Cablegate: (S) German-Origin Helicopters Exported to Afghanistan: Preparing for Inquiries
DE RUEHRL #1705/01 3571527
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 221527Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/HQ USEUCOM LO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2918
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU 0087
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0603
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 9442
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1590
S E C R E T BERLIN 001705
EUR FOR EUR/CE AND EUR/RPM T/PM/DDTC FOR MALONEY DOD FOR DEFENSE SECURITY COOPERATION AGENCY DSCA FOR MAJ. ORENCHICK CENTCOM FOR COL. KULVAS EUCOM / TRANSCOM FOR LNO SIERS AND K. JOHNSON CASARES
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/24/2033 TAGS: KOMC PGOV PREL ECCT AF GM
Subject: (S) GERMAN-ORIGIN HELICOPTERS EXPORTED TO AFGHANISTAN: PREPARING FOR INQUIRIES
REF: A. BERLIN 1482 B. BERLIN 1467
Classified By: CDA John Koenig for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (S) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 14.
2. (S) Summary: The German Federal Security Council's (BSR) anticipated November 5 decision to allow the export of Puma helicopters to Afghanistan (Ref A) did not take place. Since then, Presidential Airways has moved the helicopters to Afghanistan without the required GOG permission. The GOG has again deferred action on this case and will not act before late January 2009. The situation now likely constitutes a violation of Germany's export laws. To date, CDA and EMIN have engaged with senior MFA officials and, while this matter has not yet become public, we expect that it could soon and request Department assistance in developing a coordinated interagency response. End Summary.
---------- Background ----------
3. (S) As detailed in Refs A and B, Presidential Airways (PA) purchased three Puma helicopters in Germany from Eurocopter Deutschland (ED). PA anticipated using these in support of a contract to provide logistics and transport services in Afghanistan and sought an export license from the German export control authorities. This export case attracted attention at the highest levels of the German Government, reportedly including Chancellor Merkel. PA moved the helicopters from Germany, initially to Turkey, then Georgia, then Azerbaijan, without securing an export license. PA and the GOG had agreed informally in November to have the helicopters remain in Baku, Azerbaijan pending a GOG decision on the export permit application. Presidential Airways is owned by the Prince Group, Inc., which also owns the Blackwater security company.
--------------------------------- Chronology of Recent Developments
4. (C) On November 4, ODC Germany forwarded a letter from PA to the German Chancellor's office stating PA would hold the Pumas in Baku until after the November 5 BSR meeting. The BSR failed to render a decision at its November 5 meeting.
5. (C) On November 11, PA sent a letter to Eurocopter Deutschland (ED) management outlining their position. PA had retained German legal counsel to represent them and contended that they violated no U.S. law by moving the Pumas. PA also asserted that, as the BSR failed to render a decision, the case was no longer before the German authorities and PA saw no reason to wait for a German export license.
6. (C) On November 26, ODC Germany sent an update to CENTCOM, TRANSCOM, and CJTF-101. ODC Germany believed the GOG required more detailed information on the helicopters before issuing a decision. ODC once again stressed to PA the need to hold the helicopters outside of Afghanistan pending a GOG decision.
7. (S) On December 1, a representative of the German Chancellor's office told PA's German counsel that a particular ministry (ODC Germany believes this to be the MFA) was pushing this issue to the full German cabinet for a decision and was not satisfied with having it decided by the BSR. The concerned ministry wanted to confirm some key facts from its own sources rather then rely solely on PA's assurances.
8. (C) PA's attorney in the US subsequently advised ODC Germany that PA had grown tired of waiting for GOG action and believed that PA had no obligations or responsibilities to the GOG. Further, it saw no legal reason not to deploy the Pumas to Afghanistan. The PA attorney expressed his desire for the USG to "stand up" to the GOG and stated that the GOG was holding PA "hostage".
9. (S) On December 3, CDA spoke with MFA State Secretary Silberberg to request his assistance in securing BSR agreement for PA's export license given US operational needs in Afghanistan. Silberberg undertook to look into the matter. On December 5, the Chancellor's office notified ODC Germany that the concerned ministry had received satisfactory answers to their inquiries and that they would "reluctantly" agree with the other ministries and release the export license and the helicopters during a vote December 10.
10. (S) On December 5, ODC Germany received an e-mail from TRANSCOM stating that the 3 Pumas had "self-deployed" to Afghanistan. ODC passed this information to EUCOM and senior Embassy Berlin officials.
11. (S) On December 11, the Chancellor's office notified ODC Germany that the head of the concerned ministry had changed his mind and would not release his block on the export license. Further, he stated that he did not want the issue taken up again until the end of January.
12. (S) Throughout this case, CDA and EMIN have engaged proactively with their State Secretary and Director General counterparts at the MFA. However, Embassy Berlin is concerned that PA's analysis and recent actions violate German law and undermine US export control efforts.
---------------------- Balancing US Interests ----------------------
13. (S) Post understands and appreciates the operational requirement in
Afghanistan for the three Pumas. However, export of German defense
articles to a conflict zone is ordinarily prohibited; exceptions must
pass through a special review and coordination process, culminating in
the BSR, whose deliberations are generally regarded as highly sensitive
and secret. If the facts were reversed, we imagine that the USG would
find the present situation untenable and seek legal recourse. To
illustrate the point, please consider the USG reaction to the following
hypothetical, but analogous, series of events:
--A company from Germany purchases an export-controlled item in the US and receives an export license from the USG subject to the conditions that the items will NOT be re-exported without permission to a prohibited country such as Iran.
--Next, consider either of the following two scenarios:
A) The German company decides it wants to export the item to Iran after all. Without applying to BAFA (the German export controls agency) for German permission or to the USG under the terms of the export license, the German company "self-deploys" the items to Iran.
B) The German company DOES go to BAFA for an export license. BAFA, despite its understanding that the items are sensitive and restricted, nonetheless permits the re-export to Iran to go forward, using the dubious argument that "the items aren't really German," so there is nothing they can do about it.
--In either case, we expect that US authorities would react strongly.
14. (S) Comment: PA's decision to move the helicopters, regardless of legality, undermines Mission Germany's efforts to cooperate on priority export control matters. The US is more often the exporter than the importer of sensitive defense articles; we have a broad interest in upholding the integrity of licensing systems. T he German authorities have been clear regarding the need for PA to obtain a license prior to transferring the Pumas to Afghanistan. We expect negative reactions from both senior German interlocutors and (if this case becomes public), German media. Post believes that a coordinated, consistent, inter-agency approach and response is urgently needed and request Department's assistance to develop such a position with DOD and relevant Commands. End Comment.