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Cablegate: Norway Welcomes Ambassador Volker's Visit with A

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNY #0488/01 2461306
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 021306Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY OSLO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7024
INFO RUEHXP/ALL NATO POST COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 4014
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 1524
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000488

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2018
TAGS: MARR MCAP NATO PGOV PREL NO
SUBJECT: NORWAY WELCOMES AMBASSADOR VOLKER'S VISIT WITH A
PLEDGE TO FOCUS ON COOPERATION

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Misson Kevin M. Johnson
for reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (C) Ambassador Volker's August 21-24th visit to Noway
featured extensive private and public discusions on Georgia
and on Russia including a well received address at Norway's
leading foreign policy institute and extensive media
coverage. In private, GON officials, including FM Stoere and
Deputy Defense Minister Barth Eide, expressed a desire for
closer cooperation with the U.S. in NATO and broad agreement
on the seriousness of Russian actions in Georgia. Barth Eide
and Stoere also stressed the need for NATO to return some of
its focus to ""Article Five"" territorial defense core
missions, including Norway's High North, although they both
stressed the GON's continued commitment to Afghanistan.
Ambassador Volker also met with the Afghan Ambassador to
Norway to discuss the Afghan Ambassador's proposal for a
public relations hub designed to assist Afghani Embassies in
Europe.

Visit Overview
-------------

2. (C) Ambassador Volker visited Oslo, Stavanger and Bodo,
meeting with FM Jonas Gahr Stoere and Deputy Defense Minister
Espen Barth Eide and visiting the Joint Warfare Center in
Stavanger and the Norwegian National Joint Command
Headquarters in Bodo. In Oslo, Ambassador Volker also held
a talk at the Norwegian Institute for Foreign Affairs
covering his hectic first week on the job, U.S. actions and
response to the Georgia crisis and long-term goals for a
cooperative relationship with Russia. Norway's NATO
Ambassador, Kim Traavik, accompanied Ambassador Volker
throughout most of the trip.

Georgia
--------
3. (C) Ambassador Volker expressed appreciation for FM
Stoere's strong condemnation of Russian actions in Georgia.
FM Stoere and Volker agreed on the importance of close allied
cooperation when structuring NATO's relationship with Georgia
and that the upcoming NAC visit to Tbilisi should not be
about MAP status. Deputy Defense Minister Barth Eide
expressed concern over the Russian interpretation of the
ceasefire text and agreement that the Russian behavior was
unacceptable. Barth Eide stressed the need for a long-term
vision for NATO's relations with Georgia. In his remarks at
the Norwegian Institute for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador
Volker described the U.S. policy on Georgia and reaction to
Russia, stressing the short-term need to handle the crisis
and the long-term desire to create a cooperative relationship
with Russia.

Russia and NATO
-------------------
4. (C) NATO's relations with Russia were the dominant theme
of the visit and there was much discussion over the
interpretation of the Russian diplomatic notes freezing
military cooperation with NATO, delivered late on August 21.
FM Stoere interpreted the Russian note as a pre-emptive move,
after seeing how united the allies were in condemnation of
Russian actions in Georgia. Stoere stressed the importance
of a united alliance and requested that Norway, as well as
the Baltic and Eastern European states, be included in
discussions and decisions regarding Russia from the
beginning. Stoere pledged to let the U.S. know divergent
views but also that he would manage relations to focus on
cooperation. Barth Eide stressed the importance of NATO's
returning to it core mission, maintaining security for its
member's territory. He did not see Russia's behavior as new,
merely the extension of policy from Putin's Munich speech.
Barth Eide believed that a return in defense planning and
focus on NATO's territory is necessary to maintain alliance
unity, and to strengthen public understanding and support,
particularly in Eastern Europe. Ambassador Volker agreed
that this would be important but stressed the continued
centrality of the fight against terror, reminding Barth Eide
that Russia does not intend to attack NATO today, unlike
terrorists. Ambassador Volker took this opportunity to press
Norway to increase defense spending. Barth Eide admitted
that budgets do not meet the two percent goal but pointed to
increases in funding and staffing and the Norwegian
military's presence in the North as positive developments.

Norway and Russia
-----------------
5. (C) Stoere and Barth Eide both stressed that Norway does
not want to escalate the crisis with Russia and does not see
Russia as a threat. Both emphasized the GON's ""two track""
approach to Russia, keeping bilateral relations on its border
and in the Arctic calm and productive, while criticizing
Russia for its behavior elsewhere and supporting western
multilateral organizations. The GON considers its bilateral
relationship with Russia to be a model for other NATO allies
and Stoere and Barth Eide were insistent on the need to
maintain contact and dialogue with Russia on bilateral
issues. In the multilateral arena Stoere stressed the
importance of NATO solidarity and said that he had spoken
with Lavrov after Russian threats against Poland. Ambassador
Volker asked about increases in Russian bomber flights along
Norway's coast and how the GON views this. Saying ""we didn't
miss them when they were gone"" Stoere mentioned that he had
stressed to Lavrov that the flights make it easy to convince
the public that Norway should buy new fighter planes. Stoere
also brought up the simulated cruise missile attack on Bodo
during a Nordic foreign ministers meeting with Lavrov. Since
then no such practice attacks have been seen. Stoere also
mentioned Secretary Rice's comments about Russian flights
along the Norwegian coast and stressed that the GON does not
view them as a threat, despite growing Russian interest in
Svalbard. Ambassador Volker agreed that this was a good
public point but that in private the GON should recognize the
clear message that Russia is sending to Norway and NATO.
Barth Eide agreed on this point and mentioned the Russian
aircraft carrier Kuznetsov's cruise through Norway's North
Sea oil platforms as another incident of Russia sending a
message.

6.(C) During briefings in Stavanger and Bodo senior Norwegian
military officers stressed their concern over the potential
for trouble with Russia in Svalbard. Russia disputes Norway's
interpretation of the Svalbard treaty and has recently sent
warships and fishery inspection vessels into the waters near
Svalbard. Norway's CHOD publically stated that the potential
for conflict with Russia is greatest in Svalbard. With the
events in Georgia the Norwegian military seems to be focused
on this potential threat and concerned that NATO is aware of
this area of vulnerability. MOD sources indicate that the
Minister of Defense will stress the Norwegian concern over
Svalbard in the next Defense Ministerial.

Missile Defense and Cluster Munitions
---------------------
7. (C) Barth Eide and Stoere seemed willing to maintain
alliance unity and put disagreements over the cluster
munitions treaty and missile defense behind them. In
response to Volker's request to get away from the divisive
dynamic around missile defense and cluster munitions, Stoere
stressed the GON's continued skepticism with missile defense
and said he personally remained to be convinced. He said
that the U.S. should not take a lack of debate within NATO as
agreement and asked if the missile defense systems will
enhance security. Stoere also expressed satisfaction with
the cluster munitions treaty but agreed to manage relations
to maintian NATO unity and focus on the reaction to Russia's
challenges. Barth Eide also was pleased with the cluster
munitions treaty and said that the credibility gained by
Norway during the process allowed the GON to play an
important role in assuring that harder line states did not
overly impact the treaty. Barth Eide was less vocal on
missile defense, saying that GON skepticism was largely for
domestic reasons and that after the conclusion of agreements
with the Czech Republic and Poland this would not be as
contentious. Barth Eide also stressed that GON skepticism
was not based on Russian objections. He proposed that ""just
as the U.S. is adjusting to the cluster munitions treaty,
Norway will relate to developments in missile defense.""

Afghanistan
---------
8. (C) Discussing Afghanistan FM Stoere mentioned the GON's
appreciation for strong U.S. support for Kai Eide and his UN
coordination role. Stoere and Volker discussed the
challenges of civilian-military coordination and agreed that
the relative role of the military or civilian actors is
situationally dependent and needs to be flexible. Touching
on Pakistan-Afghan relations, Stoere said the role of the
Pakistani intelligence service is key. He also mentioned
that he has yet to hear any good answer on how to deal with
Pakistan and that this may in fact be the most difficult
question in the region.

9. (C) Ambassador Volker also met with the Afghani Ambassador
to the Nordic region, Jawed Ludin, to discuss Ludin's
proposal and request for funding for an Afghan focused media
hub. The purpose of the hub would be to assist Afghan
embassies in Europe react to media stories as well as
proactively spread more positive stories about Afghanistan.
Volker was supportive of the idea, suggesting that it needs
to be located in Brussels to maximize press opportunities and
promising to mention his support of the idea to Colleen
Graffey.

Media Reports
-----------
10. (C) Media interest Volker's visit was high, with multiple
print interviews and coverage by the two major TV channels as
well as the major radio news station. Coverage focused on
the actions leading up to the crisis and the long-term
prospects for relations with Russia. Coverage was largely
positive and supported U.S. criticisms of Russia's actions
and the right of Georgia to determine its own future
(although critical of Georgia's actions leading up to the
conflict).

Comment:
---------
11. (C) Ambassador Volker's visit to Norway has focused
attention on the continued relevance of NATO and the need for
close ties to the United States. The leader of the
Conservative opposition party criticized the current
Labor-led coalition for weakening ties with the U.S. and not
providing enough funding for defense. Other voices have
called for increases in Norway's defense capabilities and
commitment to NATO. There is a general consensus here that
Georgian actions were unwise and led to the conflict and that
the Norwegian relationship with Russia is categorically
different. Nonetheless Russia's actions in Georgia, combined
with the increase in military activity in the Barents region,
have strengthened advocates of increased defense spending and
of the importance of maintaining a close relationship with
the U.S.
WHITNEY

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