Cablegate: Scenesetter: Pdas Volker's Sept. 13-15 Visit To


DE RUEHHE #0689/01 2501324
R 071324Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU): The Embassy warmly welcomes you to Helsinki and
views your visit as a key opportunity to advance the most
important issues on the US-Finland agenda. Afghanistan
and NATO top the list, as both are the subject of intense
domestic political discussion right now. Many in the new
government are eager for Finland to increase aid and
troop commitments to NATO/ISAF, but they face a tough
political battle with the opposition and with NATO
skeptics within their own governing coalition. A similar
debate surrounds a pending decision on joining the NRF.
Your public and private messages can help tip the
Afghanistan and NRF arguments in a positive direction.
Your official meetings offer opportunities to bolster our
already strong collaboration on Kosovo and, perhaps, to
chart a more dynamic course on Russia, democracy in the
Near Neighborhood, and Finland's 2008 OSCE Presidency.
On the public diplomacy side, NATO and Afghanistan will
again be key, and we also stand to make some headway with
strong messages on climate change, missile defense and
the Middle East. "Watch-out fors" include lethal weapons
for Afghanistan, which has become politically very
difficult here, and insistent requests by the Finns for
POTUS and SecState meetings. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Finland's solid contributions to NATO/ISAF and
to Afghan reconstruction will continue; our challenge now
is finding ways to help the GOF do more. Afghanistan
will receive $12 million in annual assistance for at
least the next six years, and the GOF is finalizing the
transfer of most if its 104 peacekeepers from a
Norwegian-led PRT in Meymaneh to the Swedish-led PRT at
Mazar-al-Sharif. We hope to see Finland increase its
troop commitments, with a view toward taking leadership
of the Mazar PRT in 2009. The Finns embed a small,
highly effective civilian liaison team at Meymenah that
targets development projects to support the PRT and which
has won kudos from US commanders in Afghanistan for its
effectiveness in building local community support for the
PRT's efforts. Taking leadership at Mazar in 2009 would
allow Finland to implement that model there.

3. (SBU) Domestically, Afghanistan is the subject of an
intense political debate right now. At the time of your
visit, the government will be finalizing a major report
that examines all aspects of the security situation and
makes recommendations on how/if Finland's role there
should expand (Reftels A and B). The MOD and MFA would
like to see increased troop contributions to NATO/ISAF,
PRT leadership in 2009, and more development and
counternarcotics assistance. Conservative Party members
of government -- led by FM Ilkka Kanerva and MOD Jyri
Hakamies -- support these recommendations, but are
running into increasingly vocal opposition not only from
outside government, but also from the NATO nay-sayers
within the governing coalition (in particular the Center
Party). We intend to include some of these skeptics in
the events on your schedule; your public and private
comments to them indicating the value the US attaches to
Finland's current contributions; how impressed we are
with Finland's PRT-CMO coordination model; and the
importance to Washington of what Finland is doing in
Afghanistan will be extremely timely and can help
influence the autumn debate in a positive direction.

--------------------------------------------- -------
4. (SBU) Washington and Kabul have long hoped that
Finland would make a lethal weapons donation to support
the Afghan security forces. However, this issue has
become political poison here and threatens to derail our
efforts to get Finland to do more in Afghanistan.
President Halonen adamantly rejects the idea, and PM
Vanhanen is clearly uncomfortable with it. Even
Conservatives like Hakamies, who personally support a
donation, have backed away, recognizing that pressing too
hard could cause Halonen (and probably even Vanhanen) to
veto their efforts to have Finland do more in Afghanistan
in other areas. At this juncture, we should avoid
pressing the Finns for a lethal donation that could

derail our efforts to achieve other important goals such
as more troops, more aid, and PRT leadership.

5. (SBU) Finland has EU Battlegroup commitments through
mid-2008, but the MOD and MFA see Finnish participation
in the NRF as a good complement to the Battlegroups -- a
view we have actively supported. Conservatives in
government would like nothing better than to join Sweden
in formally announcing that Finland will join the NRF at
NATO's Global Force Generation conference in November, in
hopes of standing up troops for the Danish-led NRF in
2010. Unfortunately, the die-hard NATO naysayers in
government (Center Party) and in opposition (about half
the Social Democrats and some smaller parties) who
adamantly oppose Finland's joining NATO have now begun
alleging that the NRF is simply a 'slippery slope' to
NATO membership. Their argument is of course specious,
and messages you deliver that (1) point to how the NRF
can complement EU Battle Group participation and (2)
clarify that NATO membership and NRF participation are
entirely separate decisions will help keep this debate

6. (SBU) Kosovo is one of Finland's highest foreign
policy priorities. The GOF has been one of our
staunchest allies and has worked hard behind the scenes
to ensure EU unity in support of Ahtisaari's final
status. Finland has more than 400 troops on the ground,
provides extensive aid, and is actively engaged in the
CFSP Planning Mission. The GOF is quietly becoming
concerned that the lack of a way forward may begin to
undermine international efforts and will not support
delays beyond the current Troika-led negotiating period
(Reftel C). The GOF has not made a national decision as
to how it will react at the end of the current
negotiating period if Kosovo unilaterally declares
independence, and is adamant about not publicly
discussing any kind of Plan B. That said, officials
will welcome an exchange of views on this and will be
open to Washington's latest thinking.

7. (SBU) The general views of the USG and the GOF are in
close harmony when it comes to support for democracy,
civil society and human rights in Russia and Europe's new
neighborhood. Finland is already engaged in some
activities that complement US Freedom Agenda goals,
including support to environmental NGOs in Russia;
educational exchanges in Russia and Belarus; and funding
for the International Humanities University for
Belarusian exiles in Vilnius. GOF leaders have hosted
high-level meetings with Belarusian opposition leaders,
with Serb moderates, and with pro-democracy forces in
Ukraine and the Caucuses. The Estonian Bronze Statue
crisis also emboldened the GOF to move away from the
traditional Finnish propensity to acquiesce to Russia on
tough issues. Indeed, under the new government the GOF
has begun publicly to challenge Moscow's policies and
actions in ways the previous government eschewed. The
GOF is recognizing the need to speak out on heavy-handed
Russian trade practices -- especially on energy issues
and timber tariffs which directly affect Finland. Most
recently, MOD Hakamies used his Sept. 5-7 visit to
Washington to identify Russia as Finland's single most
important security challenge.

8. (SBU) Many Finns, however, are not yet fully
comfortable with challenging Russia, and there is
lingering reticence about taking too high profile a role
in pressing for greater democracy elsewhere. You can
nudge interlocutors in the right direction by expressing
appreciation for what Finland (and certain Finns, like
Ahtisaari and EU Commissioner Olli Rehn) have done in
these areas; by encouraging greater US-EU and US-Finland
coordination in dealing with Russia; by encouraging Finns
to play an even more active role in showing public
support for pro-democracy leaders; and by urging high-
level Finnish visits to countries where they can reach
out to democratic forces -- with Belarus, Ukraine and the
Balkans being perhaps the best fits in this regard.


9. (SBU) Finland's agenda for its Presidency has some
positive elements, as well as others that are of less
interest. In the latter category, for example, Finland's
announced focus on European inland waterway issues is
less than stirring from a US perspective; however, by
emphasizing our priorities we can encourage more
leadership in other areas. One option is democracy.
Finns can be counted on to focus heavily on the good work
the OSCE does with election monitoring and institution
building, although the GOF will need active support from
us and other like-minded countries in countering the
efforts of certain OSCE members to weaken the
Organization in these areas. On a particularly positive
note, the Finns have told us that they intend to use
their Presidency as a springboard to become more involved
in promoting democracy and freedom within many member
states -- an initiative that, with the right
encouragement, could have a very positive impact on our
Freedom Agenda priorities (see above).

10. (SBU) The Finns will use their OSCE Presidency (as
well as other issues) to press for S-Kanerva and POTUS-
Halonen meetings. While the S-Kanerva meeting in June
was very successful for both sides, you will want to be
prepared to urge the Finns to be realistic about how
difficult it is to schedule these high level visits.

11. (SBU) We have programmed a heavy dose of PD into your
schedule, including an on-the-record speech (Topic:
"Finland, NATO and Afghanistan"), a "background" lunch
roundtable with leading editors and columnists, and an
on-the-record session with the electronic media and print
journalists. As noted above, your messages on NATO/ISAF
and the value the US places on Finland's doing more in
Afghanistan are the most timely and topical at this
moment. In addition, there will be strong interest in
the Administration's newest efforts to confront climate
change; in terrorism and other security-related issues;
and in your general assessments of the trans-Atlantic
relationship, NATO/EU cooperation; the US role in the
Middle East Peace Process and, to a lesser extent, Iraq;
and the current policy environment in Washington. All
your PD events offer a good opportunity to present the
facts surrounding Missile Defense, and the Finns will be
particularly interested in whatever you can share
regarding US efforts to create a dialogue with Russia.

© Scoop Media

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