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Cablegate: Rfg: Nato-Russia: Maintaining Consensus On "No

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S E C R E T USNATO 000402
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2018
TAGS: NATO PREL MOPS GG RS
SUBJECT: RFG: NATO-RUSSIA: MAINTAINING CONSENSUS ON "NO
BUSINESS-AS-USUAL"

Classified By: Ambassador Kurt Volker for reasons 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (SBU) This is an action request. See paragraph 10.

2. (S/NF) Summary: Our current approach on preventing any
policy level discussions with Russia at NATO will become
unsustainable once the EU holds its Nice Summit with Russia
on November 13. In the absence of any other proposals,
Allies are already beginning to agitate for resuming
NATO-Russia Council meetings (Germany even proposed a
Ministerial). Allies also cite U.S. bilateral contacts with
Russia ) such as between Chiefs of Defense, and in proposing
missile defense consultations ) in their clamor for
NATO-Russia meetings.

3. (S/NF) To get out of a black-and-white choice between
"resuming the NRC" and "no contact," we recommend agreeing to
NATO holding informal, Ambassadorial level meetings with
Russia, outside the NRC framework and only on the basis of
Allied pre-coordination. This would establish a channel of
dialogue with Russia, without going back to "business as
usual," or allowing Russia to claim it has gotten away
without penalty after its invasion and break-up of Georgia.
This could help build a new allied consensus on how to deal
with Russia, and give us a basis of contacts with Russia that
will be important as we continue the NATO enlargement process
(especially in Ukraine and Georgia). End Summary.

--------------------------------
Current Position Losing Altitude
--------------------------------

4. (C/NF) Thus far, the U.S., Canada, and a handful of small
Central European Allies have continued to block NATO-Russia
meetings at the Ambassadorial level and higher. We have
consented to certain technical level working groups, a
prep-com meeting in September (and probably another in
November), and nothing else.

5. (C/NF) This position is coming under increasing challenge,
especially in view of bilateral U.S. engagement with Russia,
such as the chief of defense meeting and U.S. proposals for
missile defense discussions with Russia. All other Allies
believe NATO should renew "contacts" with Russia ) even
those who maintain that NATO should have "no business as
usual." Under current circumstances "contacts" is assumed to
mean a resumption of the NATO-Russia Council, at least at
Ambassadorial level. After the EU holds its Summit with
Russia on November 13 (and signs its Partnership and
Cooperation Agreement with Russia), our current position of
no policy level contacts will likely become unsustainable.

----------------------------------
Maintaining "No Business as Usual"
----------------------------------

6. (S/NF) Simply going back to the NATO-Russia Council as it
was before August 7 would be seen by Russia (and Central
Europe) as a Russian victory, with Russia,s operation in
Georgia and its flouting of NRC principles as having no
lasting consequences. We must prevent this message from
being conveyed. Indeed, in their August 19 statement, NATO
Foreign Ministers specifically called on Russia to
demonstrate in word and deed its continued commitment to the
principles on which the NRC was founded. It has clearly not
done so.

7. (S/NF) At the same time, Allies are pressing for contacts
with Russia so that NATO can convey its own policy messages
and not be alone among major institutions (UN, OSCE, EU)
which continue contacts with Russia. If we address this
desire, we must do so in a way that underlines "no business
as usual" rather than de facto returning to business as usual.

---------
Way Ahead
---------

8. (S/NF) To defuse the pressure for contacts, while avoiding
a simple return to the NRC, we propose defining a new basis
for NATO contact with Russia. This could include the
following elements:
-- We propose to Allies that NATO hold informal,
Ambassadorial-level meetings with Russia outside the NRC
framework;
-- We stress to Russia that high-level meetings in the NRC
framework itself remain suspended (per the August 19
decision) due to Russia,s walking away from key NRC
principles;
-- All such informal Ambassadorial meetings between NATO and
Russia would be at 26 1, rather than "at 27," and preceded by
Allied precoordination; and
-- The first such meeting would take place after the
EU-Russia Summit and the next round of Geneva talks.

9. (S/NF) Such an approach has the potential to serve as a
consensus basis to re-establishing NATO contacts with Russia,
while avoiding a rush back to "business as usual." NATO
contacts with Russia may also turn out to be an important
part of the package in managing the Ukraine/Georgia/MAP issue
in the run-up to the December Foreign Ministers, meeting.
That said, this approach may well be opposed by Russia (and
therefore, also by Germany). Even if this is the case,
however, it puts Russia in the position of rejecting dialogue
with NATO, rather than the other way around.

10. (S) RFG: We request that we be instructed to propose to
Allies that we hold the meeting described in para 8 above.
VOLKER

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