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Cablegate: Positive Movement in the Missile Defense Debate in Norway but No Breakthrough

VZCZCXYZ0013
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNY #0614/01 1591316
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081316Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY OSLO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5805
INFO RUEHXP/ALL NATO POST COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 3965
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000614
SIPDIS
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/08/2017
TAGS: MARR PGOV PREL NO
SUBJECT: POSITIVE MOVEMENT IN THE MISSILE DEFENSE DEBATE IN NORWAY BUT NO BREAKTHROUGH
REF: A. STATE 21640
B. OSLO 177
C. OSLO 184
D. OSLO 382

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Kevin M Johnson for reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (U) SUMMARY: Lt. General Obering,s June 6 visit to Oslo, building on Secretary Rice,s April visit and Embassy Oslo,s continued outreach, has helped move the governmental and public debate over missile defense in Norway in a positive direction. Norway has not changed its basic skepticism of missile defense, most recently demonstrated by Prime Minister Stoltenberg,s comments, but both government and media commentaries show a better understanding of the U.S.,s missile defense plans and a willingness to counter Russia,s false narratives on this topic. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU) Lt. General Henry Obering, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, held meetings on June 6 with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Defense Minister and participated in a open question and answer session with members of the media and the public. Participants described the meetings as extremely useful, and press reporting and commentary were generally positive. General Obering,s briefings and comments to the press helped continue the momentum begun on the missile defense issue by Secretary Rice,s comment during the April Oslo Informal NATO Ministerial in which she said that Russian complaints on U.S. missile defense plans were purely ludicrous. Her statement received much attention in Norway and had an immediate impact in how members of the Norwegian government spoke about Russian reactions to missile defense plans.

Norwegian Questions
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3. (SBU) Gen. Obering,s visit was the latest positive development in our continuing efforts to challenge the Norwegian reluctance to seriously look at missile defense and rebut inaccurate Russian claims. Part of the Norwegian reluctance is due to the fact that the document that forms the basis for the coalition government, the Soria Moria declaration, clearly states opposition to missile defense systems, without distinguishing between large Star Wars type systems and those under discussion now. Adding to this, the GON has also been very reluctant to publicly criticize Russian behavior.

4. (C) Gen. Obering,s presentations to the GON and to the media clearly demonstrated the limited and defensive nature of the current missile defense plans and the fallacies of the Russian arguments. His answers to the questions raised by the MFA regarding the technical challenges of missile defense, the reliability of intelligence on the threat, the slippery slope argument that the system could be expanded and questions regarding the appropriateness of prioritizing missile defense vs. other defenses against threats were comprehensive and compelling. Journalists who asked similar questions were moved to comment on how good his answers were.

Reactions
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5. (SBU) Statements by the GON on this issue have been greatly improved, with the Defense Minister, the Deputy Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister all saying publicly that the U.S. missile defense plans are not a threat to Russia. The Deputy Defense Minister, discussing the Soria Moria document went so far to say, &we now confront new challenges that require new answers8. One discordant note was struck by the Prime Minister, who while on a visit to Russia stated that it was important not to have a new arms race and that Norway has all along been skeptical to these plans and would not accept a missile shield in Norway. He has been roundly criticized for these comments in the media for making his comments while in Russia and for not challenging Russia to muffle its Cold War rhetoric. The editorial in Norway largest paper said that the PM,s comments create the impression of Norwegian servility towards Russia and called on the PM to make it clear that Russia has no veto-power when it comes to missile defense in NATO countries. It also advised the PM to tell Putin to muffle his shrill Cold War rhetoric. We see this as significant progress as media and other government figures who would most likely have echoed the PM,s comments only a few months ago now are critical.

6. (C) The Prime Minister,s office and the MFA have claimed that the PM,s comments reported in international media were taken out of context and that he intended to promote dialogue and make clear that Norway would not be used for any missile defense systems. Further clarification of his remarks may be made next week, added his staff.

7. (C) Missile defense will remain a contentious issue for the governing coalition, particularly for the Socialist Left party. Their defense spokesperson, Bjorn Jacobsen, stated that &We are not skeptical, we are against missile defense8 and criticized the prime minister along with the foreign and defense ministers for not being forceful enough on this issue. With these political realities, the best result we can expect is for Norway to quietly continue work in NATO on missile defense and to publicly criticize Russia for provocative statements. Thanks to our high-level visitors this goal has been achieved. The GON will continue to publicly stress its fears of an arms race and may continue to ask skeptical questions of missile defenses, but appears willing to politely disagree with Russia on aspects of this issue. The progress we have seen in government and media commentaries reflects a better understanding of the issues behind missile defense, including the threat from Iran, the technical basics of the program and an understanding that Russian criticisms are groundless.

Whitney

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