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Cablegate: Embassy Oslo

VZCZCXYZ0021
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNY #0585/01 3041255
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301255Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY OSLO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7121
INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN PRIORITY 2479
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 3335
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE PRIORITY 4404
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHNY/ODC OSLO NO PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 1535

C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000585

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PASS TO DEPSECDEF OFFICE AND DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY USAFE INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS LEMKIN, STATE FOR A/S KIMMITT, CDR USAFE RAMSTEIN FOR GENERAL ROGER BRADY,

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2018 TAGS: MARR MASS MCAP PREL PGOV NO

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

1. (C) Summary. Following months of ambiguity and several conflicting indicators, and after strong engagement by senior DOD and DOS officials, Norwegian selection of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter appears significantly more likely. Recent comments by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense indicate that the process is on-schedule and will be decided on the stated criteria which play to the F-35's strengths. Media reporting has also shifted noticeably and appears more balanced. This positive shift is a result of the strong USG push and is important for the protection of NATO's northern flank, the bilateral relationship, and the JSF program internationally. End Summary.

The Campaign
------------

2. (C) In reftel, Post outlined the negative media coverage and mixed comments from insiders that seemed to put Norway's selection of the JSF in jeopardy. Norway's selection is important to the U.S. because:
--We want a strong defense of NATO's northern flank, secured by the superior capabilities of F-35s in Norway.
--We want to ensure the close U.S.-Norwegian military ties continue, and participation in JSF will naturally support this.
--We want high levels of interoperability in NATO.
--Norway will be the first JSF partner to make a choice on the plane and thus will disproportionally affect other partners' choices.

3. (C) Post thus requested a dedicated USG effort to ensure Norway understands the importance of their choice and the virtues of the JSF. As a result, the Deputy Secretary of Defense in meetings and phone calls, State's Assistant Secretary Kimmitt and USAFE Commander General Brady in visits to Oslo, and post's outreach campaign delivered a strong, coordinated USG message which publicly professed the unequalled capabilities of the aircraft and the value we place on the relationship, and privately pressed for the selection of the F-35.

Apparent Results
----------------

4. (C) As a result of this committed effort, we now believe the tide has turned in Norway. The media have recently run a number of articles from active duty and retired officers extolling the strengths of the F-35. Commentators who have previously said the Gripen is the best plane have been attacked by leading Parliamentarians for being ill-informed. While articles in favor of the Gripen still appear, there is now a balance and more accurate reporting of facts which is working in our favor.

5. (C) More importantly, in an October 24 Ambassador's meeting, the Foreign Minister, who we judge to be instrumental in the decision, said we should "trust the process" which will be on time and based on quality, price, and industrial participation. There is "integrity to the process" and if we "sit still in the boat" all should work out. He stressed the need for political credibility in the competition, and that the process can withstand uninformed media attacks. He ended saying we should "have faith". The Minister of Defense was more circumspect but also said the process is set and only MOD knows the full data on the planes. She urged the Ambassador to be reassured about the process. These comments align with more forward leaning ones expressed by Deputy Minister of Defense Barth-Eide who has privately given every signal that the F-35 will be selected. In fact, in a candid conversation with USAFE Commander General Brady on 23 October, Barth Eide said: "If you believe you have the best aircraft, trust the process. Do not overplay your hand."

What Now?
---------

6. (C) Despite these reassurances, the selection of the F-35 is still no sure thing, and much can happen before the final decision. We expect MOD to deliver its recommendation to the GON any day. The GON in turn will make a recommendation to the Parliament on December 19 of this year. Given the GON's political majority position, it can force its recommendation on the aircraft (for good or ill) through the Parliament. However, based on the strong, recent indicators, we believe we need to maintain a steady course by: --Continuing to discreetly demonstrate USG focus on the issue and our commitment to the relationship, while being cautious not to over-assert our position and thereby potentially affront Norwegian sensitivities on their selection prerogatives. --Correcting major factual errors in the media where necessary. --Continue to engage in any conferences, debates, or other public forums on the program being offered by the JSF partnership, when and where requested so as not to appear overly confident. We must continue to act as an honorable ad gracious competitor.

7. (C) In short, we beieve we are close to success and now simply needcareful shepherding to bring it home. We thank ashington, EUCM and USAFE for the strong engagemet that has turned the tide for us, and we look foward to our continued team efforts to keep Norwa in the program. We hope the Norwegin experience proves useful in other countries facing a similar competition. WHITNEY

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