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Cablegate: Russian Analysts Urge U.S. Not to Let Georgia

VZCZCXYZ0010
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #3064/01 2901045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADE9FA55 MSI6500 538)
P 161045Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0397
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MOSCOW 003064

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT)

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL OREP IR IS RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN ANALYSTS URGE U.S. NOT TO LET GEORGIA
OVERSHADOW IRAN COOPERATION

REF: MOSCOW 2824

1. (SBU) Summary: During an October 13 roundtable attended
by HFAC Chairman Howard Berman and HFAC staff, analysts
argued that Russians perceived NATO expansion as more of a
threat than a nuclear Iran, which was not viewed by the
political leadership as a "vital issue" for Russia. They
warned against allowing current tensions, particularly over
Georgia, to prevent the U.S. and Russia from cooperating on
Iran, which did pose a threat to stability in the Middle
East, and advised the U.S. to find areas to achieve "positive
progress" in bilateral relations with Russia. The analysts
thought that Moscow would not support new sanctions against
Tehran, and recommended making economic sanctions more
effective by convincing Europe, China, and Japan to stop
conducting business with Iran. They urged the U.S. to head
off a potential Israeli attack on Iran, which Russia would
use to criticize and blame the U.S. The analysts concluded
that the P5 1 format had proven ineffective by allowing Iran
to delay negotiations, and advocated adopting the format used
in the North Korea Six Party Talks. End summary.

NATO is the Threat, Not Iran
----------------------------

2. (SBU) At an October 13 roundtable focusing on Iran, Sergei
Oznobishchev, Director of the Institute for Strategic
Assessments, argued that many Russians, including political
and military leaders, saw NATO expanding into Ukraine as a
greater concern to Russia than the prospect of a nuclear
Iran. While the assembled analysts recognized that NATO did
not pose a threat to Russia, Oznobishchev advised "do not
look for logic" on this issue from the Russian leadership.
Instead, accept that they believe what they say and react
accordingly.

3. (SBU) Oznobishchev warned against allowing current
international tensions to compromise cooperation on Iran,
stating that the U.S. "will never stop Iran" from developing
nuclear weapons without Russia. He observed that the
anti-American sentiment that resulted from the Georgian
crisis had led some Russians to sympathize more with Iran,
which Tehran was hoping to capitalize on. This did not mean
that Moscow would be influenced by Tehran's lobbyists, who
were attempting to change Russian policies toward Iran and
proposed expanding military ties (reftel).

4. (SBU) Oznobishchev argued that heightened tensions between
the U.S. and Russia over Georgia were only a symptom of the
larger issue of Russia's concern that its views on NATO and
European security were regularly ignored. From Moscow's
perspective, the manner in which NATO expansion had been
carried out made it appear that incorporating Romania and
Bulgaria into the alliance was more important to the U.S.
than its relationship with Russia. Oznobishchev urged the
U.S. to consider the impact its policies had on the ability
to address issues such as Iran. He envisioned a "package
agreement" in which NATO would not expand to Ukraine and
Russia would commit to pressing harder on Iran. At the very
least, the U.S. should look for opportunities for "positive
progress" in bilateral relations, including on arms control
agreements such as START and passing the U.S.-Russia 123
Agreement.

Iran is not a "Vital Issue" for Russia
--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Aleksandr Shumilin of the U.S. and Canada Institute
observed that Iran was not considered a "vital issue" for
much of the Russian political leadership, which viewed the
country more as an element of the U.S.-Russia relationship.
While the analysts agreed that Iran posed a threat to
stability in the Middle East, Shumilin said that many members
of the Russian elite did not recognize it as such, and
considered Russia-Iran bilateral relations secondary to the
opportunity Iran presented Russia to play an important
diplomatic role. Vladimir Evseev of the Institute of Global
Economy and International Affairs (IMEMO) observed that the
U.S. and Russia had "different redlines" regarding Iran. For
the GOR, Tehran would not pass a redline as long as it
continued working with the IAEA, which Moscow thought made it
difficult for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a
nuclear weapon.

More Work Needed on Economic Sanctions
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The analysts agreed that Russia would not
countenance new sanctions on Iran, and thought the best way
to press Tehran with the means at hand was to make economic

sanctions effective. Vladimir Sazhin of the Oriental Studies
Institute commented that other countries, including Germany
and Italy, had more developed economic and trade
relationships with Iran than did Russia, and it would be
important to get these countries onboard for sanctions to
work. He advised the U.S. to have "conversations" with
Europe, Japan and China, all of which continued doing
business with Iran, if it was serious about making economic
sanctions effective. Steps would also have to be taken
against companies and banks in the Persian Gulf states and
Malaysia that had relationships with Iranian entities.

Russia Would Blame U.S. for Israeli Attack on Iran
--------------------------------------------- -----

7. (SBU) The analysts thought the possibility of an Israeli
attack on Iranian nuclear sites was real and urged the U.S.
to do what was necessary to prevent this from occurring.
Putin would blame the U.S. for not preventing Israel from
destabilizing the Middle East, and Russians would argue that
the U.S. gave Israel a "green light" as some believed it did
for Georgia to attack South Ossetia.

Adopt Six Party Format for Iran
-------------------------------

8. (SBU) Evseev argued that the P5 1 process did not work and
recommended adopting the negotiating format used for the Six
Party Talks with North Korea. The current format, which did
not have Iran sitting with the other parties and required
regular passing of offers and counter offers, allowed Iran to
delay the negotiating process. Having Iran at the same
table, as North Korea was, would make it harder for Tehran to
avoid responding to the demands of the international
community.

9. (U) The delegation has cleared this cable.
BEYRLE

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