Cablegate: Foreign Office Sees Brown-Medvedev Talks Leading
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHLO #1837/01 1921638
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 101638Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9171
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 001837
STATE FOR EUR/RUS, EUR/WE
EO 12958 DECL: 07/09/2018
TAGS PGOV, ECON, ENRG, PREL, UK, RS
SUBJECT: FOREIGN OFFICE SEES BROWN-MEDVEDEV TALKS LEADING
TO WARMER UK-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
Classified By: Political Counselor Richard M. Mills Jr. for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev used their first one-on-one meeting at the G8 summit to build a friendly rapport rather than “score points” on smaller contentious issues, said the Foreign Office (FCO) to members of the diplomatic community. According to the FCO, Brown and Medvedev both expressed frustration at the stalled dialogue between the two governments, and pledged to reopen top-level lines of communication. They agreed on several issues, including support of a post-Kyoto framework, reformation of international institutions, and increased dialogue on climate change. At the same time, the pair did not dwell on more controversial issues, such as Kosovo’s independence and the Litvinenko murder. The FCO,s overall assessment of the meeting was positive, and the FCO’s Russian Office sees in Medvedev a leader more open to domestic liberalization and cooperation with Britain and the West than was his predecessor.
2. (SBU) Summary continued. Though the Brown-Medvedev meeting touched on important international issues, the FCO said the most important outcome were signs of a thaw in top-level UK-Russian relations. As an example, they pointed to conversations with the Russian government regarding Zimbabwe and progress in gaining Moscow’s support for some G8 action. Encouraged by the prospects of improving relations under Medvedev, the FCO believes that now may not be the time to renegotiate items such as the Russia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), and that better agreements with Moscow may be reached later, if Medvedev can successfully liberalize parts of Russian society. End Summary.
3. (C/NF) PM Brown briefly brought up the Litvinenko murder case and the extradition request, and Medvedev apparently sought to bury the matter by referring to it as a “legal issue.” Medvedev said that it was a “sad affair,” but that it should be a matter left to the courts. FCO reported that no transformative dialogue occurred, and that no progress was made on the issue.
4. (C/NF) In a separate meeting on the day of the briefing, Cabinet Office Director General Margaret Aldred confirmed to the DCM that the Brown meeting had been “fairly relaxed” and not strained. Aldred said the cost of the fall-out to HMG from the Litvinenko issue was an end to close cooperation with Russian intelligence (FSB) on counterterrorism and other global issues.
Visas and Diplomatic Relations
5. (C/NF) Brown and Medvedev made little progress on the issue of diplomatic visas, which are still being restricted by both countries as part of the fall-out from the Litvinenko case. The FCO reported that Medvedev was apparently upset over reports in the British media, appearing the same week as the G8 meeting, on Russian espionage activities in the UK.
6. (C/NF) According to the FCO, HMG has had good reasons to refuse many Russian visa requests. HMG officials see a real “intelligence threat from” Russia (in addition to China), and regret a “missed opportunity” in the late 1990s and early 2000s to assess these intelligence threats. FCO officials explained that the Russian government is still restricting visas to UK diplomats, that HMG is not be able to fully staff its embassy in Russia, and that local Russian hires have been harassed by the FSB. Accordingly, HMG is restricting the number of visas issued to Russian officials. The FCO reports that HMG had proposed a deal on easing visa restrictions, but that Russia is requiring that HMG consult with the FSB on any mutual visa agreement. HMG continues to refuse to engage directly with the FSB, pending resolution of the Litvinenko murder case.
7. (SBU) Medvedev confirmed to Brown that he had met with Russian shareholders of TNK-BP, and indicated to them that they could seek legal recourse through Russian courts, if they had concerns with how the joint venture was operating.
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8. (SBU) Medvedev brought up the need for major reform of international institutions, one of the PM’s main international initiatives. Medvedev told Brown that international financial institutions need to be more engaged in managing the global credit crunch.
9. (SBU) Medvedev told Brown that while Russia no longer views the British Council in Russia as a “den of spies,” there still exist legal issues regarding the British Council,s activities in Russia. Medvedev implied that politicians are not in a position to discuss what is or is not legal, and that Russian courts will make the final decisions regarding the British Council,s Russian operations.
10. (SBU) Medvedev indicated to Brown that Russia might be willing to support a 2012 post-Kyoto framework, but expressed concerns about the rapid industrialization of China and India and its potential to undermine any international agreement on carbon emissions.
FCO,s Analysis: Medvedev is not Putin
11. (C/NF) FCO officials expressed optimism that Medvedev will bring a partial liberalization to Russian political life. They see signs of a slow break with Putin, including the former President,s failure to attend the G8 summit, the retirement of several high-ranking Putin-appointed generals, and the appointment of Antoly Chubais, a liberal and close Medvedev ally, to the presidency of Rosnanotech, which FCO views as a huge “Kremlin slush fund.” On the other hand, several of Putin,s men are still in the upper echelons of the Kremlin, though the FCO believes that they will be removed over the next few years.
12. (C/NF) FCO officials said that the EU should hold off on signing a new PCA, which expires at the end of 2008, and wait to see if Medvedev liberalizes parts of Russian society before agreeing to long-term commitments. The FCO stressed that the next few years should be geared towards improving upper-level UK-Russian relations, and that high-level visits are the way forward. HMG is planning several visits to Russia in the fall, and will receive high-level Russian officials early next year.
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