Cablegate: Vice President Biden Discusses Defense Issues With
DE RUEHPG #0640/01 3021026
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291026Z OCT 09 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1867
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 PRAGUE 000640
C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - ADDING PARA 18
EUR/CE FOR JBERGEMANN
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EUN EZ EG PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN DISCUSSES DEFENSE ISSUES WITH
PRAGUE 00000640 001.4 OF 004
1. (SBU) Summary: While much of Vice President Biden's
discussions with Czech officials focused on missile defense,
he also spoke in depth about Afghanistan, research
cooperation and energy security. Biden said the U.S. looks
forward to Czech participation in a new phased, adaptive
approach (PAA) to missile defense but stressed that this is a
decision Czechs must make themselves. Biden particularly
highlighted USG interest in research and development
cooperation as the PAA moves forward. Czech political
leaders across party lines pressed for specific ways in which
the Czech Republic could participate in this new phased,
adaptive approach. Biden noted that Secretary Gates was
discussing this with NATO Defense Ministers in Bratislava
October 23 and called the November 6 High Level Defense Group
the proper forum for more detailed discussions of this and
other issues ("from Hercules to conventional help you might
2. (SBU) Summary Continued: The Czechs also commented on the
U.S. missile defense policy review decision. Senators
Alexandr Vondra and Karel Schwarzenberg expressed
disappointment over the USG security policy review decision,
as well as the manner in which it was announced.
Left-of-center CSSD,s Lubomir Zaoralek express quite a
different sentiment, however, thanking this administration
for "the suspension of Missile Defense" and welcoming "a new
relationship and a new opportunity."
3. (SBU) Biden and the Czechs also discussed
Afghanistan/Pakistan and energy security, both of which CSSD
Parliamentarian Jan Hamacek characterized as more pressing
issues than MD. PM Fischer highlighted that the Czechs would
be sending an additional 35 troops to Afghanistan. Biden
noted U.S. interest in working with the Czechs on energy
security and renewable energy, and strongly advocated
Westinghouse's bid for the Temelin tender. End Summary.
Biden to Czechs - "We're Not Going Anywhere"
4. (SBU) During Vice President Biden's meetings with Czech
officials, Biden emphasized that the USG is tied to the
Atlantic alliance and firmly anchored to NATO and "We're not
going anywhere." He focused on addressing misunderstandings,
misrepresentations, and "understandable anxiety" concerning
U.S. policy. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer welcomed the
meeting as an opportunity to speak "as allies and partners"
and noted that he considers the U.S. "an exceptional ally"
and values our "strategic cooperation." Biden commented, "We
are at an inflection point in history; we have a chance to
bend the course of history and avoid the terrible violence of
the last century. There are no answers without a stable
Biden Encourages Czech Involvement in Missile Defense
5. (SBU) Biden acknowledged that the changed Missile Defense
policy had caused anxiety in some quarters, but stressed that
the phased, adaptive approach is more effective at countering
the existing threat and protecting our European allies.
Praising Czech research and development capacity, Biden said
the USG wants Czech participation - if the Czech Republic
chooses to do so. Reinforcing his message of U.S.
commitment, Biden said, "Article Five means something to us,
and this new MD architecture is an Article Five commitment."
Czechs Ask - What are the Details?
6. (SBU) Prime Minister Fischer and others expressed keen
interest in participating in the new missile defense system,
but stressed their desire to know more concretely what form
that participation could take. Senator and former Foreign
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg summed up the Czech sentiment
best when he stated to Biden, "Facta, non verba; We need to
know in concrete and detailed terms what role the Czech
Republic can play and what the possibilities are." The Vice
President commented that the ongoing Bratislava NATO
ministerial was addressing some of those issues, and the
November 6 High Level Defense Group (HLDG) would be the
appropriate fora to discuss in detail the new MD
architecture, as well as issues such as C-130s, FMF, and
other military aid. On these issues the Vice President
stated, "The U.S. HLDG participants will know clearly what I
expect them to do." On the new architecture Biden committed
PRAGUE 00000640 002.4 OF 004
that the USG will "let you know exactly what we have in
mind," although he cautioned in this area that, "it's going
to take time."
PM Fischer Flags Czech Interest - C-130s, FMF, RDTE MOU...
7. (SBU) PM Fischer also noted that the Czechs are very
interested in acquiring C-130s. He stated that "we want to
negotiate the price and revisit this issue." (Note: The
Czechs have received a P and A initial price of USD 111
million, which they regard as too high. End Note.) He also
commented that Czechs feel they receive too little FMF in
comparison with Poland. With respect to research and
development cooperation, PM Fischer stated that they would
like this not just in the military sphere, but in a broader
range of fields. Fischer also noted his appreciation for the
upcoming establishment of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)
and said the Education Ministry could be its partner.
Fischer also touched upon the RDTE MOU as a key step, and
noted that the Czechs would like to finalize this legal work
as soon as possible.
Czech Concern - Who Pays?
8. (SBU) Senator and former Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr
Vondra noted that "I'm in favor of working with you to
strengthen NATO and of participating in the phased, adaptive
approach to the Missile Defense system, but I have my doubts
about NATO's response to the U.S. call for burden-sharing."
He indicated that he hoped this new MD plan would
materialize, and not be a virtual system that evaporates in
the absence of resources. Biden responded by noting that the
USG has no false expectations on burden sharing and that we
are not expecting money from the French or Germans. Biden
also assured Vondra that the USG has already covered the
costs of the first part of this phased, adaptive approach.
Mixed Sentiments on MD's Past Handling; Interest in Future
9. (SBU) Czech officials, while eager for details, took
different views of how missile defense had been handled in
the past, particularly the public aspects. Schwarzenberg said
that the way in which Czechs received the "message in the
night" that MD was canceled was unhelpful, since missile
defense had "special importance" in this part of Europe.
Schwarzenberg relayed an anecdote comparing Czech feelings to
that of a lover led on to believe lovemaking was imminent but
then suddenly rejected and left frustrated. "In spite of
all, we are friends of the U.S.," he said. In contrast, CSSD
Parliamentarian Zaoralek thanked Biden for the USG
"suspending" the radar plan. In Zaoralek's opinion this is a
new beginning for U.S.-Czech relations on a more balanced and
equal level. He and several other Czech politicians stressed
the importance of MD's being within a NATO context. In
response to the way in which the decision was announced,
Biden stated, "In one sense we owe you an apology. I wish I
had come before any announcement had been made."
Afghanistan - Praise for Czech Efforts; USG Not Drawing Down
10. (SBU) Biden thanked PM Fischer and others for what the
Czechs are doing in Afghanistan and offered praise for Czech
troops. He acknowledged that deployments are not popular in
the Czech Republic, the U.S. or elsewhere. Biden emphasized
that the USG has no intention of decreasing our presence in
Afghanistan; the only question is how to shape the best
policy. Biden stressed three linked issues: stability of
Afghanistan; elimination of Al Qaeda; and stability in
Pakistan. Biden characterized Pakistan as "the most
dangerous country in the world, brimming with nuclear weapons
and a large population of radicalized elements."
11. (SBU) PM Fischer noted that the Czechs want to strengthen
their presence in Afghanistan, stating "It's about not just
numbers but also capacity." Despite budgetary problems,
Fischer stated that the GoCR is sending 35 more troops.
Fischer also highlighted that his government has made a
specific proposal on L-159s for Afghan forces, and that they
are awaiting a response from the U.S. side. Fischer flagged
that the Czechs believe the L-159s would be very effective
assets and that they wish to discuss financing of this.
PRAGUE 00000640 003.4 OF 004
Russia and Energy Issues
12. (SBU) The Vice President was clear to point out that he
has been dealing with Russia for many years and that while
"hope springs eternal," this administration is not "naive"
about Russia. Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) Pavel Svoboda
noted that his party supported radar because it was related
to rejecting the idea of Russian spheres of influence and
that it is for this same reason that his party favors
cooperation on the new MD system. Svoboda cautioned that
"some of the steps the US is taking with regard to Russia
make us nervous," an idea echoed by ODS Parliamentarian
Miroslava Nemcova. Biden responded by noting that the USG
rejects and will not compromise on the notion of Russian
spheres of influence.
13. (SBU) On energy, the VP pointed out that if Europe could
find alternatives to Russian sources, this could radically
change Russian behavior. Biden warned against letting Russia
have a monopoly on European energy supplies and noted, "We
don't care if you purchase nuclear power from France or the
U.S., but if you purchase from Russia, I have to question
your judgment." Biden commented to the PM that he was
surprised Europe hasn't reacted better to the threat of one
country's being able to turn off the spigot. Biden went on
to note that in some areas of alternative energy Europe is
ahead of us, and that the USG "is anxious to explore this
with you." Prime Minister Fischer noted that the Czechs agree
that Europe must strengthen its independence. Fischer
commented that Europe is looking for diverse, stable
supplies, not just geographically but also in kind. Thus
nuclear capacity is important.
Temelin Tender and Westinghouse
14. (SBU) Fischer commented that Temelin is offering a
"gigantic" tender and that the GoCR wants this to be as
transparent as possible. Fischer flagged Czech interest in a
deal attractive not only monetarily, but also in terms of
technical cooperation. Biden commented, "Have I got a deal
for you! If you want to get unhooked from Russia, look to
Westinghouse." He questioned why the Czechs would want
Russia to have control of Czech gas, oil AND nuclear
supplies. He also pointed out "Westinghouse is a quality
company; they don't build Chernobyls." Biden closed by
stating, "I know your process will be fair, and I hope you
understand that Westinghouse is making a good offer."
Biden Individual Pull-Asides with Paroubek and Topolanek
15. (SBU) Vice President Biden met with left-of-center CSSD
leader Jiri Paroubek, who said he welcomed the MD decision.
"I wouldn't word it like the PM, but I would say that we can
be ready to do this as part of NATO. We are ready to
negotiate when there is a real outline of the project." He
dealt briefly with global issues, noting the Czech's
geopolitical position as a net importer of raw materials from
Russia and a net exporter to Germany. "This is our
geopolitical reality. But that's no reason for us to be
closed to other countries, even if we are in NATO." Paroubek
also urged closer relations between his party and the U.S.
Democratic party. He said his party had excellent relations
with Israel as well as Arab nations and would like to help in
the Mideast peace process. On Westinghouse's bid for Temelin
expansion, he said that he believed France, not Russia, would
prove to be the main competitor.
16. (SBU) Biden also met with former Prime Minister and
center-right leader Mirek Topolanek, who had obviously
prepared for the meeting. He praised Biden's Bucharest
speech, and praised Obama for working to close the rift
between old and new Europe. He said the U.S. is the Czech
Republic's closest ally, welcomed the idea of a command and
control site, but wondered how NATO would fund it. Topolanek
appreciated Biden's remarks about a role for Czech research
and development, recalling that it was an important element
in the previous MD negotiations under his administration. He
said that the Framework and RTD and E agreements were still
important and should be finalized. Biden said the HLDG would
carry that forward. Topolanek also pushed for resolution on
the C-130 issue, saying that the U.S. price was far too high,
PRAGUE 00000640 004.4 OF 004
and asked for help selling L-159s planes to Afghanistan. He
noted that his administration tried to increase Czech
involvement in Afghanistan, and that the current PM does not
have a strong mandate. On Westinghouse and energy security,
Topolanek said "Look, I know about energy security. As EU
President I spent five hours with Putin. Three of these were
eye-to-eye." He also pressed the VP on the Exxon Mobil sale
of its shares of the TAL pipeline. He said he fears Russia
will buy them and said he looks to the U.S. to help give the
Czechs a chance to bid for them, although Topolanek
acknowledged that this is a private sector deal.
Czech Officials Appreciative of Biden Visit; Press Criticize
Lack of Access
17. (SBU) Across the political spectrum Czech officials were
very appreciative of the visit by the Vice President. The
Czechs are also now very focused on the upcoming High Level
Defense Group, which Biden has billed as the appropriate
forum to discuss in detail the range of defense and strategic
cooperation issues that were not answered during this visit.
Predictably, the Czech media were more critical, committed to
the view that Czechs were the pawn sacrificed for strategic
gains with Russia and disappointed at a lack of direct media
access to the Vice President and what they regarded as a lack
of specificity on the Czech role in the phased, adaptive
approach to missile defense. As a result, expectations -
both among media and politicians - for more concrete answers
from the HLDG are high.
18. (SBU) The Office of the Vice President did not have a chance
to clear this cable before it was sent out.