Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
License needed for work use Register



Cablegate: Senator Lugar: Building Blocks for U.S. Relations

DE RUEHMO #3708/01 3570612
P 220612Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Senator Lugar heard a mixed, but mostly
positive, message on Russian receptivity towards rebuilding
U.S.-Russian relations, with a range of officials and respected
observers calling for a return to the official diplomatic
architecture that once governed bilateral dialogue. There was broad
agreement that arms control must return to its former pride of
place, with the necessity of completing a post-START treaty by
December 2009 adding an element of urgency to resuming
presidentially endorsed negotiations. While these interlocutors
demurred from endorsing additional sanctions on Iran, they described
the Middle East, Afghanistan, the international economic crisis (and
its relationship to energy and food security), and European security
(including a review of missile defense cooperation) as natural
agenda items for renewed engagement. Largely placing the onus on
the U.S. to revitalize relations in the wake of Georgia, they
pointed to "123," WTO, and Jackson-Vanik as near-term deliverables,
while arguing the new administration should realize that Russia
would not walk back its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
They argued that a dialogue on human rights and democracy would be
more successful within the framework of a robust bilateral
relationship, and readily agreed with our view that the draft
amendments to the law on treason are "Stalinist" in tone. End

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Interest, but Trepidation, in Bilateral Relations
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) During his December 16-20 visit to Moscow, Senator Lugar
heard a generally positive message on the degree of Russian
willingness to reinvest in the U.S. relationship, with a range of
views on the substantive components of the agenda. Former PM
Primakov argued the desire to rid the relationship of its current
tension was "palpable," while Chairman of the Federation Council's
International Relations Committee Margelov welcomed the positive
signal that was being sent by the dispatch of three congressional
delegations to Moscow in December. "We've been waiting for this
signal," Margelov commented, adding that the international community
suffered when U.S.-Russian relations frayed. Commenting that "hope
was on the way" in our bilateral relations, Margelov rued the
squandering of trust and confidence, which he blamed on
decisionmakers that were wedded to a Cold War mentality. However,
former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and former Ambassador to the
U.S. Vladimir Lukin struck a cautionary note, emphasizing the degree
to which public opinion in Russia was jaundiced towards the U.S., as
a result of dashed expectations over the last eight years and the
rupture over Georgia, with the feeling widespread that the "onus"
was on the U.S. to make amends.

Rebuilding Diplomatic Architecture

3. (SBU) A consistent message throughout Senator Lugar's
consultations was the need to restore a formal architecture to the
relationship. Ivanov, Lukin, Primakov and Margelov were open to
different proposals, but pointed to the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission
as one model of engagement that propelled the bureaucracy to be
responsive. Ivanov suggested the creation of a U.S.-Russian
"transition team" that could lay the foundation for the first
Medvedev-Obama meeting, and criticized the absence of summitry in
the bilateral relations. One-off meetings were not sufficient to
achieve results, given the difficult issues that crowded the
bilateral agenda, he argued. Margelov agreed, citing a conversation
he had with former SecDef Cohen on the need for a more "disciplined
dialogue." The original Camp David Checklist drawn up by Presidents
Bush and Putin, Margelov complained, was never institutionalized.
Margelov welcomed the Senator's suggestion of a resumption of
in-depth conferences (e.g. the Aspen Institute congressional
seminars), and noted his own interest in raising the profile of
U.S.-Russian parliamentary exchanges, both committee-to-committee
and the Senate-Federation Council Joint Working Group. While
Primakov and Lukin endorsed their respective track-two efforts
(i.e., the Kissinger "wise men" dialogue, and Carnegie human rights
dialogue), Eurasia Foundation's Andrey Kortunov made the general
point that the bilateral relationship was too narrowly grounded.

Back to the Past: Return of Arms Control

4. (SBU) Interlocutors were unanimous on the need for arms control
to return to its pride of place in U.S.-Russian relations, noting
that the December 2009 expiration of START provided a natural focal
point for the new administration. Margelov, citing a Russian
proverb, said all good new things are simply old things that have
been forgotten. After 15 years of strategic neglect (with the
exception of CTR, Margelov hastened to add), post-START provided an
important and achievable deliverable to showcase a new U.S.-Russia
partnership. Primakov hailed the pragmatism that he thought
characterized the Obama team's approach to arms control, and argued
that achieving an agreement on post-START could be a centerpiece to
the new administration's initial efforts with Russia. Ivanov,
Lukin, and Kortunov separately agreed, noting that even if an

MOSCOW 00003708 002 OF 003

agreement wasn't concluded by December 2009, the first meeting
between Presidents Obama and Medvedev could kick-start intensive
negotiations, and provide ballast to a new architecture in
U.S.-Russian relations. At a Carnegie Center conference marking the
15th anniversary of the U.S.-Ukraine-Russia Trilateral Agreement,
defense analyst Aleksandr Golts told the Senator that in the
"complete absence of trust" between Russia and the U.S., the rigors
of arms control verification could rebuild habits of cooperation and

Iran: Little Appetite for Sanctions

5. (SBU) Pressed by the Senator and Ambassador to identify how
Russia could be more helpful on Iran, interlocutors declined to
endorse more sanctions as a means of persuading Tehran to meets its
international obligations. Noting that there were divisions within
the Iranian leadership, with some opposing a further radicalization
of Tehran's policy, Primakov warned against providing hardliners
with a pretext to rally public opinion against the West. While
pushing hard for direct negotiations between the new Administration
and Tehran, Primakov sidestepped the Ambassador's proposal that
Russia match greater U.S. diplomatic carrots with support for
additional sanctions. Primakov argued that any toughening of the
Russian line during a period of Iranian diplomatic engagement with
the U.S. would send a perverse signal to Tehran that Russia opposed
its dialogue with the West. Only after all diplomatic means had
been exhausted, Primakov maintained, could sanctions sequentially be
taken up.

Middle East: Building on Annapolis

6. (SBU) Russian interest in building on the Annapolis process was
stressed by interlocutors as another area in which U.S.-Russian
relations could deepen. Primakov repeated Lavrov's message to
Senator Lugar that Russia wanted to build responsibly on the
Annapolis conference. While the U.S. was indispensable to Middle
East Peace, Primakov stressed that Russia brought to the table a set
of relationships with Syria, Iran, and Hamas that complemented U.S.
diplomacy in the region. By redoubling joint efforts, the U.S. and
Russia would be able to "divide and conquer" players in the Middle
East peace process. Separately, fellow Middle East hand Margelov
agreed, seeing little difference in U.S. and Russia strategic goals
in the region.

Afghanistan: Missing Element

7. (SBU) Margelov and Kortunov separately stressed Afghanistan as
an area where the U.S. and Russia had failed to coordinate efforts,
despite overlapping interests. Margelov welcomed the emphasis that
the new administration intended to place on Afghanistan, and
stressed that concern over the deteriorating situation had helped
produce the Russian-German transit agreement. Margelov marveled
that the transit of German troops over Russian territory raised no
eyebrows among a population still steeped in WW2 history and
emotion; he attributed it to the "obvious fact" that NATO was
defending Russia's southern flank. While there were clear areas
where Russia would not be helpful, such as in sending forces to
Afghanistan, Margelov pushed for more expansive thinking on military
transit (noting the weakness inherent in over-reliance on Pakistan),
counter-narcotics, and border security. Margelov floated the idea
of a quintet session to explore cooperation on Afghanistan,
consisting of the U.S., Russia, China, the UK and France. While
former FM Ivanov thought cooperation on Afghanistan was too
ambitious given the current level of distrust, he urged the U.S. to
set aside its phobia of CSTO; working with the organization would
unlock Russian cooperation and send a welcome message that the U.S.
did not dispute Russia's right to engage regionally with its
neighbors, even as the U.S. sought to protect its strategic
interests in the area.

European Security/MD: Giving a Nod to Medvedev
--------------------------------------------- -

8. (SBU) Kortunov expressed concern that the calendar would force
the administration to take an early public line reaffirming support
for Georgian and Ukrainian membership in NATO, which could further
inflame Russian public opinion. He urged that the U.S. "sweeten the
pot" by according serious attention to Medvedev's proposal for a
European Security Treaty (EST) and, representing the liberal wing of
the Russian political spectrum, asserted that NATO did not have to
be the beginning and end of European security. Ivanov argued that
NATO expansion begged the question of NATO's mission, and said that
the U.S. was wrong to view EST as a Trojan horse designed to bring
down the Euro-Atlantic alliance. The fact remained, Ivanov
stressed, that NATO enlargement did not stop terrorist bombings in
Madrid or London. Both Ivanov and Margelov urged a return to "old
topics," but said dialogue had to take place "on a new level." The
lack of trust in the U.S., Ivanov commented, fed the Russian view

MOSCOW 00003708 003 OF 003

that NATO's enlargement was really about encirclement. When missile
defense was raised with the Senator, it was with the expectation of
a comprehensive U.S. review, with Kortunov arguing that negotiating
a new ABM treaty could answer Russian concerns over the scope of
U.S. missile defense objectives.

Financial Crisis: Weathering the Storm

9. (SBU) Senator Lugar heard consistent calls for deepening an
economic dialogue, with energy and food security two desired
components to bilateral conversations. Primakov argued that a new
system of international finance would need to evolve that better
protected the average consumer. While Russia had trumpeted itself
as a safe economic harbor during the international economic storm,
the assertion was proven false. The lesson that Russia had drawn
from the crisis, Primakov noted, was that foreign sources could no
longer serve as the primary mechanism for investment and financing
in Russia. Margelov welcomed both bilateral and multilateral
discussions of the crisis, commenting that the G20 was useful
"transition format" until a broadening of the G8 and compromise on
UNSC reform were reached. A common critique of U.S.-Russian
relations was that engagement was limited to a narrow elite;
expanding business-to-business ties, in addition to other scientific
and student exchanges, was touted to the Senator as a long-term
corrective to the current crisis of confidence.

Bellwethers: 123, WTO, and Jackson-Vanik

10. (SBU) Reflecting the widespread Russian view that the burden
of proof is on the U.S. to demonstrate its sincerity in rebuilding
relations with Russia, Senator Lugar's interlocutors honed in on the
civil nuclear "123" agreement, WTO, and Jackson-Vanik as three
important bellwethers of the new Administration. Primakov welcomed
the Senator's support for 123, and expressed hope that momentum
would build in Congress for moving forward on the initiative,
thereby unlocking civilian nuclear energy cooperation and
reinforcing U.S. and Russian leadership in promoting the
responsible, safe, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Mention of
Jackson-Vanik elicited mostly groans and the view that this was a
U.S. domestic issue; Russia would not accept any "linkage" on the
antiquated Soviet-era legislation.

Georgia: New Realities

11. (SBU) Georgia was touched on only lightly, with two points
being underscored: first, the U.S. blame-Russia-first response to
the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali had deeply alienated the Russian
public; and, second, whatever the differences in analysis of the
origins of the crisis, there should be no expectation that Russia
will walk back its recognition of South Ossetia and Georgia.
Primakov, who lingered longest on Russia's justification for
military action, argued for a rejuvenated diplomatic architecture
and agenda in the context of making every possible effort to
overcome the legacy of Georgia.

Human Rights: Dialogue, but no Dictation

12. (SBU) In response to the Ambassador's emphasis on the need for
a frank dialogue on issues of concern, specifically with respect to
trend lines in Russia's political development, Lukin told Senator
Lugar that Russians were more conservative than their government and
attributed Russia's last eight years of economic success to Putin's
establishment of a political "vertical of power." While this
sparked a rise from Kortunov, who quoted polling data that 45
percent of Russians were dissatisfied with the direction of Russian
policy, there was broader agreement that the U.S. needed to broach
its concerns mindful of its tone and the diminished authority of the
U.S. among the Russian public. When the Ambassador urged Ivanov and
Lukin, as influential Russian voices, to speak up against the new
draft law on treason, Lukin readily conceded that the legislation
was "over the line" and Stalinist (with Ivanov joking darkly that he
could conceivably be charged under the law just for coming to a
Spaso lunch), but dismissed the impact of official U.S. statements.
Instead, Lukin encouraged Americans who have special credibility in
Russia to be in direct contact with Medvedev or Putin about it.
There was broad agreement that U.S. concerns resonated when the
relationship was on stronger footing. Political pot-shots and
grosser forms of anti-Americanism were easier when both sides were
disengaged and not invested in building a positive agenda. The
Ambassador laid down a marker with Ivanov and Lukin that the release
of imprisoned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovskiy would send a powerful
and positive signal to the U.S.


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines

UN News: Aid Access Is Key Priority

Among the key issues facing diplomats is securing the release of a reported 199 Israeli hostages, seized during the Hamas raid. “History is watching,” says Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. “This war was started by taking those hostages. Of course, there's a history between Palestinian people and the Israeli people, and I'm not denying any of that. But that act alone lit a fire, which can only be put out with the release of those hostages.” More

Save The Children: Four Earthquakes In a Week Leave Thousands Homeless

Families in western Afghanistan are reeling after a fourth earthquake hit Herat Province, crumbling buildings and forcing people to flee once again, with thousands now living in tents exposed to fierce winds and dust storms. The latest 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit 30 km outside of Herat on Sunday, shattering communities still reeling from strong and shallow aftershocks. More

UN News: Nowhere To Go In Gaza

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said some 1.1M people would be expected to leave northern Gaza and that such a movement would be “impossible” without devastating humanitarian consequences and appeals for the order to be rescinded. The WHO joined the call for Israel to rescind the relocation order, which amounted to a “death sentence” for many. More

Access Now: Telecom Blackout In Gaza An Attack On Human Rights

By October 10, reports indicated that fixed-line internet, mobile data, SMS, telephone, and TV networks are all seriously compromised. With significant and increasing damage to the electrical grid, orders by the Israeli Ministry of Energy to stop supplying electricity and the last remaining power station now out of fuel, many are no longer able to charge devices that are essential to communicate and access information. More


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.