Cablegate: Visaless in Seattle

DE RUEHVK #0135/01 3450416
R 110416Z DEC 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

VLADIVOSTO 00000135 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary. Vladivostok Consul General Tom Armbruster's
trip to Seattle last week provided a chance to encourage
American companies to take advantage of an improved business
climate and new opportunities in the Russian Far East. Seattle
is already deeply involved in Russia through trade, cultural
contacts, and NGO partnerships, but some U.S. companies remain
on the sidelines due to the reputation the Far East gained in
the 1990s as a place where a lot of money could be lost very
quickly. CG met with businessmen, addressed the Seattle
political crowd at the Foundation for Russian-American Economic
Cooperation (FRAEC) annual gala, attended a press conference
announcing the return of direct flights between the U.S. and the
Russian Far East, and spoke at a reception at the Russian
Consulate. The trip was marred by Russia's cancellation of
FRAEC President and Founder Carol Vipperman's Russian visa. End

No Explanation for Visa Cancelation

2. (SBU) Officials at the Russian Consulate in Seattle informed
CG Armbruster that they had received an order from Moscow to
cancel the visa of FRAEC Director Carol Vipperman, but had so
far refused to sign it to protest the "insult" to one of
Russia's most ardent and committed partners. CG met with Acting
Consul General Dmitriy Vinogradov, who said he would convey to
Moscow CG's annoyance. Vinogradov urged Armbruster to meet with
the FSB in Vladivostok to determine why Vipperman had been
targeted. Another consular official said the move was "not
logical." Vipperman has been traveling to Russia for years on
behalf of a number of programs, including the Nuclear Cities
Initiative and in recent years as President of FRAEC. Her
organization has just been awarded a three-year grant to develop
the city-to-city program "U.S.-Russian Far East Municipal
Partnership," aimed at capacity-building at the local government
level. While the program can be administered by FRAEC staff and
contractors, Vipperman's personal involvement is important.

Other Links Taking Off

3. (U) Vladivostok Avia has announced plans to inaugurate
direct flights between the RFE and Alaska beginning July 7. The
twice-weekly flights between Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and
Anchorage on brand-new 142-seat Tupelov-204 aircraft will
operate only during the summer season, through September 15.
Vladivostok Avia officials say they believe many public
officials, businessmen, and tourists will use the flight
"connecting the booming Russian Far East" with the closest U.S.
state. As with all travel in the region, these flights will not
be cheap. Round trips will cost 1,890 USD for economy tickets
and 3,690 USD for business class. (Note: These prices are
roughly equivalent to those Khabarovsk-based Dalavia was
considering before it abandonded plans to fly the same route
earlier this year. Currently the only way to fly on one carrier
between the RFE and the U.S. is via Korean Air (from
Vladivostok) or Asiana (from Khabarovsk or Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk);
both require a layover, overnight for East bound travelers, in
Seoul. Based on the Consulate's experience, the price of an
advance-purchase economy ticket on Korean Air from Vladivostok
to Los Angeles ranges between 1,500 and 2,000 USD. Vladivostok
Avia's flights will thus be competitive for those wishing to fly
directly to Alaska, but will not likely be able to compete with
the Korean carriers for onward travel to the Continental U.S.
End note.)

4. (U) FRAEC hosted an annual dinner and commemoration of the
bicentennial of U.S.-Russian diplomatic relations on December
4.. Former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro was the
Master of Ceremonies for the 150 or so guests. Munro, who his
Order of Friendship medal from the Russian Federation, thanked
many participants for their years of service in bringing the
U.S. and Russia closer together. CG Armbruster and Acting
Russian CG Vinogradov delivered keynote remarks. Armbruster
told the group that this is the best time since 1998 to do
business in the Russian Far East, and he listed the many
opportunities that the region's governors provided in advance
specifically for the FRAEC assembly. Participants viewed a
seven-minute music and photograph collection featuring
highlights of the Vladivostok Consulate's 15-year modern
history, assembled by the Consulate's Public Affairs Staff.
Vinogradov talked about the big picture in U.S.-Russian
relations, from Kosovo to missile defense, and stressed that it
is natural for two great countries to have differences, but the
differences need to be discussed with mutual respect.
Vinogradov previously served in San Francisco and this is his
second tour in Seattle. His son is attending university in

VLADIVOSTO 00000135 002.2 OF 002

Washington and has married an American citizen. Vinogradov also
hosted a reception later in the week in the impressive Consulate

5. (U) CG Armbruster held separate meetings at the U.S.
Commercial Service offices with a half-dozen U.S. companies
interested in doing businessin the Russian Far East, including a
firm looking to buy a dry dock in Russia, several international
shipping companies, a wood processing firm, and commercial
fishing enterprises. CG has provided FCS in Vladivostok with
all contact information and is working to follow up with the
firms. The Russian Trade Representative at the Russian Embassy
in Washington, D.C., Andrey Dolgorukov, also attended the events
and was upbeat about the prospects for more trade and business.
CG also met with U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour, who
worked for many years on judicial training programs in Russia,
and will be making a trip to the RFE in the spring.


6. (SBU) The two-steps-forward, one-step-back pattern in
U.S.-Russian relations is as evident in this region as it is in
Moscow. A possible step forward may present itself this week
when Primorye Governor Sergei Darkin travels to Washington,
D.C., to promote his region and attract U.S. investment. While
the general trend is in the right direction, it is obvious that
there are some who resist every step forward. Post appreciates
the Embassy's and Department's support in getting FRAEC
President Vipperman back into the good graces of the Russian
government to allow her to continue to advance programs that
provide real benefits for Russian citizens, while advancing the
goals of U.S. foreign policy in the Russian Far East.

© Scoop Media

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