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Cablegate: Tfgg01: Russia-Georgia Conflict: Athens Diplomatic

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTH #1188/01 2351655
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 221655Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2373
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0377

S E C R E T ATHENS 001188

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/22/2018
TAGS: GR PGOV PREL MARR RU GG
SUBJECT: TFGG01: RUSSIA-GEORGIA CONFLICT: ATHENS DIPLOMATIC
PUSH

REF: A. STATE 89769
B. 07 ATHENS 2375
C. ATHENS 1183

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES DEBORAH MCCARTHY. REASONS 1.4 (B) AND
(D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Greek MFA and MOD officials are saying the
right things on Greece's support for Georgia's territorial
integrity and the early withdrawal of Russian forces from
Georgia. At the same time, a team of Russian defense
industry experts is scheduled to visit Athens next week to
discuss Greek purchase of Russian armored personnel carriers
(BMPs), and the Greek Parliament is scheduled to ratify the
Southstream pipeline project with Russia in September. We
are working to turn off both these ill-advised moves, but are
getting mixed signals from Greek officials. Further
discussions on these issues with Greek diplomats in Brussels
and Washington could be helpful. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Charge delivered ref A points on the Russian-Georgia
conflict to Constantinos Bitsios, diplomatic advisor to PM
Karamanlis, and to Aristides Agathocles, MFA Secretary
General. She urged Greece's continued support of the common
NATO position and the withdrawal of Russian forces from
Georgian territory to their pre-crisis positions. Charge
also encouraged continued Greek humanitarian assistance to
Georgia and expressed U.S. appreciation to Greece for its
decision to send two monitors for the OSCE mission. Bitsios
assured us that Greece firmly supported Georgia's territorial
integrity and noted that he had personally pressed Russian
representatives in Athens firmly on the immediate withdrawal
of Russian troops from Georgian territory. At the same time,
Bitsios said Greece was wary of starting down a path toward a
new Cold War by isolating Russia. A better path, he argued,
was one of dialogue and negotiations. We pushed back, noting
that while no one wished to see a new Cold War, Russia needed
to repair the damage it had done.

3. (C) Agathocles likewise underscored Greece's full support
for Georgia's territorial integrity and said Greece would not
accept changes to borders. He explained that it was a matter
of principle for them, both in the case of Georgia and in the
case of Kosovo, whose independence Greece has not yet
recognized. Agathocles said they had told the Russians
"strongly" that any attempt to revise borders would be
unacceptable. He had asked the Russians why they were not
withdrawing more quickly. They had responded that, first,
they had found ammunition dumps in the captured territories
and had to destroy them to keep them from falling into the
hands of gangs. Second, the Russians claimed there were no
law-enforcement authorities in Gori and they could not leave
the area unattended. Agathocles was unpersuaded by these
arguments. Like Bitsios, however, Agathocles also argued
that it was not in the interests of the West to isolate
Russia at this time.

RUSSIAN TECHNICAL TEAM TO ATHENS FOR BMP NEGOTIATIONS
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (C) Greek press reports Thursday indicated that a team of
Russian technical experts was scheduled to travel to Athens
next week for discussions on Greek procurement of 450
Russian-made armored personnel carriers (BMPs). NOTE: This
is part of a larger arms purchase agreement that PM
Karamanlis signed with President Putin late last year. Ref
B. END NOTE.) We raised the issue with Bitsios and
Agathocles, noting that such a visit now would be unhelpful
@h undercut and be inconsiQupport of the NATO posQitarian
assistance e& was important not to
allow Russia to think it was "business as usual" as long as
Russia had troops occupying Georgian territory. Bitsios
appeared to take these arguments on board but had no direct
response. Agathocles thanked us for this information and
said he understood that such a visit would not be helpful at
this point and that they would "turn it off." A/Polcouns
also discussed the issue with former Foreign Minister and
reported Karamanlis confidante Antonis Samaras, who agreed
"absolutely" that the optics of such a visit now would be bad
and promised to make sure "those who needed to know" would be
told.

5. (C) To put greater pressure on the GOG to cancel the
Russian visit and to alert colleagues in the diplomatic corps
to the issue, Embassy officers contacted a number of
third-country embassies in Athens. Georgian Charge Zurab
Aleksidze said our efforts were a good initiative, that he
would report the issue back to Tbilisi, and would take up the

issue himself with Deputy Foreign Ministry Kassimis, who is
heading the MFA's Georgia crisis center. UK PolCouns Lisa
Whanstall also expressed concerned and said she would cable
London for instructions on how to proceed.

CHOD BLASTS RUSSIANS
--------------------

6. (S/NF) DATT discussed the Russian BMP visit with Chiefof
Defense General Grapsas. Grapsas at first said he knew
nothing of the visit but confided that if such a visit were
scheduled, he would certainly have it stopped. Shortly after
returning to the Embassy, Major General Reklitis called DATT
and told him that the Russian technicians were coming to
visit Greece but they were not sponsored by anyone in the
Hellenic Ministry of Defense or Hellenic Military and were
only coming to meet with civilian commercial officials.
Therefore, Grapsas could not postpone or terminate the visit.
COMMENT: While it is conceivable that the Russians are
coming to talk to private Greek companies because there are
reportedly offset provisions in the BMP deal, it is highly
unlikely that the Greek Pentagon would not have contact with
such a delegation. Moreover, most of the Greek defense firms
are quasi-state enterprises, so a Russian meeting with
"private" Greek defense firms would still likely involve
Greek officials. END COMMENT.

7. (S/NF) Grapsas went on to express very negative views on
the Russians. He opined that Russia was a country that could
not be trusted and that history had proven this fact time and
again. Grapsas underscored his distrust of Russia by
pointing out that it was taking advantage of high oil prices,
a result of terrorist acts, to illegitimately generate wealth
and fund its military buildup and modernization. He said the
U.S. should not allow the Russians to occupy Georgia and
should remove them and push on into Russia to teach them a
lesson. He went on to say that despite its claims, Russia
was not a democracy and the world was naive if it thought
Russia could change from a hegemonic, centrally controlled,
communist state to a true capitalistic democracy in only 18
years. Grapsas reiterated that Greece had historical ties
with Georgia and would do whatever was required to help them.
He opined that the U.S., NATO, and the EU would have to
rebuild Georgia and Russia would not like it. He pledged
Greek support in the form of military forces, humanitarian
aid and support (i.e. diplomatic clearances for over flights
and sealift), as required.

OTHER DIPLOMATIC CONTACTS
-------------------------

8. (C) A/Econcouns delivered ref A points to Peep Jahilo,
Estonia's Ambassador to Greece. Jahilo indicated that there
was no doubt that Estonia was firmly allied with Georgia and
believed Moscow was in the wrong. He said that Estonia was
one of the first countries to send humanitarian assistance to
Georgia. He shared that Estonia would continue to stand with
NATO and was watching developments closely. Jahilo believed
that Russia had been put on notice by the NATO statements and
the fact that very few countries were supporting its
position. However, he noted, Russia was now taking steps to
help it "save face." For example, according to him, the
Russian military attach in Estonia yesterday demarched the
Estonian military that it was freezing its bilateral military
cooperation with Estonia for the time being. On Greece,
Jahilo indicated that while he was heartened to hear recent
statements by Bakoyannis he was wary of the fact that
Karamanlis had been utterly silent on Russian's actions.

9. (C) A/DCM delivered reftel points to Ukrainian Charge,
Taras Malisevski. Malisevski, who appreciated the
information, noted that his embassy had not discussed the
issue with the GoG, in large part because his Ambassador was
to return to post on September 6. He did specifically state
that, while Bakoyannis had made some useful statement on
Georgia, his government had noticed PM Karamanlis had been
"very silent" on the matter.

GEORGIA CRISIS AND GREEK ENERGY POLICY
--------------------------------------

10. (C) A/DCM discussed the situation in Georgia and its
impact on Greece's energy policy with Else Loverdou, Energy
Advisor to the Minister of Development, on both August 18 and
August 22. In the first meeting, Loverdou noted that the GoG
was interested in moving forward with the four-way Turkey,
Greece, Italy and Azerbaijan political agreement on the TGI
pipeline. A/DCM welcomed this move and outlined USG policy
on Russia in wake of Georgia: now was not a time for

"business as usual" with Russia, also on the energy sphere.
A/DCM specifically noted that the U.S. would be particularly
concerned by Greek movement on the Southstream pipeline.
The second discussion focused on an article in the August 22
edition of the Greek newspaper Ethnos, reporting that the
Russian Government had just completed ratification of its
bilateral agreement with Greece on Southstream, and that the
GoG would now move forward quickly on its own Parliamentary
ratification. Loverdou did not dispute these facts, but
called the Greek ratification process "routine." She noted
that the Russian Government ratification of the agreement did
not require action by the Duma, but rather by the Russian
Ministerial Cabinet alone. This process, she said, had now` Greek Government had, fe Southstream agreemenQr to
the summer receQg in the queue" for
r`ted that Parliament would@t September 25. "You do Q
ratified their SouthQh Russia..." she
noted. (NOTE: This has also come up in press channels and
Embassy has decided to note privately to our journalist
contacts that now is not the time to move forward with any
Southstream-related agreement. END NOTE.)

COMMENT
-------

11. (C) The Georgia crisis has put Greece in a tight spot
because of its historically close ties to both Georgia and
Russia. FM Bakoyannis' statement in Brussels (ref C) and the
statements of other Greek officials (PM Karamanlis has been
silent on the issue thus far) came out strongly for Georgia's
territorial integrity and the early withdrawal of Russian
troops. Greece is also supporting the OSCE monitor mission
with two monitors and promises of ten more later and has
provided funds and materiel for humanitarian assistance. At
the same time, having a Russian technical team visit next
week to discuss an arms purchase and the Greek Parliament
ratifying the Southstream project would send the wrong signal
to Moscow that Greece is still willing to do business as
usual. We have made a push to turn off these ill-advised
moves. Further discussions on these issues with Greek
diplomats in Brussels and in Washington could be helpful.
MCCARTHY

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