Cablegate: Tfgg01: Latvian Fm Wants Strong Nato and Eu
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHRA #0472 2250957
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 120957Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5149
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L RIGA 000472
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018
TAGS: PREL MOPS ENRG NATO EUN RS GG LG
SUBJECT: TFGG01: LATVIAN FM WANTS STRONG NATO AND EU
STATEMENTS BUT NOT OPTIMISTIC
REF: A) STATE 856708 B) STATE 86108 ...
C O N F I D E N T I A L RIGA 000472 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018 TAGS: PREL MOPS ENRG NATO EUN RS GG LG
STATE 86108 Classified By: Ambassador Charles W. Larson, Jr., Reason: 1.4 (d) 1. (C)
Summary: Latvian FM Riekstins supports strong statements by the EU and NATO in support of Georgia and in opposition to Russian actions, but he is skeptical that consensus can be achieved in either organization for a tough line. He feels that it is important for the Latvian public to see that these organizations stand up for their friends. He also remains interested in staying in close touch with the US on responding to Georgian requests for military assistance. Looking ahead, the minister advocated for a quick NATO decision to grant MAP to Ukraine to stave off Russian provocations there and said that events in Georgia will likely lead Latvia to take a critical look at its energy security needs. End summary.
2. (C) Ambassador and A/DCM called on FM Riekstins August 12 to urge Latvian support for strong NATO and EU statements on Georgia. Riekstins was in full agreement on the importance of both organizations issuing tough statements. He said recent statements by the NATO SYG were good, but Russia is looking to see a tough, united statement, otherwise it will continue its activities in Georgia. He also noted that the Latvian public is looking to both organizations to increase their level of activity on Georgia, as a sign of how these organizations treat their friends. The August 11 Georgian request for military assistance from democratic countries was "unlike anything" he had seen before and Riekstins said he wanted to stay in close touch with the US on potential responses to this request.
3. (C) Riekstins positively noted the strong statement by President Bush August 11. Echoing many of our own points, the FM said that Russia has discredited itself a peacekeeper in the "near abroad" and its justification of "protecting its citizens" is a worrying precedent. What if it asserted a right to protect Russians living in Germany? (Comment: what he really meant was "what if Russia asserted a right to protect ethnic Russians living in Latvia, with force if needed? End comment.) He added that he was very skeptical of Russian claims of Georgian atrocities, but expected "evidence" to be produced to advance this claim.
4. (C) That said, the FM did not believe that either NATO or the EU could agree on a tough statement, "unless Sarkozy is rudely kicked out of Moscow." More likely, he thought, was the Russia would express some support for a French plan, but place conditions or other restrictions on it that would water it down. That would still be enough though to get some countries (he specifically cited Italy) to urge a "balanced" statement that would not give Russia any cause for concern. In that regard, he though the visit by Latvian PM Godmanis and the presidents of Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine to Georgia August 12 was very important. Riesktins and his Baltic and Polish colleagues could speak at the August 13 GAERC on the basis of what their leaders had seen in Georgia first hand, but even with this, he projected uphill sledding in the GAERC.
5. (C) Rieskstins opined that apart from statements, we needed to consider concrete actions that could be taken that would demonstrate to Russia the real consequences of their action and cause them to rethink their activities in Georgia. Suspending the PCA negotiations with the EU, he said, was of no real consequence to Moscow. Ideas he mentioned (but did not advocate for any one in particular) included pulling the 2014 winter games from Sochi, kicking Russia out of the G8, and suspending Russian membership in the Council of Europe.
6. (C) Looking ahead, Riekstins said that NATO should move quickly to grant MAP to Ukraine, before Russia could stage provocations there. He also said this was an important symbol that NATO would not be deterred by Russian aggression.
7. (C) Asked by the Ambassador what consequences events in Georgia would have on Latvia's relations with Russia, Riekstins said that he was not yet sure. Some economic ties would continue because "business is business." However, Latvia viewed the August 11 comments by Russian Ambassador Vyeshnakov that the Baltic States and Poland were "hurrying to conclusions with potentially dangerous consequences" as a not very subtle threat. The GOL had checked and their energy supplies were OK on electricity, even though the Ignalina plant in Lithuania is undergoing annual maintenance. On gas, the underground storage facilities in Latvia gave them a buffer from an immediate cutoff. He said that PM Godmanis had said that he wanted to lead a cabinet discussion of the future relationship with Russia upon his return from Georgia. LARSON