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Cablegate: Colombian Vice President Santos's Historical Visit To

VZCZCXRO1995
RR RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1809 1761402
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241402Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 0828
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8753
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS MOSCOW 001809

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MCAP PGOV MASS ETRD EPET EINV

SUBJECT: COLOMBIAN VICE PRESIDENT SANTOS'S HISTORICAL VISIT TO
RUSSIA

1. (U) Summary. Moscow officials and experts viewed Colombian Vice
President Francisco Santos's visit to Russia as a turning point in
the bilateral relationship. Santos used the visit to strengthen
economic ties and to explore the possibility of increasing Russian
arms sales to Colombia. He met with President Medvedev, Foreign
Minister Lavrov, Defense Minister Serdyukov and Patriarch Alexey II
and attended the 12th International Economic Forum in St.
Petersburg. End summary.

----------------------------------
Russia-Colombia Economic Relations
----------------------------------

2. (SBU) VP Santos' June 1-9 trip to Russia stressed economic
cooperation. Denis Davydov, MFA Latin America Desk, told us June 11
that VP Santos's visit with Russia's leaders was unofficial in its
nature, and stemmed from Minister of Economic Trade and Development
Nabiullina's invitation to the 12th International Economic Forum in
St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg, Santos met with Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov where both sides reaffirmed the need to deepen
political dialogue that would lead to more intensive economic and
investment cooperation. He also sought to strengthen ties between
the Russian and Colombian business communities. In Moscow, VP
Santos took part in an investment forum called "Colombia, A Mine of
Opportunity." This forum included executives from Russia's leading
energy companies such as LUKOIL, Rosneft, and Gazprom. Since 2002
LUKOIL Overseas has been exploring the Llanos Basin, Colombia's
largest oil and gas basin, with Colombian company Ecopetrol. The
Russians have expressed interest in engaging in ground and
underground drilling to extract oil from unexplored regions of
Colombia.

3. (SBU) Referring to Colombia's "competent administration, abundant
natural resources, and economic potential," Davydov told us that
Latin America is "coming out of the shadows" and is proving to be a
prospective place for development. While Colombia is not at the top
of Russia's priority list as evidenced by the lack of media coverage
of VP Santos' visit, Russia is steadily seeking to deepen ties with
the region, including recently opening embassies in Guatemala and
Paraguay. The Russian government in general and the business
community in particular would like to gain a more reciprocal trade
relationship with Latin American countries since Russia exports less
to Latin America than Latin America does to Russia.

---------------------------------
Military Hardware Diversification
---------------------------------

4. (U) Santos expressed interest in signing weapons contracts that
would allow Colombia to maintain a balance of power in the region.
Russian arms sales to Colombia have been insignificant in comparison
to Venezuela, consisting of a few Mi-17 helicopters. According to
press reports, Russia is looking to places such as Latin America for
arms exports because long-time markets in China and India are
"oversaturated with hardware" and are shifting toward high
technologies.

5. (SBU) Davydov countered a report in news daily Kommersant that
Santos would urge the GOR to curb arms exports to Venezuela in order
to avoid an arms race in the region. Davydov said that the sale of
arms to either Colombia or Venezuela would not result in a regional
arms race and that Russia would continue military-technical
cooperation with both countries. He noted that Russia sold military
helicopters to Colombia as early as 1996-1997. Moreover, he
characterized Russia-Colombia relations as strong since there were
no conflicts or disputes among the two sides in their respective
backyards. In addition, both countries supported each other in
international fora such as the UN and cooperated on anti-terrorism
and drug-trafficking. Furthermore, he posited that while Russia did
not support the FARC or ALN, it had stopped short of designating
them as terrorist organizations, as the EU had done. Davydov said
Colombian drugs were present on the local Russian market and the GOR
sought ways to cooperate with Colombia to address this issue.

6. (SBU) A mid-level Colombian embassy official told us Santos's
visit had focused on economic relations and trade, and he had not
discussed Venezuelan arms sales.

RUSSELL

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