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Cablegate: Argentina's Space Launch Vehicle Program: The

VZCZCXYZ0005
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0170/01 0441211
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131211Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0233
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 6703
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L BUENOS AIRES 000170

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

ISN FOR D. MAHLEY AND P. DURHAM
OES/SAT FOR B. FORD
CIA/WINPAC FOR J. CASKER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2018
TAGS: MTCR KSCA PARM TSPL PREL MNUC AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA'S SPACE LAUNCH VEHICLE PROGRAM: THE
EMBASSY'S PERSPECTIVE

REF: A. BUENOS AIRES 138 AND PREVIOUS

B. STATE 10771
C. BUENOS AIRES 00124 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: AMBASSADOR E. ANTHONY WAYNE, FOR REASONS 1.4
(B) AND (D)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) This cable provides the Embassy's recommendation for
policy change regarding longstanding USG opposition toward
Argentina's space launch vehicle (SLV) program. We believe
that opposition, based on Argentina's 1992 assurances that it
would not develop a space launch vehicle ""for the foreseeable
future,"" is no longer productive. A better approach would be
to switch to a neutral stance toward the program, while in
the process securing agreement that Argentina maintain
complete transparency by briefing and/or offering program
access to experts of our choosing or to the Missile
Technology Control Regime. Such a step could be a cost-free
way to remove a longstanding bilateral irritant. End Summary.

------------------
Why This Step Now?
------------------

2. (C) Ref (A) reported on a recent conversation with
Argentine space agency (CONAE) Executive Director Dr. Conrad
Varotto. During that meeting, Varotto stressed that
Argentina's political leadership continues to place great
importance on Argentina's space launch vehicle (SLV) program,
which the USG has opposed. With Argentina unwilling to
abandon the program, and with the understanding that
interagency discussions regarding possible U.S. courses of
action are currently ongoing, we hope to contribute to the
successful resolution of this seeming dilemma with the
recommendation in this cable.

------------------
The Argentine Case
------------------

3. (C) Argentina offers a number of reasons why it does not
consider itself bound by 1992 assurances to U.S. officials
and to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) that it
would foreswear development of a SLV. Specifically, the GOA
claims to have made a number of diplomatic representations
arguinig for release from the commitment dating from 1999,
and has since that time consistently expressed its
disagreement with the idea that its pursuit of a ""peaceful""
SLV should be limited. The GOA is also proud of its
non-proliferation record subsequent to the dismantling of the
Condor program, a point Varotto stressed February 4 when he
said: ""It is important that people in Washington understand
something. Those of us involved in sensitive programs --
nuclear and other (sic) -- invented our own export control
regime even before Argentina had any export control
legislation. You're not talking to enemies, but rather to
promoters of export controls.""

4. (C) Varotto also claims that Argentina is working toward
the eventual establishment of a regional space agency, a
development he understands will be difficult to achieve but
one that he purports to believe is inevitable. A reg]m Bq,jb1\BQbignal
Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR), while the higher
costs of other providers render their services inaccessible.
Partnerships with launch providers have proven imperfect
mechanisms, because although costs are reduced, Argentina has
found on a number of occasions that the needs of more senior
partners mean instruments important to Argentina are left

behind.

------------
A Trump Card
------------

5. (C) The GOA understands that solid arguments against all
of the preceding points exist, but it believes it holds a
trump card. That is, the GOA believes that because it
qualified its 1992 assurances to the USG and to the MTCR with
the phrase ""for the foreseeable future,"" instead of more
clearly foreswearing SLV development for all time, those
assurances are no longer valid. Argentina has seen eight
different presidents since 1992, goes the argument, and it is
not reasonable to demand policy consistency through such
change and over almost sixteen years absent a more binding
international agreement. (Comment: We find considerable merit
in this argument. End Comment.)

-------------------
Practical Realities
-------------------

6. (C) Leaving the Argentine arguments aside, it is useful to
examine our own ability to influence the GOA's position
toward its SLV program. High-level GOA officials --
including the current foreign minister -- have publicly
proclaimed the program to be a national priority. GOA
officials would find it difficult to backtrack from those
statements. Current president Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner, as well as her predecessor and husband Nestor
Kirchner, have shown themselves to be extremely sensitive to
perceived slights, and have often played the anti-American
card in response to an act or statement seen as an
encroachment upon Argentina's sovereign prerogatives (Ref C).
Forcing the issue with the president would likely lead to an
other-than-optimal outcome. We also understand that any
attempt to enlist a significant number of MTCR partners to
join us in reinforcing our opposition would be unlikely to
bear fruit. We must therefore conclude -- and Varotto has
told us as much -- that there is little the USG can do to
convince Argentina to renounce its SLV program.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Our Recommendation: Making the Best of the Situation
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (C) Because we are not aware of any information that
indicates that the Argentine SLV program represents a
nonproliferation danger, and taking the factors above into
account, we believe the best path to a mutually acceptable
and final resolution to this longstanding irritant would be
to release Argentina from its 1992 commitments. As a
condition, we could ask that Argentina brief its program and
keep it open to the MTCR and/or to experts of our choosing, a
step Varotto has indicated the GOA is willing to take
(although Varotto also noted that Argentina's political
leadership would probably only agree to unobtrusive
briefings/inspections). Turning Varotto's pledges of
transparency into action is worth a concerted effort, in our
view.

8. (C) Additionally, such a course of action would be
construed by the GOA as a gesture of friendship, and would be
seen as recognition and vindication of Argentina's strong
anti-proliferation vocation since the demise of the Condor
program. Best of all, it would put this issue to bed at no
cost, give us leverage to intervene if program developments
give rise to proliferation concerns, and show that we are
serious when we say that all states should be allowed to reap
the benefits of space for peaceful purposes.
WAYNE

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