Cablegate: Dfm Ryabkov On Russia-U.S. Relations - Meeting

DE RUEHMO #3592/01 3471130
P 121130Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: In a December 6 meeting with
Representatives Bill Delahunt and Dana Rohrabacher, Deputy
Foreign Minister Ryabkov explained that while the GOR looked
upon the advent of a new U.S. administration as an
opportunity to improve bilateral ties, Moscow did not
necessarily expect a sea change to occur in Washington. He
agreed with the Representatives' observation that Russia
needed to better present itself in Washington, but thought
it unlikely that the GOR could lobby the Hill in the same
manner as other countries. Ryabkov stressed that Russian
foreign policy would continue to be based upon the "defense
of national interests," and that the GOR would act
pragmatically to strengthen ties with other countries. He
hoped for deeper economic relations with the U.S., which
would help "stabilize" the bilateral relationship, while
noting that corruption limited Russia's political and
economic development. Ryabkov agreed that civilian nuclear
energy was a potential field for Russia-U.S. cooperation,
which argued for passage of the 123 agreement. End summary.

An Opportunity for Improved Relations

2. (SBU) In a December 6 meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister
Ryabkov told Representative Bill Delahunt (D, MA),
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA), and the Ambassador,
that the GOR "understood" that a new U.S. administration
presented an opportunity for some level of change in
bilateral relations, but Moscow did not expect an "overall
review of policy toward Russia." Nonetheless, he explained
that when meeting with American visitors, Russian officials
urged them to be "as pragmatic as possible" in thinking
about ways to move the relationship forward.

3. (SBU) Representatives Delahunt and Rohrabacher observed
that Russia was poorly represented in Washington, where its
Ambassador failed to meet with Members of Congress in order
to present the Russian perspective on Georgia. Ryabkov
agreed that the GOR "definitely has a problem" in this
regard, which he attributed to differences between Russian
and American political culture. In the case of the Georgian
crisis, he thought it "inconceivable" that in the midst of
the "emotional" events of August, Moscow could dispatch
instructions to a Washington lobbyist the way that Tbilisi
appeared to have done.

4. (SBU) Ryabkov appreciated Representative Rohrabacher's
comment that the U.S. bore much of the blame for the poor
state of bilateral ties, and had improperly accused Russia
of causing the Georgian crisis. Ryabkov said that that
while it was impossible for Russia and the U.S. to avoid
"complications" in their relationship stemming from the
situation in the Caucasus, it was now "irrelevant to figure
out who was right and who was wrong" and more important to
"move forward."

Russia Will Defend its Interests

5. (SBU) Ryabkov stressed that no matter where bilateral
relations were headed, the U.S. needed to understand that
Russian foreign policy would continue to be based upon the
"defense of national interests that are clearly defined and
around which there is a national consensus." Furthermore,
Russia would be "pragmatic" in taking advantage of
opportunities to advance these interests. He offered the
example of Medvedev traveling to Latin America to deepen
ties with the region during a rocky period in Russia-U.S.

Economic Ties Can Improve

6. (SBU) Ryabkov expressed appreciation for the efforts of
the Bush Administration and Congress to improve Russia-U.S.
relations where possible. He took note of the "sea of
difference" in the atmosphere Russian and American
businesses now find compared to even five years previous,
but thought there was still "a way to go" to reach the level
of private sector connectivity Russia and Europe currently
enjoy. A degree of "interdependence" would be healthy for
the Russia-U.S. relationship, according to Ryabkov, who
thought that closer economic ties would have a "stabilizing

7. (SBU) Ryabkov agreed with Representative Delahunt's
observation that corruption hindered Russia's political and
economic development, and lamented that Russia "will not be
a modern society" unless it can bring this problem under

MOSCOW 00003592 002 OF 002

Nuclear Cooperation

8. (SBU) Ryabkov expressed interest in Representative
Rohrabacher's vision of Russia and the U.S cooperating on
the provision of nuclear power to developing countries that
could not meet their energy needs. He noted that the U.S.
and Russia were on the same page in the Nuclear Suppliers
Group when it came to lifting prohibitions on India, but
added that, for the time being, the U.S and Russia were
likely to remain competitors in selling nuclear power plants
to other countries. When the Ambassador commented that it
was necessary for Congress to pass the U.S.-Russia 123
Agreement, Ryabkov said that while the GOR understood the
political reason behind the Bush Administration's decision
to withdraw the agreement from Congress, eventual passage of
123 was "crucial."

9. (U) The delegation has not cleared this cable.

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