Cablegate: Uk/Russia Relations: Hard-Headed Engagement
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHLO #2643/01 2941511
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201511Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0132
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 002643
STATE FOR EUR/RUS, EUR/WE
EO 12958 DECL: 10/17/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, RU, UK
SUBJECT: UK/RUSSIA RELATIONS: HARD-HEADED ENGAGEMENT
Classified By: DCM Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary. FCO Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia Director Michael Davenport told DCM that HMG was conducting “parallel exercises” involving Cabinet, Intelligence and Foreign Office principals, designed to give PM Brown a clearer picture of Russian foreign policy making processes and recommendations for dealing with Moscow. He said the paper(s) will underline that the UK sees recent Russian foreign policy actions as a “continuum” in Moscow’s goal to maintain influence in its “near abroad,” but that many of the tactics employed have been “hit and miss,” leading to an uncoordinated, opportunistic approach. The paper will therefore recommend “hard-headed, robust when necessary,” engagement with Russia, coordinated among NATO and EU allies. End Summary.
HMG Policy Paper on Russia
2. (C) Davenport explained that HMG was conducting “parallel exercises” involving Cabinet, Intelligence and Foreign Office principals, designed to give PM Brown a clearer picture of Russian foreign policy making processes and recommendations for dealing with Moscow. He confessed that “volumes had been produced” in the exercise, but that the Foreign Office contribution had been winnowed down to a single draft which had been passed for review to FS Miliband and other Cabinet ministers the week of October 13.
3. (C) In previewing that text, Davenport explained that the paper
included the results of an internal HMG debate over whether there had been a “strategic shift” in Russian foreign policy The process of producing the paper revealed some internal divides within HMG, particularly as to whether a posture of Cold War type “containment” should be employed to counter Moscow’s more aggressive stance recently. Those more familiar with Russian policy in HMG were able, according to Davenport, to show the inappropriateness of such a tactic given the more integrated Russian international presence compared to 20 years ago, particularly in the worldwide economy.
4. (C) The UK sees recent Russian foreign policy actions as a “continuum” in Moscow’s goal to maintain influence in its near abroad and to deter western influence, especially NATO enlargement. The UK therefore reads the military action in Georgia as part of a pattern - exemplified by recent Russian policy on CFE, Missile Defense and other multilateral initiatives - in implementation of the same strategy. Davenport views the tactics employed by Moscow in that regard as “hit and miss,” leading to an opportunistic approach, as opposed to a coordinated planning process in the Kremlin. He cites Russia’s recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence as “tactical ad-hocery” which many in Moscow might now regret given the lack of support for recognition even from Russia’s close friends.
5. (C) Looking ahead, Davenport predicts Russia will use all available levers to pursue its goals. It will prefer employing political, economic, social and intelligence methods and resources, but Georgia has shown that military means are part of the Kremlin’s tactical lexicon. The FCO paper will therefore identify areas of “joint advantage” to focus UK and multilateral cooperation with Russia, particularly in the energy and commercial sectors. According to Davenport, the UK proposes a “hard-headed, robust when necessary,” engagement with Russia, coordinated among NATO and EU allies, to include dialogue and cooperation where possible so as not to isolate Moscow. Davenport noted that FM Miliband has invited Russian FM Lavrov to visit London at a mutually convenient time.
A More Resilient Approach
6. (C) As examples of this more “resilient” approach, Davenport cites the need for deeper transatlantic engagement with former Soviet states to support their European aspirations without challenging Russia; a coherent NATO policy towards Georgia and Ukraine to advance Bucharest Summit goals; and a more comprehensive European energy policy, to include alternate sources, improved efficiency, and supply diversity as means of countering Russian influence.
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7. (C) Within Russia, Davenport underlines that there has been “radical” change in the political and economic landscape over the past 15 years. While the political system is best described as a corrupt autocracy, it is a confident one. The economy is stronger and more vibrant with a far broader industrial base. The Putin/Medvedev relationship is also evolving, with both showing assertiveness during the Georgia conflict. HMG,s view is that Putin still holds the reins, particularly on Ukraine-related issues, but allows Medvedev to control events once broad policy has been agreed.
8. (C) Comment: The broad and high level engagement in this exercise across HMG is an indication of the seriousness with which PM Brown and his close advisors are treating Russian relations. The UK has had more experience lately than most western European countries with Moscow’s ire, going back to the Litvinenko poisoning case and continuing through the tit-for -tat diplomatic expulsions and closure of a number of British Council offices in Russia. The UK, through the stock taking and forward looking elements which will be contained within this paper, is clearly trying to put relations back on the right track bilaterally while ensuring Moscow understands the consequences of its foreign policy. End Comment.
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