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Cablegate: Argentina: Russian Delegation Promotes Defense

VZCZCXYZ0014
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1444/01 2961432
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221432Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2288
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1892
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0772
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1119
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI 0005

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001444

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PREL PGOV ECON RU AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: RUSSIAN DELEGATION PROMOTES DEFENSE
TIES AND "MULTIPOLARITY" IN LEAD-UP TO CFK VISIT TO RUSSIA

REF: BUENOS AIRES 1442

1. (SBU) Summary: Argentine Defense Minister Nilda Garre
hosted the Secretary of Russia's National Security Council,
Nikolai Patrushev, on October 15, entertaining Russian
proposals for military sales, training, and non-military
cooperation including in the field of nuclear energy.
Although potential military sales and commercial ties
received significant press attention, the central theme
emphasized by the Russian delegation was that Russia and
Argentina share, according to Patrushev, "a multipolar
vision" and that Russia seeks enhanced ties with partners in
Latin America. The Russian Delegation also expressed
interest in an observer role at the newly-forming Union of
South American Nations (UNASUR). An Argentine MOD spokesman
announced that Russia had offered flexible financing for a
discussed sale of heavy helicopters suitable for use in
Antarctica, where Argentina maintains scientific bases
(managed by the military) and a territorial claim. GOA
officials have told us that purchases of helicopters and
nuclear technology are currently not in the budget, but MOD
Garre's public commitment to prepare for a successful visit
by President Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) to Russia in
December suggests that politics and diplomacy might overcome
budget shortcomings. We have even heard one rumor of a
multi-year barter arrangement to cover an MI 17 helicopter
purchase. End Summary.

2. (U) A delegation headed by Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of
the Russian National Security Council, visited Argentina on
October 15, during a three-nation South American tour.
Russian Ambassador to Argentina Yuri Korchagin stressed
Patrushev's high station in the Russian foreign policy
hierarchy, describing him as a "man of Vladimir Putin's
trust." Patrushev met with Minister of Defense Nilda Garre
and also with Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana and Cabinet Chief
Sergio Massa. Press coverage of the visit focused on
potential military sales but also on the visit's function as
a challenge to alleged U.S. hemispheric hegemony. Writing in
daily paper Clarin on October 18, columnist Raul Cardoso
described the Russian message as "we are back" on the
international power map.

3. (U) Official communications from the MOD-Patrushev
consultations focused on the geopolitical issues and on
possible areas of cooperation between the two countries. On
the former, Patrushev said that the talks "affirmed that both
countries share a multipolar vision of the world" and that
there were no "contradictions" in the bilateral relationship.
In an October 20 interview with daily Ambito Financiero,
Ambassador Korchagin put heavy emphasis on Russia's readiness
to partner with Latin America, a region with which it shared
perspectives and had "never had any conflict," and a region
that would be important in the emergent multipolar world.
Korchagin said that Russia was considering an invitation to
be an observer at the Argentina-based Latin American
Association of Peacekeeping Centers (ALCOPAZ), where the
United States is also an observer. The Russian delegation
had expressed an interest as well in observing UNASUR,
something that Korchagin repeated while noting that this was
not a formal request given that UNASUR was still being
created and defined.

4. (SBU) In a separate conversation, the Russian Ambassador
told Ambassador Wayne that commercial issues had been a big
part of the Argentine Foreign Minister's late September visit
to Moscow. He said the Russians are buying much more fruit
from Argentines but that some shipments have had very high
pesticide levels. The Foreign Minister agreed on a system
for Russian food safety inspections in the context of rapidly
rising Argentine sales to Russia.

5. (U) In terms of Russian sales, an Argentine defense
ministry spokesman described Argentina's interest in
obtaining heavy helicopters that could operate well in the
harsh climate of Antarctica. He said that the Russian
delegation had offered flexible financing for a potential
sale of helicopters as well as training in space flight for
Argentines. Korchagin confirmed that the Russians were
interested in selling the Mi-17 helicopter to Argentina but
emphasized this was not an aggressive expansion into Latin
America given that Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia had
already purchased them. Other areas of potential cooperation
announced by the delegations included energy development and
offshore hydrocarbons exploration, nuclear energy
development, nanotechnology, counter-drug cooperation, and
space exploration. Commentators noted that some of these

were traditionally areas of U.S. leadership (and some,
including nanotechnology, are in fact on the agenda for
U.S.-Argentina Bilateral Consultations).

6. (U) Minister of Defense Nilda Garre described herself as
pleased with the visit. The two delegations agreed that
specialists from both Ministries would meet November 4 in
Buenos Aires in preparation for the first meeting of a
bilateral Mixed Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation,
to be held November 17 and 18 of the month. The commission
was established under an MOU signed by Minister Garre in
Moscow in 2006.

7. (SBU) During October 16 consultations with U.S. Ambassador
to UN Institutions in Vienna Greg Schulte, the MFA's Director
for International Security, Nuclear and Space Affairs Elsa
Kelly addressed prospects for a Russian nuclear reactor
construction in Argentina, noting that the country's budget
had been strained by efforts to complete a current reactor
long under construction. The next project was to be a
Canadian model reactor, after which, she said, it was
possible that a Russian reactor might be considered. She
implied that this was a long way off. The MOD is also
without a budget for new heavy helicopters. One mid-level
MOD official involved in the Russian talks told PolMil
Officer October 21 "we shall see" about the purchase but said
that the current 2009 budget did not have funding for this
type of helicopter. The Turkish Ambassador to Argentina told
Ambassador Wayne last weekend with some confidence that there
was an agreement whereby Argentina would purchase fifteen
military helicopters capable of use in ground attack
operations in exchange for wheat, apples, and honey provided
over fourteen years, but we are not aware of how the
financing of such a deal would work.

8. (SBU) The Argentines are seen as trying to curry favor
with Russia in the run-up to CFK's visit to Moscow. The
Ukranian Ambassador complained bitterly to Ambassador Wayne
that Argentina completely reversed its promise to support a
Ukranian-sponsored UN resolution in this year's UNGA about a
massacre of Ukranians during WWII. Not only did they not
vote for it, they voted against it at the request of Russia,
he said. The Ukranian expressed gratitude for U.S. support
of the resolution and said he had tried to mobilize the local
Ukranian community to pressure the government, but he said he
was not optimistic given the GOA desire to make the
President's visit to Russia a success.

9. (SBU) Comment: The Russian visit generated significant
attention here, and in their heavy emphasis on multipolarity
the Russians did clearly invite interpretations of their
activity as a counterweight to the U.S. role in the
hemisphere. Given President Kirchner's upcoming visit to
Moscow, we anticipate more plans, pronouncements, and even
potentially some new substance in Russian-Argentine mil-mil
cooperation. That said, the Argentine defense budget remains
a sharply limiting factor that will constrain the scope of
collaboration, though the government's decision to
nationalize private pension funds could effect that (reftel).
WAYNE

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