Cablegate: Scenesetter - Pm Sanader's Meeting with President
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHVB #1231/01 2841046
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 111046Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6771
RHEHAAA/WHITEHOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 001231
STATE FOR EUR/SCE
NSC FOR BRAUN
EO 12958 DECL: 10/11/2016
TAGS PREL, PGOV, HR, EUN, NATO
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER - PM SANADER’S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT
Classified By: Ambassador Robert A. Bradtke for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
A “BALKANS” SUCCESS STORY
1. (C) Fifteen years after the death of Yugoslavia and eleven years after a horrible civil war, Croatia is poised to become that rarity ) a Balkans success story. With EU entry negotiations underway, tourism arrivals breaking records, and new construction on every corner, Croatia is rebranding itself as a leader in Southeastern Europe. Espresso has triumphed over Turkish coffee and new highways have brought Zagreb within ninety minutes of the warmth of the Adriatic, shrinking both the geographic and psychological distance. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has staked his political career on continued progress and complete integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions such as NATO and the European Union. Despite those few still nostalgic for some idealized version of the past (such as PM Sanader’s aging political rival President Mesic, who recently attended the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in homage to Tito), most younger Croatians can’t get to the future fast enough. Croatians don’t all agree on what the future looks like, but all significant political parties share a commitment to democracy, free markets, and Euro-Atlantic integration. PM Sanader,s October 17 meeting with President Bush will help keep the public focus on his positive vision of the future, and will help his moderate center-right coalition when they face the electorate next year.
2. (C) Prime Minister Sanader has made the rounds of all the major European capitals, but he knows that Washington is the capital that really counts. He sees his visit to the Oval Office as both a national and a personal success: the seal of approval on Croatia’s Euro-Atlantic future and proof that it has consolidated and strengthened its democratic credentials, but also an endorsement of his effort to sideline nationalists within his party and head full throttle towards integration with the West. The White House visit will burnish Sanader’s own political image in advance of next year’s parliamentary elections and enable him to show both domestic and foreign audiences that we consider Croatia a serious partner.
3. (C) Apart from this symbolism, Sanader will be seeking the President’s support for strong NATO enlargement language at November’s Riga Summit. The Croatian government’s most important strategic goals are membership in NATO and the European Union; Sanader hopes to return from Washington with some public acknowledgment that his country is on the right path towards Euro-Atlantic integration. This has become even more critical after EU Commission President Barroso,s declaration of a “pause” in EU enlargement. Sanader may also seek our support for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, as Croatia seeks to play a broader role in international affairs.
ADVANCING U.S. INTERESTS
4. (C) For the most part, Sanader has already paid up front for this meeting over the course of his nearly three years in power as head of a center-right coalition government. He has purged the extreme nationalists from his party, exorcising the ghost of the late president Franjo Tudjman. He assisted in extraditing Croatia’s last major indicted war criminal Ante Gotovina to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. He reached out to the ethnic Serb community, even including Serb parliamentarians in his coalition. He has pushed to normalize relations with Belgrade at considerable political risk, given that memories of the 1991-1995 war with Serbia are still painfully raw.
5. (C) In the military sphere, Sanader’s government has made considerable progress on a major defense reform effort that will fully professionalize the armed services. The GOC overcame initial reluctance and now works energetically with less-developed Macedonian and Albanian militaries in the U.S.-Adriatic Charter (the “A-3”) to demonstrate regional credentials. Croatia participates in twelve UN peace support operations around the world, including a leadership role in Kashmir. Most importantly, Sanader this summer delivered on a promise to triple Croatia’s self-financed contribution to NATO forces in Afghanistan to 150, with plans to increase that number further next year.
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6. (C) We can usefully push Sanader to do more to prepare Croatia for NATO accession; Sanader himself should be more active in generating public support for Alliance membership and continue required political, economic, and defense reforms. He must also step up the battle against corruption, and help put the legacies of the Balkan Wars to rest by fully implementing promised refugee return programs. In a still-unsettled region, Sanader has the credibility to play a constructive role, with our guidance, in promoting constitutional reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in speaking out for a peaceful resolution of Kosovo status issues.
CULTIVATING A FUTURE PARTNER AND ALLY IN THE REGION
7. (C) Croatia is a small country. Its contribution to regional and global security will always be modest, its engagement capacity limited, its markets minor. Nevertheless, by reaching out to a new generation of democratic political leadership and its westward leaning electorate, we serve our regional interests well. The challenge is to shape the structure of bilateral relations most productively in the coming months to pave the way for greater cooperation. In concrete terms, this means concluding agreements in such areas as civil aviation, law enforcement, and a Supplemental SOFA, promoting investments like the U.S. firm Barr’s upcoming USD 2.5 billion acquisition of Pliva pharmaceuticals, promoting more people-to-people exchanges, and supporting Croatia’s NATO candidacy. Sanader’s visit to Washington will provide a stronger impetus to build both our bilateral and our regional partnership with Croatia. BRADTKE