar spent in Pakistan, despite the fact that the current Al Qaida threat is in Pakistan. Biden said that the coalition should now consider re-focusing efforts on Pakistan to confront the current threat. Noting that the U.S. would profit little from a stable Afghanistan if nuclear-armed Pakistan is destabilized by Al Qaida, Biden argued forcefully for stepped up U.S. engagement on issues involving Pakistan, saying that he believes that the current Al Qaida threat has finally mobilized Pakistan's political and security establishments to engage. Both principles agreed that engagement with Pakistan needed to be packaged with efforts to deescalate tensions between Pakistan and India, as this lingering conflict presented a genuine possibility of escalating into a nuclear holocaust.

6. (C) On missile defense, Biden said that the recent U.S. decision had nothing to do with Russia, but rather had to do with a desire to better protect Europe. Saying that the original Bush Administration plan had been designed to protect the U.S., not necessarily Europe, the current Administration's plan would provide better protection against the emergent threat of nuclear-tipped Iranian short and medium range missiles. This new proposal based on the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) architecture, would provide a real, proven capability to shoot down multiple incoming missiles, providing better defense for all of NATO. Basescu welcomed the new U.S. proposal, adding that Romania had never been fully satisfied with the previously proposed system, which would have done little to broadly protect NATO. If necessary, Romania would be willing to contribute to the costs of running a missile defense system.

7. (S) Russia and Moldova are ongoing areas of special concern for Romania. This concern was exacerbated by the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and continued occupation of Abkhazia. While saying that the technology used by Russia in the Abkhaz military excursion was outdated and presented no direct threat to NATO, Basescu believes that Russia's intervention in former Eastern Bloc countries is a real and widespread problem. While Romania is always careful to keep Moscow from unduly influencing local politics, Basescu said, Romania is concerned about Russian influence in neighboring states. Highlighting Russian President Medvedev's proposed security strategy, Basescu firmly stated that Russian efforts to "get back what they lost" should be resisted. This concern manifests itself in Moldova, where a very fragile coalition government needs international support. Likening the current situation in Moldova to Romania in 1996, Basescu said bringing Moldova into the EU as part of the group of western Balkan nations remains a core goal of Romanian foreign policy. (Note: Basescu means linking Moldova,s accession to the EU to the notional timetable for western Balkan countries, versus thinking of Moldova as closer to Ukraine and Belarus, whose EU aspirations are a longer term goal. End note) This support should include, according to Basescu, a U.S. commitment to help Moldova obtain financial assistance from the IMF. Without this help Basescu believes that the current Moldovan unity government will collapse, restoring the communist party to power. Addressing the oft-repeated criticism that Romania has designs on Moldova, Basescu articulated Romania's goal as one of uniting all (ethnic) Romanians, both those in Romania and in Moldova, under the same umbrella of EU membership.

8. (C) Raising energy security, Basescu specifically thanked Biden for the U.S. support of a feasibility study for a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in Constanta, saying that Romania had held discussions with Qatar, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan on the possibility of supplying a facility if it is built. Noting that Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are determined to be energy partners with the EU, Basescu argued for continued U.S. engagement in the Caspian region. Together with LNG and Nabucco, Basescu asked Biden to consider support for the Constanta-Trieste crude oil pipeline, saying that this pipeline would provide an alternate outlet for Caspian Sea oil. In Basescu's view, Constanta-Trieste would provide a "European solution" to crude oil supply routes currently controlled by Turkey and Russia. Biden agreed with Basescu that Europe needed to work on diversifying oil and gas supply routes, but added that the U.S. was not really in a position to dictate to the EU which particular routes to use. Adding that supply lines which don't involve Russia would remove Russia's sole real bargaining chip with Europe, Biden postulated that this would "change the equation," forcing Russia to act in a more neutral manner. Turning to Turkey, Biden and Basescu agreed

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that the Turkish Government was doing a poor job recognizing that their long-term interests of closer cooperation with the EU would best be served by facilitating energy projects such as Nabucco.

9. (C) In concluding the meeting, Biden implored Basescu to consider international adoptions, especially the "pipeline" cases, which he said remain a major irritant in the bilateral relationship. Basescu countered by saying that visa waiver remains a priority for Romania, with Biden responding that the Administration would support accession, but that Romania needs to work to significantly lower the visa refusal rate first. Basescu closed by saying that the Romanian Presidential elections next month would not alter the U.S. orientation of Romania's foreign policy, saying that there was a common consensus among all the candidates that the Romania-U.S. partnership was an important guarantor of Romania's national security.

10. (U) The Vice President did not have the opportunity to clear this cable. GITENSTEIN

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