Wikileaks - MXXXVIII

Sunday, 04 September, Year 3 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu






Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary. There is broad agreement in the Russian expert community that Russia suffered a foreign policy blow at Bucharest due to the future promise of membership for Ukraine and Georgia and Alliance solidarity on missile defense, with several arguing for a necessary change in tone with the Medvedev administration. Stressing that Putin had said Russia would continue to cooperate with NATO, despite the differences, the MFA nevertheless believes the NATO-Russia relationship is at a critical stage. In the wake of the NRC, the MFA requests a U.S. signal of support for Russian training of Afghan police at the Domodedovo Center. End summary.

NATO-Russia Council Summit: Fairly Positive
2. (C) Andrey Rudenko, head of the NATO division at the MFA told us that an intergovernmental group was still reviewing the results of the NATO (and NATO-Russia Council) Summit and the consequences for Russia. Putin had wanted to give a positive signal that Russia was ready to cooperate "in a constructive way" with the Alliance. Russia was generally satisfied by the outcome of the NRC Summit; the transit agreement for Afghanistan showed that Russia and NATO could cooperate on important issues, despite our differences, and Russia was pleased by the decision to continue training of Afghan police at the Domodedovo Center in Moscow. Rudenko said he had heard the U.S. was considering shifting the counternarcotics training for Afghan police from Moscow to facilities in-country and asked for confirmation. While recognizing that eventually it would make sense to do such training in-country, Russia hoped the report was not true, as Russia placed a lot of importance on the cooperation at Domodedovo. Russia would like a U.S. signal of support for the Center.

NAC Summit: Not So Positive
3. (C) Rudenko said initially Russia had been pleased that Ukraine and Georgia had not received a Membership Action Plan at Bucharest, but after reviewing paragraph 23 of the NAC Communique, which said Ukraine and Georgia would become members of NATO, together with the language in paragraph 37 on missile defense, it was clear now that the U.S. "had gotten everything it wanted" at the Summit. Rudenko reiterated Russia's argument that the will of the Ukrainian people was being circumvented since the majority did not want to join NATO, and expressed the view that NATO had put the cart before the horse, undermining the Alliance's previous insistence on standards and criteria for membership.

4. (C) Rudenko also noted that the idea that NATO's missile defense system could be integrated into the U.S.'s system in eastern Europe "does not make us happier." He said if this were to happen, Russia would have to reconsider its role in the NRC TMD effort.

What Next?
5. (C) Stressing that the NATO-Russia relationship was "at a critical stage," Rudenko said that following the intergovernmental's review, the GOR would have to decide what to do both in its relations with NATO, as well as with Georgia and Ukraine. Putin had made clear that Russia saw no alternative to cooperation with the Alliance and would develop it, despite the differences. But, the level and scope of this cooperation would depend on the readiness of NATO partners to address Russia's concerns, he said.

Experts on Turning Point in NATO-Russia Relations
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6. (C) Defense experts shared the MFA's concern over the Alliance's commitment to admit Ukraine and Georgia. Most believed the Alliance would offer the two countries a MAP in December, and argued that it would have serious consequences for the NATO-Russia relationship. But, some experts argued, Russia also wanted to lower the level of confrontation and realized that it would need to deal with the reality of the Alliance's transformation.

7. (C) Deputy Director for Council for Foreign and Defense Policy Aleksandr Belkin told us that during his organization's April 12-13 annual conference for GOR officials and prominent analysts on the accomplishments of Russian foreign policy, the discussion focused "almost exclusively on the disappointing results in Bucharest." Belkin said the participants unanimously agreed that NATO's "promise" to take in Georgia and Ukraine was a stunning blow to Russian foreign policy. While acknowledging German and French reluctance to accept Georgia and Ukraine, Belkin explained that such a firm and clear commitment to aspiring members was unprecedented, and thus it was "only a matter of time" before MAP was offered, a view that Izvestia military correspondent Dmitriy Litovkin shared. Belkin repeated familiar arguments that eastward expansion of NATO was clearly directed against Russia, for it served no strategic purpose. He said Putin felt "betrayed and offended" by NATO's last-minute decision to include a MAP commitment, and despite the deliverables on Afghanistan, Belkin predicted that Russia would proceed cautiously on further engagement with NATO.

8. (C) When asked for his reaction to arguments from other Russian analysts that Russia's strong rhetoric toward Ukraine and Georgia only strengthened these countries, resolve to join NATO, Belkin agreed, but argued that Russia was left with no other choice. The vast majority of Ukrainians don't want to "spoil" their relationship with Russia at the expense of NATO membership, given the historical, cultural, economical, and social links. Georgia is admittedly a different story, but Belkin claimed that Russia could not be blamed for its "understandable emotional reaction" to Georgia's flat rejection of its ties with Russia.

9. (C) Independent defense expert Pavel Felgenhauer told us the Russian leadership saw the failure of NATO to extend a MAP offer to Ukraine and Georgia as a temporary victory. Many in the Kremlin felt it would be very difficult to stop a MAP offer again, and were preparing themselves for this eventuality come December. He suggested that a "sort of dtente" was possible after the Bucharest summit. After a year of bellicose rhetoric, he argued, Medvedev would like to decrease the level of confrontation with the West. According to Felgenhauer, it was important that Putin started the process during President Bush's visit to Sochi. This would make it easier for Medvedev to take a less confrontational approach to relations with the West, as he could plausibly argue such a course would be a continuation of Putin's policies. Above all else, he said, the Kremlin did not want an arms race with the West because this would prove disastrous to Russia's economic recovery as well as a potential threat to peace.

10. (C) Project Director of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Federov told us the Bucharest summit was a turning point in the NATO-Russia relationship. Despite disagreements over MAP offers to Ukraine and Georgia, the fact that the Alliance issued a statement that declared these countries would join NATO eventually was a sign of solidarity among the member states. It was now clear to the GOR, Federov stated, that Russia would not succeed in its attempts to divide NATO. It was also clear that Russia no longer had satellite states and could not prevent NATO from expanding. The best Russia could hope for was to slow the pace of expansion.

11. (C) NATO support for the establishment of missile defense (MD) systems in the Czech Republic and Poland was another sign that the Alliance had become a "global security organization," Federov posited. NATO's willingness to back an expensive system that addressed potential threats from "far-off places like Iran," combined with its "out-of-area" operations in places like Afghanistan, demonstrated the now-global reach of the Alliance. After Bucharest, Federov stated, Russia must learn to deal with this reality. Federov also suggested that Russia needed to "retune" its propaganda message. The "enemy at the gates" line was no longer working, and so Russia instead should take a more upfront approach, clearly stating its red lines (such as Ukrainian membership in NATO) and identifying possible areas of cooperation, such as Afghan reconstruction.

12. (C) Comment: While many Russian officials and experts appear increasingly resigned to further movement on MAP for Ukraine and Georgia, as early as December, they continue to be unequivocal about the consequences. From Lavrov's "Russia will do everything to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining the Alliance," to Chief of Defense General Baluyevskiy's threat to resort to "military measures" if Ukraine joins NATO, the GOR is intent on reinforcing its dire views on further enlargement on its borders. BURNS

Category: Breaking News
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