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Cablegate: High Level of Interest in U.S. Policies at a Tajik-Russian

VZCZCXRO8770
RR RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDBU #0584/01 1080538
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180538Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0085
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2057
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2085
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 2050
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 1741

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSHANBE 000584

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON KPAO TI RS
SUBJECT: HIGH LEVEL OF INTEREST IN U.S. POLICIES AT A TAJIK-RUSSIAN
COOPERATION CONFERENCE


DUSHANBE 00000584 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Despite several swipes by Russian Ambassador
Ramazan Abdulatipov at the United States, participants in a
conference on Tajik-Russian relations showed sincere interest in
U.S. policy goals. While the March 28-29 conference on "Russian
and Central Asia and the Conditions of Geopolitical
Transformation" was geared towards examining Russian-Tajik
cooperation, the moderator was quite pleased to have a
representative present from the U.S. embassy, and unexpectedly
asked PolOff to give two separate impromptu presentations
regarding U.S. foreign policy and investment in Tajikistan. The
conference brought together Tajik government officials,
diplomats from most foreign missions in Dushanbe, two
individuals from the Moscow State Institute for International
Affairs (MGIMO), local professors and some journalists, and shed
light of the sometimes tense dynamic between Tajikistan and
Russia over political and cultural questions. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) As portraits of both President Putin and President
Rahmonov hung above the podium looking down at speakers at
Dushanbe's Russian-Tajik Slavonic University, Russian Ambassador
to Tajikistan Abdulatipov gave the opening address, and
highlighted areas of cooperation between Russia and Tajikistan,
including construction of the Sangtuda-I hydropower plant. He
further asserted that no other country was currently doing more
to help the development of Tajikistan, and specifically
mentioned that Russia was ready to expand cooperation in the new
"multi-polar world."

3. (SBU) At times, Tajik and Russian government officials
exchanged some testy comments, particularly over the role of the
Russian language in Tajikistan. Some Tajiks argued that it was
not necessary for Tajik youth to study Russian, since Tajikistan
was now an independent country. Some Russians replied that
learning Russian would open up additional possibilities for the
Tajik youths, particularly for the millions of Tajiks who go to
Russia to work as migrant workers. A Russian professor also
referred to local conflicts in Central Asia. After her remarks,
one Tajik government official berated her for her "unacceptable
comments," particularly for using the term "local conflict,"
since all issues in Central Asia also had a direct effect on
Russia.

4. (U) Most of the presentations maintained a neutral stance
towards U.S. policy in Tajikistan, with the exception of one
professor, who claimed that one of the main U.S. goals in
invading Afghanistan was to apply pressure on Iran. The
moderator noticed PolOff's visible disagreement, and offered
PolOff the opportunity to give an impromptu retort. Many people
asked questions about specific U.S. economic programs in the
region, and asked PolOff to give a lengthier presentation the
following day, citing figures of U.S. investment in Tajikistan.
Following the second address, attendees asked more follow-up
questions than any other presenter received.

5. (U) A Tajik professor stated that he understood the U.S.'s
need to protect itself, but queried when the U.S. government
would start to think about the needs of other countries. PolOff
cited Tajikistan as an excellent example of a country that the
United States was assisting, noting the U.S. Ambassador would be
attending a ceremony the following day to give local Tajik
hospitals $14 million worth of medical supplies. Others claimed
that there was a vacuum of information about U.S. policy. A
senior Russian diplomat gave the closing address, and
specifically thanked PolOff for explaining U.S. goals and
assistance programs to Tajikistan, and highlighting the fact
that other countries were also actively assisting Tajikistan.

6. (SBU) Comment: The conference highlighted the mixed
sentiments towards U.S. policy in Tajikistan from Russians and
Tajiks and demonstrated the need for more aggressive public
diplomacy outreach to convey the U.S. message. It also
underscored the tension that sometimes exists between the
Russians and Tajiks over their bilateral cultural and political
relationship. Though Abdulatipov only attended the morning
session of the first day, he treated this meeting as if it were
a Russian embassy staff meeting. After a Tajik government
official made a comment about the threat of Islamic extremism,
he immediately grabbed the microphone and lectured this
individual that he needed to be careful when using the phrase
"Islamic extremism," since all religions were connected to one
another, and extremism existed in many other religions besides
Islam. Abdulatipov is a Tatar Muslim, and appeared to have
interpreted the comment to mean that Islam was the only religion

DUSHANBE 00000584 002.2 OF 002


with which extremists were associated, which appeared to have
struck a nerve. End Comment.
JACOBSON

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