Cablegate: September 11, 2008 Hltf: Allies Grapple With

DE RUEHNO #0336/01 2621015
O 181015Z SEP 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 07 USNATO 000336

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2018

Classified By: A/DCM W. Scott Reid for reasons 1.4 (b and d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. At the September 11 NATO High Level Task
Force (HLTF) and related meetings Allies discussed potential
next steps on CFE in the context of Russian actions in
Georgia and Russias continued "suspension" of CFE, based
largely on the options advanced by the U.S. (ref a). There
was general agreement on the need for a unified, measured CFE
response that was "not business as usual," and which visibly
demonstrated NATOs continued solidarity. All Allies:
-- Agreed that maintaining NATO unity on CFE, and a unified
NATO message must remain our top priority in both Brussels
and Vienna.
-- Agreed that, after Georgia, we should not do "business as
usual" with Russia, but there were varied interpretations of
what this means with respect to CFE.
-- Underscored the continuing importance of maintaining
conventional arms control within the existing European
security architecture, and identified CFE as not only the
best regime to serve that purpose, but also "irreplaceable"
under current conditions.
-- Agreed on the need to carefully consider all the pros and
cons of any step - especially as regards timing.
-- Understood that under the current circumstances in
Georgia, A/S Fried cannot resume meetings with DFM Antonov on
a CFE package; many expressed hope that this effort would be
resumed as soon as possible.
-- Considered it too early for a CFE Extraordinary Conference
or for consideration of NATO suspension of fulfillment of
Treaty provisions vis a vis Russia.

2. (C) In the broader discussion of a CFE response to Russia,
three main groups emerged:
-- Germany (joined in principle by Belgium, Greece and Italy)
believes that CFE must be insulated from the troubles in
Georgia. The Germans astonished many by insisting that
Russian actions in Georgia did not violate CFE and the
principles that underpin it, and that in fact the lesson of
those events is the need for more extensive and more
effective arms control.
-- A broad middle group (France, Spain, Portugal, Poland, and
Hungary with Turkey, Norway, and The Netherlands somewhat
more hesitant) believes that Russias actions in Georgia
violated the core principles of the CFE Treaty and that NATO
should respond, but share Frances desire to assess how
events play out in Georgia by mid-October. Turkey and Norway
have high concern regarding any step that might diminish
NATOs chances of saving the CFE Treaty or provide Russia
with a pretext for killing CFE.
-- The third group (U.S., UK, Canada, Romania, and Bulgaria)
believes that Russias actions in Georgia violated core
principles of CFE, and that NATO needs to respond. This
group primarily differs from the cautionary group above
primarily in readiness to consider a wider range of response
actions more quickly.

3. (C) Allies will further address U.S. proposals and
identify priorities at a near-term HLTF meeting in late
September/early October, and then turn to longer term
proposals at the Romanian-hosted day-long HLTF seminar later
in October. END SUMMARY.


4. (C) The International Staff (IS) used the Head of
Delegation lunch prior to the HLTF to discuss contacts and
bilaterals specific to CFE (first agenda item for the HLTF)
since the June 24 HLTF meeting.
USNATO 00000336 002 OF 007
-- The IS (Paksoy) reviewed the efforts of NATO vis--vis
Georgia since early August and reported that Georgia had
indicated it would not be in a position to provide its annual
CFE data in December.
-- U.S. HLTF Rep State/VCI DAS Karin L. Look reported per
reftel on the Fried-Antonov bilateral CFE meeting in July,
which she noted was shaped in part by Allies suggestions for
invigorating the CFE dialogue. She noted that events in
Georgia significantly changed the context for CFE
discussions: Russias actions were inconsistent with the
core principles upon which the CFE Treaty is built -
including the obligation to refrain "from the threat or use
of force against the territorial integrity or political
independence of any State." Look agreed with the IS Chair
(Simmons) that the August 19 NAC Statement in which Allies
agreed not to pursue business as usual and to signal
displeasure with Russian tactics applies in the CFE context.
She emphasized the criticality of Alliance unity and the
need to not continue with business as usual with Russia as
long as the ceasefire is not fully implemented. Look noted
that A/S Fried would postpone further meetings with Antonov
until the ceasefire had been fully implemented and Russia had
taken steps to ease tensions in Georgia.

5. (C) THE WAY AHEAD. Allied views for managing CFE over the
next months varied. Some indicated their governments are
still assessing the implications of Russias behavior in
Georgia and on CFE. Many cited CFE as an "irreplaceable" key
element of European security architecture. But the mantra,
as emphasized by the U.S. and France at the outset, was the
need for measured steps and Alliance unity. Most agreed NATO
should calibrate its actions on CFE in a way that advances
both our message to Russia on Georgia, and our long term
goals for CFE and the Istanbul commitments, but many need
more time to deliberate over the specific steps and
especially the timing. All understood the necessity to
postpone the Fried-Antonov meetings until Russia complies
with the cease fire agreement and takes actions to ease
tensions in Georgia. With the exception of the four Allies
not party to CFE (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia),
plus Iceland (sending a representative from Reykjavik for the
first time), Slovakia and Denmark, all Allies spoke in some
detail during the course of the meeting. Allies generally
fell into three groups.

Group 1 - Insulate CFE from Events in Georgia

6. (C) With Germany in the lead, supported by Belgium,
Greece and Italy, this small group is keen on insulating CFE
from events in Georgia and advocates a mild response to
Russia that does not significantly lessen opportunities for a
continuing dialogue, which should include engagement on a
regular basis in both the NRC/ACE and the JCG. Greece
expressed concern that the Georgia crisis could undermine
arms control while Italy called for no dramatic decisions
that would "tie Allies hands."
-- Germany (Biontino), by far the most vocal of the group,
argued that Russian actions in Georgia: 1) bear no
relationship to CFE; that 2) NATO should confine its response
to Russia regarding activities in Georgia to issues other
than arms control; and 3) that what we need is more extensive
and more effective arms control. Biontino opined that CFE
was a key strategic interest for Berlin, whereas the conflict
in Georgia was only a "regional issue." He stated that
Russias actions are a violation of international law, but
not CFE, and lessons learned from the Russia-Georgia conflict
will likely lead to the conclusion that we need more
effective arms control to prevent such events in the future.
In the course of the HLTF discussion it became evident that
Germany is isolated in its interpretation of CFEs
relationship to events in Georgia.

Group 2 - Proceed with Caution

7. (C) This largest group of Allies (France, Turkey,
USNATO 00000336 003 OF 007
Norway, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Poland, and
Hungary) believes that Russias actions in Georgia violated
the core principles of the CFE Treaty and that NATO should
respond in ways that show it is not business as usual. But
they agree strongly with France on the need to first assess
how events play out in Georgia by mid-October based on
timelines of the Sarkozy-Medvedev September 8 agreement.
This group is keen on "measured steps," such as reducing the
frequency of JCG meetings immediately, stressing the JCG
schedule should be driven by substance which is currently
lacking. Most agreed that it would be inappropriate to try
to have a discussion of the parallel actions package in
current circumstances and that it would be "bizarre" to
pursue the Medvedev European Security proposal. There was no
support for engagement on Russian CSBMs. Most can agree with
the idea and general substance of the U.S.-proposed NATO
statement on postponing discussions on the parallel actions
package until the situation in Georgia has improved, but they
are worried about the timing of a statement and its possible
impact. The French, emphatically, pleaded not to consider a
statement until after October 15. Most Allies in this group
believe we need to see how events have played out in Georgia
by mid-October and at that point they will be open to
consideration of a statement.
-- A subset of this group - Turkey and Norway, plus the
Netherlands - made clear in the HLTF meeting and in
bilaterals that they consider CFE to be a critical element of
their security (or Europes) and do not want NATO to take any
actions which could place the Treaty in still further peril.
They are much more hesitant than others regarding a NATO
statement, and are likely to oppose it even in October.

Group 3 - No Business as Usual

8. (C) The third group (U.S., UK, Canada, Romania, Bulgaria
- and the Czech Republic at the extreme) believes that in the
August 19th NAC Statement Allies agreed that it would not be
business as usual with Russia, and that this includes CFE.
For these governments it is clear that Russia violated core
principles of CFE, and that we need to take thoughtful steps
in response. Patience is not enough. This group primarily
differs from the "cautionary" group in its readiness to
consider a wider range of response actions more quickly, but
at the same time, expressed willingness to consider carefully
the timing concerns advanced by France and others in
developing a unified response. The Baltic states, although
they did not speak at the HLTF, expressed views at Riga (Ref
B) that clearly fell into this third group.
-- The U.S. (Look) and the UK (Ford), as well as the IS and
France (Raharinaivo), were clear that the NACs August 19 "no
business as usual" applies to CFE and requires development of
a coherent, unified response. Canada (Arpin) noted the U.S.
proposals were in line with thinking in Ottawa and reinforced
the need for Allies to act (to include public statements) and
not ignore events in Georgia.
-- The Czech Republic, open to immediate action, appeared to
be uniquely in a group 3A, arguing that the CFE Treaty is all
but lost, and that NATO should start preparing for a world
without CFE.

Key Issues

9. (C) Impact of Russia-Georgia Conflict on CFE: During
discussions, Germany (Biontino) repeatedly argued that Russia
did not violate CFE when it attacked Georgia. This did not
garner open support, but the Geman Rep pressed this theme
and offered to develo a paper on "lessons learned" from the
conflict,which would highlight areas where "more arms
conrol" might have been useful (since in the German view,
current CFE had been irrelevant). Biontino sggested this
could be a topic for discussion at he October HLTF seminar
in Bucharest, and advancd the idea that the agenda should
include a "revew" of the parallel actions package since the
parts related to Georgia may need "adjustment."
-- Advocates of the contrary view hit hard. The Netherlands
(Kleinjan) stressed that both the spirit and the preamble of
CFE were violated by Russias actions in Georgia. Turkey
(Gun) contended that the conflict proved the urgent need for
retaining a legally binding CFE Treaty, and the importance of
the flank limits. The UK (Ford) provided the best sound bite
of the day: "Russia drove a squad of T-72 tanks right
through the preamble of the CFE Treaty, and if they decide to
permanently station heavy forces in Abkhazia and South
Ossetia, they will be in violation of Article IV para 5,
which says that no state party will station conventional
military forces on the territory of another state party
without that state partys consent. And we look forward to
debating whether South Ossetia and Abkhazia are still part of
the territory of Georgia, because we do not agree with the
Russian analysis on that point."

10. (C) Concerning the response options developed by the
U.S. and set out as per reftel, Allies engaged at length, if
on a preliminary basis:
A. Use the CFE Joint Consultative Group (JCG) to condemn
Russian actions in Georgia and suspension of CFE, seek
reduction in frequency of JCG meetings.
-- Most Allies, except for Germany (Biontino), Greece
(Daskarolis) and Belgium (De Witte) were open to reducing the
frequency of meetings as long as the JCG track was kept open
and the meetings were substance-driven. Greece noted there
were another 7 States Parties to include Georgia who may
prefer to keep this channel open. Greece suggested that,
rather than actively limiting meetings, Allies could find
"technical reasons" to cancel meetings, intentionally have
meetings lasting 5-minutes, or not engage following Russian

B. Postpone Fried-Antonov discussions, to include possible
NATO announcement regarding that postponement, until Russia
has fully implemented the ceasefire agreement and taken steps
to ease tensions in Georgia.
-- Postpone discussions: Allies generally understood that
under the current circumstances in Georgia, A/S Fried cannot
resume meetings with DFM Antonov on a CFE package, although
many expressed hope that this dialogue would be resumed as
soon as possible. Allies response to the U.S. position on
this point was probably mitigated by stress that Look and
team laid on the idea that Fried was postponing the
discussion in light of current circumstances that made
further discussion impractical, not that we were taking the
parallel actions package off the table or refusing to engage
on CFE indefinitely.
-- NATO statement on postponement: France (Raharinaivo) and
others were supportive of a NATO statement, but hesitant
about the timing, preferring to return to this after
mid-October when all should be better positioned to judge the
status of Russias compliance with the cease fire agreement.
Turkey (Gun) argued in a private bilateral session and in the
full HLTF that the August 19 NAC statement had set the right
tone and did not need further elaboration. The Turks do not
want to undermine prospects for a CFE resolution. (Comment:
it is not clear that Turkeys position on this point will
change after mid-October; there is no prospect of Turkish
agreement to a NATO statement prior to that point. End
-- Germany, Belgium, Greece, and Italy expressed reservations
about the usefulness of a statement, with Germany suggesting
that these were U.S.-Russia, not NATO discussions. Look
countered that it had been clearly understood that the U.S.
was negotiating on behalf of all Allies, and she hoped Allies
were not distancing themselves from this effort.

C. Agree that NATO Allies will not engage on any new
European Security Treaty proposals from Russia or engage on
Russian proposals for new arms control measures (in the
Vienna Document context).
-- This proposal met broad support from those that commented
on it, across all three groups identified above. Most
indicated they had no interest in engaging with Russia on any
new European Security Treaty proposals considering Russia was
not abiding by existing agreements. Moreover, the onus was
on Russia to clarify its position. Germany offered that it
may be useful to have new CSBMs regarding Georgia, but that
appeared to have no resonance with others.

D. Agree to consider convening a CFE Extraordinary
Conference to condemn Russian actions in Georgia as
inconsistent with the CFE Treaty.
-- The consensus was that that Allies should not seek to
hold an Extraordinary Conference without clear objectives,
making sure that the substance and timing would serve Allied,
purposes, not simply facilitate Russian withdrawal from the
Treaty. The general view was that an Extraordinary
Conference would (as the Netherlands put it) be a one-time
"make or break" event that in current circumstances would
more likely mark the end of the CFE Treaty rather than serve
as a tool that would lead to a solution or way out of the
impasse. France (echoed by NL, NO, and HU) called it a "one
shot gun," Italy noted it would "put CFE in its grave," and
Luxembourg and Portugal stated it would be the "end of CFE"
while the UK and Canada noted it would be the moment to
declare Russia in material breach of CFE.
E. Consider limiting Allied fulfillment of CFEs information
and verification provisions to exclude exchanges with Russia
at a future time, until Russia has fully implemented the
ceasefire agreement and taken steps to ease tensions in
-- Across the board, Allies were not prepared to address this
issue yet, and those that did indicated it was too early to
consider suspension. Germany noted Allies took the high
ground because they value the regime and would find it
difficult to be the ones to end it - Russia should. Both the
UK and Canada emphasized that, at present, there is a legal
basis for declaring material breach which would enable
imposing counter-measures, but also acknowledged that the
timing for this may not yet be ripe. (Comment: as a legal
matter, the U.S. views "countermeasures" as a separate
available option that is distinct from a suspension of
various CFE provisions such as the data exchange and
notification requirements. But in Alliance discussions the
term "countermeasures" was used generally, and not strictly
in a legal manner. End comment.) Romania suggested
monitoring how the current situation evolves and returning to
this at a later date. The IS concluded it would be among the
longer term options to be discussed in Bucharest.

11. (C) A Unified NATO Position on CFE. The IS Chairs
(Simmons) summary of discussion rightly stressed the
importance all speakers attached to maintaining a unified
NATO position on CFE. This was the Alliances main strength
in dealing with Russia; it was critical to maintain in
Brussels and in Vienna. Other key points: CFE remains an
important element of the European security structure, but the
CFE context has changed as a result of Russias behavior.
Allies need to seriously consider the implications for
Istanbul commitments (in the context of the Gudauta base in
Georgia and regarding Moldova), Open Skies and CSBMs as well.
Simmons noted the minimum mandate from the NAC was that NATO
should not engage in business as usual. He said that this
means, for the short term that allies should 1) JCG: modify
the pace of meetings and possibly develop a joint statement
for Vienna; 2) Parallel Actions Package: remains the NATO
position, but under current circumstances discussions cannot
be continued although there is not yet consensus on a NATO
statement to that effect due to the timing issue; 3) CSBMs
and Medvedev proposal: Allies should avoid any further
discussion of either and the burden lies on Russia to provide
more details; and in the longer term 4) Extraordinary
Conference: Allies would need to clearly define goals of such
an event and address the question of material breach.

12. (SBU) NEXT MEETINGS. It was agreed to schedule another
HLTF in late September/early October, and to slip the
Romanian-hosted seminar until after October 15. At this
time, in accordance with the September 8 Sarkozy-Medvedev
Agreement, all Russian forces should have withdrawn to their
August 6 pre-hostility positions in Georgia, international
observation mechanisms to include at least 200 EU observers
should be in place, and international discussions will have
begun in Geneva.

13. (C) BILATERAL MEETINGS. Prior to the HLTF, U.S. Rep
Look, EUR/RPM deputy director Laurendeau and the delegation
conducted bilateral meetings with Romania, the Netherlands,
Turkey, and Norway. En route to the HLTF on September 8-9,
the U.S. delegation met with Baltic counterparts in Riga (Ref
-- Romania: The Romanian rep (Micula) discussed the current
situation and how the proposed HLTF meeting in Romania could
be best timed to further Allied coordination. Micula noted
the paper Romania had advanced on the consequences of the
conflict in Georgia and emphasized that Russia was
"challenging" Allies on a broader front as evidenced by
Russias recent violations of the Open Skies Treaty. The
sides agreed it would be advantageous to push the date of the
Bucharest meeting past mid-October and shape the agenda to
focus on a NATO CFE response and to prepare for upcoming
-- Netherlands: Dutch hesitations about any step that could
further imperil CFE were the hallmark of their reaction to
U.S. ideas, particularly the notion of an Extraordinary
Conference. But the Dutch appear to believe firmly that CFE
- or its underlying principles - has been violated, and as
depositary, they take that seriously. They welcomed the idea
that A/S Fried was postponing his meetings with Antonov, but
was not taking the parallel actions package off the table.
-- Turkey: Turkish rep Gun agreed that NATO needed to respond
to Russian actions, but argued that the August 19 statement
had done the job. He pleaded that the U.S. not advance its
idea of a NATO statement on postponing discussions on the
parallel actions package. He stressed that Oct 15 would
serve as a "trigger" for both serious decisions and the HLTF
seminar in Bucharest. His main message was straightforward:
CFE must be kept intact and NATO should take no action which
might provide Russia with a pretext to "kill" the CFE Treaty
with its legally binding flank regime, which in Turkeys
opinion was the Russian goal.
-- Norway: The Norwegian rep was clear about the linkage
between CFE and Georgia. Norway shares the U.S. view of the
need to be clear in a response and to ensure any response is
aimed at positively influencing Russia. Norway was receptive
to minimizing JCG meetings without "breaking" that channel of
communication and not engaging in any new CSBM discussions,
but concerned that an Extraordinary Conference without a
clear objective could be counterproductive and that any form
of "suspension" on the part of the Allies could lead to the
loss of the Treaty.

14. (C) Meeting with France, Germany, UK, and U.S (QUAD):
During the September 10 meeting with the Quad reps, Germany,
France and the UK made many of the same points that they made
in the main meeting.
-- Germany (Biontino) made clear that Germany considers CFE,
a "strategic" issue, completely separate from events in
Georgia, which he characterized as a "regional" issue.
Biontino asserted that Russia violated international law, a
principle that is not/not a matter of CFE but simply
reflected in it. Despite prodding by the U.S. (Look) and the
UK (Ford) as to how Germany could possibly claim Russias
actions did not violate the principles enshrined in CFE,
Biontino insisted the HLTF reps could not go beyond the
August 19 NAC statement. Germany does not want to use CFE as
an instrument to express the Alliances displeasure with
Russia, and Biontino gave no support to any option for doing
so, lest the result be the demise of CFE due to Georgia.
Biontino also asserted that CFE without Russia was still CFE
and would apply in a regional context. Germany proposed
developing a "lessons learned" paper for Allies that will
consider better arms control measures as a response to events
in Georgia which could be discussed at the October HLTF
seminar in Bucharest.
-- Both France (Jacques Raharinaivo, Camille Grands
replacement) and the UK (Ford) indicated they are in the
midst of an assessment in capitals as to what CFE course to
take post-Georgia (the UK in the context of a broader
assessment of Russo-UK relations). Ford claimed it is
becoming increasingly "impossible" to talk of saving a/CFE in
London and be taken seriously. The UK found the menu of
options presented by the U.S. "appealing" and was willing to
venture that a NATO statement on pausing the dialogue on the
parallel action package might be a good idea, although hard
to agree. Their bottom line - agree nothing that would paint
us into a corner and ultimately give Russia what it wants.
Ford also suggested reviewing a list of options available
to Russia such as access to Verity and NATO courses as
additional tactical measures for consideration. U.S. Rep Look
indicated interest in taking a look at such tactical measures.
-- France (Raharinaivo) remarked the key was to account for
our own security interests especially with regard to any
further spreading of instability to Eastern Europe or within
the Caucasus. France was generally cautious on
counter-action, although Raharinaivo did not take the extreme
German view that there should be no connection between
Georgia and CFE. He was vague on specifics, but willing to
say "no business as usual" and consider reducing JCG
meetings. France gave an "on the one hand, on the other
hand" analysis of the possibility of the Alliance halting its
data submission to Russia and came down on the side of

15. (C) Meeting on the margins with IS: Following the HLTF,
U.S. del member Peter Perenyi, OSD, met with IS member Mike
Miggins (at Miggins request) who relayed several contacts
during which Russian representatives (to include Ambassador
Rogozin in a September 5 meeting with Ambassador Erdman) had
listed areas where Russia wished to continue security
cooperation with NATO, namely Afghanistan, anti-terrorism,
non-proliferation, nuclear issues, and arms control. One
contact suggested that a cooling off period was required and
that conversations on these issues could be continued in
low-profile contacts. In the same vein, Miggins recounted an
earlier June meeting which included a conversation about arms
control/CFE, with LTG Buzhinskiy, who covers international
relations and arms control in the CHODs office. Buzhinskiy
stated that Russia did want a legally binding security
architecture and that despite much opposition in the MOD,
those favoring arms control were in the majority.

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