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Cablegate: Debate On Russian Role in Oae Foreshadows Dividing

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DE RUEHNO #0287/01 2261839
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O 131839Z AUG 08
FM USMISSION USNATO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2154
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE 6059
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI IMMEDIATE 5648
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RUEHNO/USDELMC BRUSSELS BE IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/USNMR SHAPE BE IMMEDIATE

S E C R E T USNATO 000287

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2017
TAGS: NATO PREL MOPS GG RS
SUBJECT: DEBATE ON RUSSIAN ROLE IN OAE FORESHADOWS DIVIDING
LINES ON NATO-RUSSIA POLICY

Classified By: Ambassador Kurt Volker for reason...

S E C R E T USNATO 000287 NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2017 TAGS: NATO PREL MOPS GG RS

SUBJECT: DEBATE ON RUSSIAN ROLE IN OAE FORESHADOWS DIVIDING LINES ON NATO-RUSSIA POLICY Classified By: Ambassador Kurt Volker for reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (C) Summary: During the August 13 North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting, the U.S., Poland, the Balts, UK, and Czech Republic, and Canada, giving teeth to the "no business-as-usual" approach to NATO relations with Russia, opposed participation of the Russian ship Ladniy in Operation Active Endeavor (OAE). As a result, the NAC did not reach consensus. Russia will be informed of the NAC decision through both political and military channels, and SHAPE will return operational control of the Ladniy to the Russian navy. Leading those opposed to Russian participation, Ambassador Volker argued that NATO would send the wrong signal if the NAC allowed Russian participation. Germany, however, as the standard bearer for pro-Russia camp, expressed its dismay over the negative decision and urged Allies to reconsider it in light of the effect on NATO's long-term relationship with Russia. The NAC also decided to take no action on the Russian request for a Russian proposed NATO-Russia Council meeting, pending discussion by NATO Foreign Ministers at an extraordinary session on August 19. The discussion on OAE provides an insightful preview on how Allies will approach NATO's future relationship with Russia at the Ministerial meeting. End Summary. -------------------------------------- RUSSIAN FRIGATE SET TO SAIL IN NATO OP -------------------------------------- 2. (S/NF) During the August 13 meeting of the NAC, the Deputy Chairman of the Military Committee (DCMC) informed the NAC that SACEUR had approved the RFS Ladniy's participation in OAE, per OAE's rules of procedure. According to the DCMC, it was within the procedures for SACEUR to assume NAC consensus based on the Ladniy's participation in 2007. The Russian Navy transferred operational control of the Ladniy to SHAPE on August 11, and it was due to set sail on August 18 from the Turkish port where it is currently doing pre-deployment work. SHAPE wisely declined to hoist the NATO flag, pending today's NAC discussion. In the August 12 NAC, when the Secretary General informed the NAC of SACEUR's approval, several Allies, including the U.S., raised objections. In the August 13 session, the NAC could not reach consensus to approve the Ladniy's participation in OAE. The Russian navy will be informed of the NAC decision through SHAPE and NATO political channels, and SHAPE will return operational control to the Russian Navy immediately. The DCMC said the non-participation of the Ladniy would have no operational impact on OAE, but could negatively affect the long-term inter-operablity efforts between NATO and Russia. The DSYG also informed the NAC that the head of the Russian Navy plans on visiting JFC Naples and U.S. Naval facilities in Naples August 25-28. ------------------------------ ALLIES DIVIDED DOWN THE MIDDLE ------------------------------ 3. (S/NF) Ambassador Volker stated firmly that the U.S. could not support Russian participation in OAE in light of the present circumstances. The Baltic States, Poland, the Czech Republic, the UK, and Canada supported the U.S. position. Hitting the nail on the head, Estonia said it would be difficult to imagine seeing a Russian ship under a NATO flag given the current circumstances. The UK said it could not be business-as-usual in the NRC, but along with Canada hedged its bets by saying they were not prepared to approve "at this time." Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Greece suggested that the NAC leave this decision for Ministers; however, the DCMC responded unequivocally that the NAC must make a decision today. He contended that the worst possible outcome from a military perspective was to leave this decision in limbo, since the Russian Navy had already transferred operational control of the frigate to SHAPE. 4. (S/NF) Germany strongly disagreed, railing against this decision's effect on long-term relations with Russia. Moreover, Germany stressed the importance of OAE as a counter-terrorism operation and worried that it would cripple our overall counter-terrorism efforts with Russia. (NOTE: Besides OAE, Russia and NATO have only limited counter-terrorism cooperation that rarely extends beyond exchanges of views. End note). France, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia and Iceland supported the German view. Norway said it is imprudent to cancel cooperation that is in NATO's interest, while Hungary cautioned against decisions that are irreversible. Ambassador Volker refuted the German argument urging the NAC to send the right message to Moscow and to end the ambiguity by making a decision today. ------------------------ U.S. IS THE NRC LINCHPIN ------------------------ 5. (S/NF) As the OAE debate demonstrates, curtailing any NRC activity will split the NAC down the middle. If consensus limits us to a calibrated response, we should target the higher profile projects dear to the Russians, including the counter-narcotics training project, the Cooperative Airspace initiative (CAI), Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) cooperation, and the NRC website. The U.S. has disproportionate influence on NRC cooperation, as the only Ally to participate in all NRC activities and as the largest financial contributor of NRC projects (all funded on a voluntary basis). Without U.S. support, key projects would wither quickly, if not collapse immediately. On the monetary side, the U.S. has pledged but not transferred 100,000 USD to the counter-narcotics training budget and 3,000 USD for the NRC website. In addition, we are considering substantial contributions to the CAI (approximately 700,000 USD) and to TMD phase III (undecided but in the same range as CAI contribution). The Drug Enforcement Agency has led approximately 40 percent of the NRC counter-narcotics training in Central Asian and Afghanistan, and many NRC members and partner Finland conditioned their participation on working with DEA. Most important, the U.S. was the lone Ally to consider committing equipment to the Russian-proposed TMD live fire exercise 6. (S/NF) Official suspension of part or all NRC activities would require an NRC decision, including Russia. For example, Allies tried to disband the peacekeeping working group in 2007, and Russia blocked this measure. However, the NAC could take a decision to suspend NATO participation in all or parts of the NRC. Russia set a precedent for this during the Kosovo campaign, when it suspended Russian participation in the Permanent Joint Council (PJC), the predecessor of the NRC. This put the PJC on ice until Russia returned. Theoretically, individual Allies could suspend their participation, but Allied disunity would give Russia a golden opportunity to drive wedges. ------- COMMENT ------- 7. (S/NF) The German-led side (to include Belgium, Spain, and Norway) is unlikely to support anything more than a slap on the Russian wrist in the upcoming NATO Ministerial. French views are more nuanced aimed at promoting a French (and EU) leadership role, while sharing much of the U.S. analysis of Russia's behavior. Greece and Hungary are leaning towards this camp. In sharp contrast, the Baltic states, Poland, and Czech Republic would consider harsh measures to include suspension of the entire NRC relationship. Canada and the UK favor a graduated approach on curtailing NRC activities, because this would give NATO more options and leverage to influence Russia as events unfold. Italy and the Netherlands are on the fence. Thus, NAC consensus on any measure will be difficult, but the U.S does have strong cards through our active support of all NRC projects. France and Germany's participation and financial support in the NRC is weak and does not match their pro-Russian rhetoric. The one sacred cow to the vast majority of Allies is political dialogue, especially relating to resolution of the conflict. Lack of consensus worked in our favor in the OAE debate, but this only works for blocking a decision. Germany will surely turn the tables to block consensus on future decisions that require an affirmative NATO action to stop cooperation with Russia. End comment. VOLKER

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