Cablegate: Attempted Export of German-Origin Helicopters to Afghanistan
DE RUEHRL #1467/01 3040629
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 300629Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2490
INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 0654
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0572
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 9354
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 1505
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
S E C R E T BERLIN 001467
EUR/CE FOR HODGES AND SCHROEDER T/PM/DDTC FOR MALONEY, TRIMBLE
AND ZERDEN DOD FOR DEFENSE SECURITY COOPERATION AGENCY DSCA FOR MAJ.
ORENCHICK DOD FOR DEFENSE CONTRACTING COMMAND CENTCOM FOR COL. KULVAS
EUCOM / TRANSCOM FOR LNO SIERS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2033 TAGS: KOMC ECCT AF GM
SUBJECT: ATTEMPTED EXPORT OF GERMAN-ORIGIN HELICOPTERS TO AFGHANISTAN
Classified By: A/DCM Robert A. Pollard, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (U) This is an urgent action request. See comment and action requests in paragraphs 11 and 12.
2. (S) Summary: Embassy Berlin has become aware that a U.S. firm, Presidential Airways, appears to have moved German-origin helicopters to Turkey, with the intent of moving them NLT 30 Oct to Afghanistan, in likely violation of German export law. Presidential Airways is moving these helicopters to Afghanistan for the stated purpose of providing contracted-for logistical services for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The original export control case is being reviewed at very senior levels of the GOG. If German authorities determine that Presidential Airways has violated German export control law, we expect negative consequences for U.S. - German relations. A possible solution to this is for the helicopters to remain in Turkey, pending the GOG's final decision on this matter.
3. (C) In approximately mid-September 2008, the vice-president of Presidential Airways, Mr. Tim Childrey, contacted Embassy Berlin's Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) requesting any assistance the ODC or Embassy Berlin could provide to secure a German Export License for three SA 330 J PUMA helicopters his company recently purchased from Eurocopter Deutschland. Presidential Airways purchased these helicopters for the stated purpose of executing its contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to provide logistical air services to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
4. (C) ODC Germany worked with the Economics/Global Affairs section of Embassy Berlin and determined that the export license application was being discussed at senior levels of the German Foreign Ministry, and would likely not be acted upon until the next scheduled meeting of the German federal security council under direction of the Chancellor's Office. Presidential Airways is owned by the Prince Group, Inc. which also owns the Blackwater security company.
5. (C) Efforts by Prince Group personnel and lobbyists from Eurocopter Deutschland did not succeed in forcing an early decision. The Puma issue was slated for discussion at the November federal security council meeting. Presidential Airways has expressed concerns about what they viewed as the long time it was taking to obtain BAFA export permission. In reaction, Presidential Airways notified BAFA on 3 Oct 2008 that it had changed its plans and now intended to move the helicopters to the United States and/or the United Kingdom. In Presidential's view, this did not require an export license from BAFA.
6. (C) On 10 Oct 2008, Eurocopter Deutschland received a letter from the German Economics Ministry stating they had information that these helicopters were enroute to the Netherlands. Significantly, this letter warned that if these helicopters arrived in Afghanistan, this would constitute a violation of German law. Sometime between 10 and 27 October, these helicopters were flown from Germany, possibly to the Netherlands, then on to the UK, and finally to Turkey.
7. (C) On 27 Oct 2008, the Senior Legal Counsel for Eurocopter Deutschland, Dr. Kraemer forwarded the above-described letter from the German Econ Ministry to Mr. Childrey and Mr. Schmitz, as well as other German officials. Kraemer advised Presidential Airways it was taking the Pumas to the US and/or the UK, not Afghanistan; and reminded all of the possible legal consequences. Also on 27 OCT 08, ODC Germany received a copy of the above letters via e-mail from a member of the German Chancellor's Office.
8. (SBU) On 28 OCT 2008, ODC Germany contacted Mr. Childrey of Presidential Airways and inquired about the case. Presidential Airways informed ODC that the helicopters were in Turkey with a stated final destination of Afghanistan.
Childrey noted that his company could no longer afford to wait on the German decision, and had decided to take the helicopters to the UK, which he asserted required no German export license. (Note: this appears to be an unsupported legal conclusion. End note.) Once the helicopters reached the UK, Childrey believed U.S. law and procedures would apply. He claimed to have informed the U.S. State Department of his plan to fly the helicopters to Afghanistan (NFI). ODC Germany expressed grave concern for the way in which Presidential had handled this case, but legal counsel for Presidential stated that he was following U.S. law and did not understand why the Germans were upset.
9. (S) We have conflicting information on the likely disposition of this matter by Germany's Federal Security Council, currently scheduled for discussion on November 5th. However, it appears clear from all sources that any movement of the helicopters without permission from Federal Security Council will constitute a violation of German law.
10. (S) At no time did Embassy Berlin advise Presidential Airways to remove the Pumas from Germany without proper export permission or otherwise to circumvent the German export control process or German law. Presidential represented in its e-mails to U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation officials in Germany that it kept the U.S. State Department updated" of its plans to remove the helicopters and of its determination that the lack of response from the Germans amounted to their tacit consent. Embassy Berlin is unaware of any such communication.
11. (S) COMMENT: If Presidential Airways and the Prince Group have played a role in exporting German-origin helicopters to Afghanistan without the necessary German export permission, this could have wider effects on bilateral cooperation. Because the helicopters would be used to support U.S. forces (even though in a contractual relationship), it would be very difficult to entirely dissociate the USG from the matter. It would complicate relationships with German export control officials -- on whom we depend for cooperation on Iran-related issues and other key proliferation concerns. The issue could become public in Germany and would take on proportions well beyond the significance of a few helicopters, given the widespread public skepticism about Germany's engagement in Afghanistan and the presence of opportunistic opposition political forces (especially the Greens and The Left). This could complicate relationships with those senior officials in the Chancellery and Foreign Office with whom we currently have an excellent working relationship, but who would have to lead the damage control. END COMMENT
12. (S) Action Request: We are unaware of which, if in fact any, State Department Office Presidential or Prince Group approached on this matter. We ask the Department and other relevant USG agencies to examine this matter immediately and to encourage Presidential Airways not to move these helicopters from their current location in Turkey.