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Cablegate: Russian Analysts Complain U.S. Has Betrayed Russia's Trust

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1. (SBU) Summary: A roundtable of Russian analysts described --
often in emotional terms -- for visiting Representatives Ellen
Taushcer, Doug Lamborn, Rick Larsen, and Loretta Sanchez, the deep
displeasure with which many Russians view the U.S. government. They
blamed much of this on America's failure to live up to expectations
for a genuine post-Cold War partnership through actions such as
continued NATO enlargement and lecturing Russia on governance and
human rights. The analysts argued that even if Russia had an
inaccurate perception of the current state of affairs, it was
important for the U.S. to understand how Russians "perceived
things." They accused the U.S. of "pushing" NATO enlargement for
undefined political goals, and warned that Russia would be more
defensive about Ukraine entering the alliance than Georgia. The
analysts presented a contrast between Putin, who wanted to engage
with the U.S., and Medvedev, who did not believe this was important.
Finally, the analysts posited that smaller nuclear stockpiles in
the future would complicate arms control, and differed on the
importance of arms control at a time when the threat of war between
Russia and NATO was minimal. End summary.

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U.S. Indifference toward Russia

2. (SBU) During a December 15 luncheon hosted by the DATT, a panel
of senior Russian security analysts told Representatives Ellen
Taushcer (D-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Rick Larsen (D-WA), and
Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), that many Russians lacked trust in the U.S.,
which was perceived to be indifferent, or even hostile, to Russian
interests. The analysts, Aleksandr Belkin of the Council on
Foreign and Defense Policy, Aleksandr Golts, Deputy Editor of
Yezhenedelniy Journal, Sergey Oznobischev of the Institute of
Strategic Assessments, and Ivan Safranchuk of the Center for Defense
Information, painted a gloomy picture of bilateral relations that
they blamed largely upon the U.S.'s failure to treat Russia as a

3. (SBU) Belkin contrasted contemporary Moscow, where speaking
earnestly of cooperating with the U.S. meant that you were either
"crazy or a traitor," with the 1990s, when there existed real trust
and "we were full of hope" for the future. He warned the U.S. not
to simply focus on the opinions of the Russian leadership,
explaining that the mistrust of the U.S. had gone deeper into the
populace and become ingrained in the "Russian soul." Belkin asked
how it would be possible to convince Russians that the U.S. cared
for more than its parochial interests when bilateral relations where
at their lowest level. The DATT pointed out that the GOR, through
its control of television, the nation's main source of information,
was partly responsible for the current shape of public opinion
toward the U.S.

A Matter of Perception

4. (SBU) The analysts agreed that Russian behavior on the world
stage was often a reaction to how Russia perceived its treatment by
the U.S. Belkin posited that if Russia was called a "rogue state"
often enough, it was bound to behave like one. Oznobischev raised
the oft-heard objection to the U.S. pushing NATO enlargement without
taking Russian security concerns into account, and complained that
"nothing substantial" was done in the way of NATO-Russia cooperation
apart from some coordination on Afghanistan. He advised that in a
partnership, one partner should think about how the other "perceived
things." Cooperation needed to be sincere, and not just an attempt
to "use Russia." Rep. Larsen responded that if the U.S. did not
adopt policies that Russia agreed with, Russians appeared to believe
that the U.S. did not think "Russia mattered," which was inaccurate.

5. (SBU) Golts thought that what lay at the crux of Russia's poor
opinion of the U.S. was Washington's penchant to lecture Moscow on
governance. "We are building a democracy in our way and don't want
foreign interference," he complained. The fact that the U.S. failed
to live up to its own, "supposed high standards on human rights" in
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, made this especially galling for
Russians. He maintained that the war in Iraq played a large part in
souring Putin on wanting to be a "member of the club" of
forward-leaning countries by demonstrating that if a country had
enough power it could do what it wanted and ignore international

The U.S. is "Pushing" NATO Enlargement

6. (SBU) The assembled analysts questioned what was driving NATO
enlargement. Golts thought that while the initial round of
enlargement fulfilled the goal of bringing in key Central European
states, little was brought to the alliance by Bulgaria and Romania.
He cautioned that adding Ukraine would present a country that lacked
domestic consensus on joining NATO, while Georgia would bring in a

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country in conflict with its neighbors. Golts charged that the U.S.
seemed willing to lower NATO standards for political purposes that
remained unclear.

7. (SBU) The analysts agreed that it appeared Ukraine and Georgia
were being "pushed" by the U.S. toward NATO membership. They
offered as evidence the U.S. plan to get Ukraine and Georgia into
the alliance without MAP after NATO members rejected extending it at
the Bucharest summit. Rep. Tauscher responded that it seemed
curious that the U.S. was criticized for pursuing its objectives
within NATO when the fact that it could not force consensus on its
allies demonstrated that the alliance remained democratic. Rep.
Larsen reminded the analysts that countries were eager to join NATO,
and the U.S. did not have to "force" anyone in.

Ukraine is More Important than Georgia

8. (SBU) Belkin stressed to the Representatives that while the
"bitter divorce" between Russia and Georgia might be "emotional and
painful" for Russians because of the countries' historical
association, it was not as important to Russians as Ukraine. He
worried that American policymakers did not understand the cultural
links that made Ukraine so crucial for Russians, mentioning that
two-thirds of his family lived in Ukraine and they "don't care about
NATO." The U.S. pushing policies such as NATO membership for
Ukraine only helped the "America haters come to power" in Russia and
gave legitimacy to the hardliners' vision of "fortress Russia."

Putin and Medvedev Differ on the U.S.

9. (SBU) Ivan Safranchuk argued that there existed two schools of
thought on Russian relations with the U.S.: those, like Putin, who
believe it was necessary to engage with the U.S., and those, like
Medvedev, who did not see a need to do so. The "engagers" believed
that the U.S. was "not going to go away" so Russia "needed to deal
with it." They used strategic arms control as a test: if Russia
could deal with the U.S. on arms control, then perhaps we could move
forward on other issues. The "disengagers" did not want
confrontation with the U.S., but neither did they see a need to work
with it. They preferred to seek alternative spaces where the U.S.
could be kept at a distance, which explained Russian interest in the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Central Asia, as well as
the still evolving RIC (Russia-India-China) and BRIC
(Brazil-Russia-India-China) groupings.

Arms Control

10. (SBU) Turning to arms control, Safranchuk explained that the
future was complicated by Russian and U.S. strategies that would be
based upon lower numbers of warheads. Diminishing numbers would
make the arsenals "more asymmetrical," which would require not only
counting warhead but also the capabilities of delivery platforms.
He argued that arms control would become more important as the
number of warheads dropped and strategic doctrine would depend more
upon "risky nuclear policies" to overcome counter-measures such as
missile defense.

11. (SBU) Safranchuk thought that both Russia and the U.S. were
looking toward more nontraditional forms of arms control, but each
country had a different vision for the future. Russia wanted a
treaty on strategic armaments, including delivery systems, and not
just warheads, whereas the U.S. wanted an inclusive treaty on
nuclear warheads that included tactical nuclear weapons.

12. (SBU) Golts maintained that the Russian focus on strategic
issues was a method to keep the U.S. occupied "counting warheads"
rather than interfering in Russian affairs. He thought that
ratification of the CFE was worthwhile, but doubted that it was
crucial when there was no threat of war between Russia and NATO.
Golts pointed out that the Russian military clearly did not see a
threat from NATO, otherwise it would not be planning extensive
reforms that moved the armed forces away from its traditional
orientation to fight a large-scale European war.

13. (U) The delegation did not clear this cable.


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