Cablegate: Senator Hagel's Meeting with Fm Lavrov

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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: In his January 16 meeting with Senator Hagel, FM
Lavrov stressed Russian interest in strengthening bilateral
relations, but said U.S. efforts to "contain" Russia could undermine
constructive engagement and underscored unhappiness over
congressional failure to lift Jackson-Vanik. Describing post-START
discussions as at a "dead-end," Lavrov called for reinvigorated
efforts to strengthen the NPT framework. Lavrov underscored Russian
objections to U.S. missile defense plans, interest in cooperation,
and disappointment over the perceived "walk back" in the Secretary
and SecDef's October 2007 proposals. Pointing to Georgia, he
accused the U.S. of double-standards in democracy promotion, but
identified energy cooperation as a promising area of cooperation.
While praising the ability of Putin and the President to engage
bluntly but effectively, Lavrov argued that American hegemony had
robbed its diplomacy of creativity. Lavrov said the March 2
presidential elections and Putin's decision to become prime minister
promised foreign policy continuity "in every sense." End Summary

State of U.S.-Russian Relations

2. (SBU) Foreign Minister Lavrov opened his hour-long meeting with
Senator Hagel (R-Nebraska) on January 16 by underscoring the
importance that Russia attached to congressional ties, which it
viewed as an essential channel in the U.S.-Russian relationship.
Commending the Senator for his activism in foreign policy and
interest in Russian affairs, Lavrov stressed the need to make the
bilateral relationship a constructive partnership. Lavrov seconded
the Senator's praise for the Ambassador and welcomed the Senator's
positive assessment of Russian Ambassador Ushakov's efforts to
advance mutual interests.

3. (SBU) When the reporters left the room, Lavrov turned more
somber, noting that Russia's "sincere efforts" to promote bilateral
relations had to be on the basis of equal treatment, mutual respect,
and with the proviso that one country's security could not come at
the expense of its partner. Russia was worried by trends in the
U.S., the perception of Russia prevalent in the media and ruling
circles, and a U.S. national security strategy premised on Russia's
"containment." Referring to the 2006 National Security Strategy,
Lavrov said it was unacceptable to emphasize containment except in
those areas where Russia was seen as useful to U.S. interests. This
strategy, he warned, could undermine otherwise constructive
engagement on issues such as terrorism, non-proliferation, the
promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and drug trafficking.
Acknowledging that differences would remain, Lavrov stressed that
"friendly advice," presented in a businesslike way, was the most
effective persuasion -- as well as the willingness of the U.S. to
also be persuaded. Lavrov contrasted the sharp U.S. rhetoric on
democratic development and energy security (digressing to add that
Russia had never failed to meet its contractual obligations) with
polls of Americans and Russians that indicated generally positive
views of one another.

4. (SBU) Lavrov questioned the Senator on the tenor of
congressional bills and resolutions that struck Russia as unfair,
"to put it mildly," highlighting legislation that mandated the
Ambassador to report on undemocratic practices and "to take
corrective actions" as well as legislation on UN financing that
grouped Russia and North Korea in the same category. "Is this
really the mood in the U.S.?" Lavrov reiterated Russian unhappiness
over the fact that Jackson-Vanik remained in force, despite
commitments made by Senators Lugar and Frist, as well as House
International Relations Chairman Lantos, to secure its abolishment,
noting that the lack of progress was "difficult to understand." The
Senator stressed that he did not speak for his colleagues, but had
frequently and publicly criticized Jackson-Vanik as outdated and
useless, and agreed that it had become more than just an irritant in
the relationship.

5. (SBU) Lavrov welcomed the Senator's analysis of the post-9/11
environment in Washington and necessity of a new 21st century
framework of relations based on strengthened alliances to confront
the common challenges of radicalism, terrorism, and the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He agreed with the
Senator that U.S.-Russian relations were of critical importance and
required moving beyond zero-sum calculations. While the Senator
noted that mistakes had been made on both sides on issues such as
missile defense, he urged Lavrov to focus on the future of
U.S.-Russia relations. The political transitions underway in both
Russia and the U.S. inevitably would lead to policy reassessments
and fresh opportunities on long-term security interests, including
energy cooperation, terrorism, economic diversification and Russia's
WTO membership. Noting his meeting with U.S. business
representatives, who described a worsening business environment, the
Senator urged the GOR to look for ways to facilitate foreign
investment. Pointing to the intersecting interests on issues such
as North Korea, Iran, the Balkans, and Security Council, the Senator

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stressed that the U.S. and Russia could not afford to have
disjointed relations.

Reinvigorating Non-Proliferation and Post-START
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) Lavrov seconded the Senator's concern over the lack of a
workable nonproliferation regime, with India and Pakistan outside
the framework, and Iran an increasing threat. He commented that the
time was fast approaching when bilateral frameworks for arms control
would need to be expanded to other nuclear states. Russia was
worried about the viability of the NPT, but agreed that it was
unwise to open the NPT to amendments, focusing instead on other
instruments, such as the Additional Protocol and economic incentives
for those states that forego the full fuel cycle. Lavrov argued
that the U.S. and Russia needed to take additional steps towards
full nuclear disarmament, although recognizing that it was a goal
unlikely to be witnessed in several generations, in order to ease
the concerns of non-nuclear states.

7. (SBU) Lavrov described post-START negotiations as at a
"dead-end," and placed the blame on a U.S. approach that rejected
any limitations on its nuclear options. Any agreement, he stressed,
would need to be legally binding and further reduce the size of
nuclear arsenals. As a practical matter, this would lessen the
chance of nuclear mishaps; at a geopolitical level, it would
strengthen the NPT regime. Noting that Congress played a far
greater role in foreign policy than its Russian equivalent, Lavrov
urged the Senator and his colleagues to pay greater attention to
this aspect of bilateral relations.

Missile Defense: U.S. Breaks Rules of the Game
--------------------------------------------- ----------

8. (SBU) Recalling the presidents' meeting at Camp David in 2003,
Lavrov argued that U.S. missile defense plans broke the agreed-upon
"rules of the road" concerning preliminary consultations,
partnership, and "no surprises." Describing missile defense as
"basically unstoppable," Lavrov warned of Russian countermeasures in
the event that the U.S. moved an "integral part of its nuclear
arsenal" toward Russian borders. Lavrov traced U.S.-Russian
engagement on missile defense, flagging Putin's objection to the
abrogation of the ABM Treaty and his forewarning of Russian
countermeasures. He described as "not ideal, but promising" the
October 2007 proposals made by the Secretary and SecDef --
specifically, what both he and Putin understood to be offers to keep
the Czech radar inactive and leave the Polish silos without
interceptors until the U.S.and Russia agreed that an Iranian missile
capacity had materialized, while having a permanent U.S. and Russian
presence located at both sites. Lavrov underscored that the Russian
request for the proposals in writing produced a six-week delay and a
watered down version that did not include a permanent Russian
presence, and left the assessment of the threat entirely in American
hands. Lavrov reiterated that everyone should understand there
would be consequences to the development of missile defense sites
without Russian cooperation. He welcomed the recent GOR
consultations with the Polish government, noting that the Russian
objective was not to dissuade the Tusk government, but to inform the
GOP of Russia's strong views.

9. (SBU) Lavrov called into question the U.S. motivations behind
missile defense. If the issue was security-driven, it should have
been discussed with NATO, the EU, and Russia. If the concern was
Iran, then the Russian proposal for sharing Qabala and the radar
under development in southern Russia -- coupled with JDEC sites in
Moscow and Brussels -- should have been accepted. Clarifying that
the Russian proposal was conditioned on the U.S. foregoing its
European deployment, Lavrov insisted that the Russian offer provided
a 5-7 year window in which to further pursue joint options in the
event Iran deployed long range missiles. When Czech and Polish
officials justified the radar and missile interceptors as providing
a defense against Russia, the logic of the U.S. deployment was
further called into question. Lavrov reiterated that the GOR was
ready to cooperate, noting that in the event further consultations
did not produce an agreement, each country could act according to
its own national security calculus. On major issues, Russia
believed in consulting first, "but not forever."

Democracy and Double Standards with Georgia
--------------------------------------------- ----------

10. (SBU) Preemptively arguing that "no one is perfect," Lavrov
pointed to the 2000 U.S. elections and the "anarchic system of the
electoral college" as evidence that each country had to manage its
own democratic development. As in Soviet times, he noted, Russian
laws were generally good, but implementation poor. The GOR
understood that reality, but would address deficiencies on its own
terms. Lavrov contrasted U.S. criticism of the Russian Duma

MOSCOW 00000142 003 OF 003

elections with its praise for Georgia's presidential elections as
proof of double standards. Despite the strategic importance of the
bilateral relationship, Russia came in for severe criticism. "What
is so important about Georgia that Washington closes its eyes to
blatant electoral violations?" The conclusion of many, Lavrov
noted, was that Georgia was of greater strategic interest to the
U.S. than Russia, feeding conspiracy theories that the U.S. sought
to encircle Russia through basing and NATO membership extended to
Georgia and Ukraine. Acknowledging that the U.S. had strategic
interests in the Caucasus, Lavrov commented that "those interests
need to be understandable to us."

Energy Cooperation

11. (SBU) Lavrov described energy cooperation as a promising area
in the bilateral relationship, pointing to Lukoil and Conoco's
agreement to work jointly in Iraq. LNG sales to the U.S. were on
the horizon, with U.S.-Canada-Russian cooperation also under
discussion. Acknowledging the Senator's concerns over Russian red
tape, Lavrov said both foreign and Russian investors were frustrated
by the bureaucratic hoops; the government understood this, and Putin
had made a commitment to streamline practices. The 50 percent
increase in U.S. direct investment in 2007 reflected the positive
trendline. Lavrov commented that U.S.-Chinese relations
demonstrated to the Russian leadership the importance of a strong
economic foundation in order to weather the ups and downs in the
relationship generated by "subjective elements." Maintaining that
he did not want to "dramatize" the situation, Lavrov contrasted
Russia's acceptance of American support for the Baku-Jehan pipeline
(at a time of Russian weakness) to active American lobbying against
Russian efforts to diversify its pipelines (at a time of Russian
resurgence). American behavior was at odds with the cooperative
approach of Germany, Denmark, and Italy, and its focus on a Russian
energy "weapon" ignored Russia's dependency on the oil and gas trade
for its own economic survival.

U.S. Diplomacy

12. (SBU) Noting the Senator's focus on the need for the U.S. to
better understand international perceptions of American foreign
policy, Lavrov commented that relations between countries were
similar to relations between people. When children grew up
together, they remembered the older and stronger kid who treated
them badly; when they became older and stronger, they still
remembered the slight. Based on his 17 years in the United States,
Lavrov judged that America's long tenure as the world's dominant
power had robbed its diplomacy of incentives to think creatively and
to find diplomatic solutions. Lavrov praised the chemistry between
Putin and the President, emphasizing their ability to bluntly spell
out their respective interests and concerns; this style needed to
trickle down into the bureaucracy. Senator Hagel agreed with Lavrov
that the diffusion of power, inherent in a globalized world, meant
that other centers of political power were emerging, and reiterated
the need for the U.S. and Russia to seek ways to strengthen their
partnership during the political transition ahead.

Russian Foreign Policy Continuity

13. (SBU) Reiterating Russia's openness to partnership with the
U.S., Lavrov stressed that the Russian presidential elections would
not change the priority placed by the GOR on relations with the
U.S., provided that there was a "paradigm of mutual respect." The
outcome of the December 2 Duma elections reflected this continuity,
as did the expected victory in the March 2 presidential elections of
First Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev, who enjoyed the endorsement of
Putin and the support of a constitutional majority in the Duma.
Assuming that Putin takes up the mantle of Prime Minister, Lavrov
concluded that "there will be continuity in every sense."

14. (U) The delegation cleared this message.


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