Cablegate: Readout of January 20 U.S.-France Strategic Dialogue

DE RUEHC #3750/01 0480313
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 STATE 013750


E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/26/20

Classified By: Under Secretary Bill Burns for reasons 1.4(b,

1. (S/NF) Summary. On January 20, 2010, Under Secretary Bill
Burns and Defense Under Secretary for Policy Michele Flournoy
hosted the third U.S.-France Strategic Dialogue with
counterparts Jacques Audibert and Michel Miraillet.
Discussions focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan, NATO Reform,
Missile Defense, Turkey, Russia, Iran, and the Middle East
Peace Process. The French indicated an announcement of
further civilian contributions to Afghanistan would be made at
the London Conference, but hedged on a decision regarding
additional combat troops. On NATO's new Strategic Concept,
the French highlighted the potential for a split in the
Alliance between old and new members, and agreed that a
document that linked to NATO reform measures was needed. The
French requested more information on the U.S. proposal to make
Missile Defense a mission for NATO. Both U/S Burns and USD(P)
Flournoy underscored that the potential sale of a French
Mistral-class Helicopter carrier to Russia would be unhelpful
in terms of regional stability. Next steps on Iran were
discussed with the French agreeing that the European Union
(EU) was more unified than ever on the need for increased
pressure and welcoming U.S. efforts to engage the EU as a
whole on this issue. End Summary.


2. (S/NF) U/S Burns praised the French contributions and
previewed U.S. goals for the London Conference on Afghanistan,
which included agreement on growing the Afghan National
Security Forces (ANSF), reintegration, and choosing a new UN
Senior Representative for Afghanistan. USD(P) reviewed the
POTUS decision and highlighted that July 11, 2011 was an
inflection point -- the beginning of a process. She noted
that POTUS was careful to not create an artificial timeline
for transition to Afghan responsibility and that the U.S.
message to the region is that "we are not leaving." Deputy
SRAP Jones described the new U.S. regional stability strategy
and our efforts to align Karzai with the international
community's civilian priorities.

3. (S/NF) Audibert remarked on France's "special" commitment
to Afghanistan based on France leading the invocation of
NATO's Article 5 after 9/11. Nine years later, the French
cite Allied unity as the mission's principal success. France
believes the President's announcement of 30,000 more troops
substantively changed the operation. While the London
conference is a chance to impress upon Afghan President Hamid
Karzai that he must implement the commitments in his
inauguration speech, the French are concerned it might be too
early to put too much political pressure on Karzai. Audibert
suggested a second international conference on Afghanistan in
the spring would be helpful and was pleased to hear about
plans for an April conference in Kabul. Audibert also stated
that France will make an announcement about its "civilian
surge" at the London conference, but that commitments on
further troop deployments were not ready. Miraillet lamented
French public opposition to the war in Afghanistan, but
believed that the government was making progress in convincing
the French people of the necessity for the operation. He also
explained that the military staff had developed several plans
for additional contributions, which were now with President
Sarkozy for action.


4. (C/NF) Audibert noted that the Strategic Concept (SC) was
"not a redrafting of the Washington Treaty," and should not
open troublesome issues such as new missions and redefining
Article 5. He further emphasized that France wanted to stay
as close to the 1999 Strategic Concept as possible on language

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relating to NATO nuclear issues. Audibert highlighted the
risk of a split between old and newer members of the Alliance
on these questions and advocated for a short, simple document.
The French want to use the Strategic Concept to drive reform
at NATO. He noted that France had submitted several proposals
on reform and that France was keen for U.S. support.
Miraillet added that with the dire state of NATO financing, it
was important to stress financial reform even before the
drafting of the Strategic Concept. Miraillet also warned that
SecGen Rasmussen might put a tight grip on drafting the
concept and cautioned that Turkey would play a stronger role
in drafting than in 1999.

5. (C/NF) USD(P) asserted that the U.S. has played a leading
role in the Senior Officials Group (SOG) because of our strong
commitment to NATO reform. On the SC, she said it was
important that the key Allies make their input to the SecGen
before pen was put to paper. Further, USD(P) clarified that
the U.S. did not believe Alliance transformation could happen
without financial reform and that it was a priority for the
U.S. State Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian
Affairs Phil Gordon agreed; any misperception that the U.S.
did not want to link the Strategic Concept to reform must be
corrected. OSD Assistant Secretary for International Security
Affairs Alexander Vershbow added that the new concept must put
a public face on the Alliance and address issues for the
future, such as Article 4 and crisis management capacity. He
agreed that reform of financing was critical as the current
budget crisis evidenced. ASD Vershbow stressed that we must
work with the UK to solve the financial crisis at NATO and
suggested that the idea of "zero real growth" be put aside.
Audibert was pleased to hear that the U.S. was on the same
page as France regarding reform and that this was a priority
goal for the French side during the Strategic Dialogue.

Missile Defense

6. (S/NF) USD(P) briefed the French on the current state of
play regarding worldwide U.S. missile defense plans. She
noted that the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) would
soon be submitted to Congress and noted the Phased Adaptive
Approach (PAA) would be a U.S. contribution to a NATO Missile
Defense project. This plan would protect both U.S. forces and
interests in Europe and our NATO Allies. USD(P) requested
French support for securing NATO approval for the Active
Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program to
become the Command and Control (C2) backbone of a wider
European Missile Defense program. USD(P) stressed that NATO
approval for the C2 relationship between ALTBMD and the PAA
was important as Turkey was unlikely to approve participation
unless it was part of a larger NATO enterprise.

7. (S/NF) Miraillet conveyed that France was pleased with
the Obama administration's swift action on Missile Defense and
welcomed the U.S. development of the PAA. France shared the
U.S. perception of the threat and had ideas on ways it could
participate in the U.S.-proposed system. However, Miraillet
emphasized that France needed more information before the
government could endorse a NATO-PAA linkage through ALTBMD,
and argued that the Lisbon Summit may be too early for a NATO
decision. He said that France wanted information on phases
three and four of the PAA and whether the SM-3 Block 2B could
be perceived as a threat by the Russians. Audibert added that
France needed much more detail on the potential costs to NATO
Allies before endorsing ALTBMD as the C2 for the European
Missile Defense system. He also asked how the C2
relationships in the system would work in a NATO context.
Audibert concluded by underscoring that French hesitation on
accepting a NATO role for European-wide Missile Defense is not
reluctance, but a reflection of the need for greater clarity
on what was being proposed.

8. (S/NF) In response, USD(P) Flournoy said we would soon
share additional details on C2 arrangements, noting that
authorities would need to be delegated given the short
decision time for a response. She and ASD Vershbow pressed
the importance of a political decision at Lisbon to adopt
territorial Missile Defense as a NATO mission, both to secure
Turkish agreement to host the forward-based radar and to
demonstrate that NATO was addressing real Article 5 threats.

STATE 00013750 003 OF 004


9. (S/NF) Miraillet and Audibert were remarkably downbeat on
Turkey and lamented poor French bilateral relations with
Turkish leadership, though they believed ties were slowly
improving. Miraillet believed the military leaders were no
longer what they once were as the recent Ergenekon scandal had
weakened the influence of the Generals in Turkish politics.
Miraillet asserted that FM Ahmet Davutoglu had kept with his
theory of "strategic depth," which he had described in his
previously published books, through Turkey's continued
engagement with neighbors like Syria and Iran and in Turkey's
proactive approach to the Caucasus and recognition of the
Iraqi Kurds. Miraillet, in noting that the Turkish military
had of late established a better relationship with the
Pakistani military, stated that Turkey was a nuclear threshold
country and that France did not know if there were similar
civilian nuclear cooperation linkages with Pakistan. In
highlighting Turkey's unwillingness to engage in combat in
Afghanistan, its improved relationships with Syria and Hamas,
its willingness to negotiate with Iran outside the P5-plus-1
process, and its position on selecting a new NATO Secretary
General at the April 2009 Strasbourg Summit, Miraillet summed
up that Turkey was becoming more of a global actor, but not
always a positive actor in the international system.

10. (S/NF) USD(P) asked whether the EU was closer to
identifying a way that it could signal to Turkey that the door
was open to a closer relationship, such as observer status in
the European Defense Agency. Audibert noted that President
Sarkozy had been particularly upset with the Turkish position
on Rasmussen at Strasbourg and that Sarkozy's objection to
Turkish membership in the EU was one of five pillars on his
political campaign that the public still remembered. Further,
when France tried to move forward with closer NATO-EU ties
during its 2008 EU presidency, Turkey rejected every plan that
was put on the table. For these reasons, it would be
difficult for France to see any opening on EU membership for
Turkey in the near future. All French interlocutors agreed
that a "more arrogant" Turkey could present a problem during
NATO Strategic Concept discussions this year. In response,
Flournoy, Vershbow and Gordon reiterated that by closing the
door on the Turks, the EU was creating a vicious circle that
fueled Turkish obstructionism at NATO.


11. (S/NF) Audibert began by stating that France was taking
pragmatic approach to Russia, but that President Sarkozy had a
"problem of confidence" and did not fully trust Russia.
Audibert said Russia's two treaty proposals on new European
Security Architecture were unacceptable and mere provocations,
but that the French position was to use the proposals to
engage the Russians on new approaches to crisis management,
the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, and on the
adoption of the Open Skies/verification measures. However, he
noted, these issues will continually be bogged down over the
situation in Georgia, which Audibert saw as intractable as
Russia will never "derecognize" the sovereignty of Abkhazia
and South Ossetia while also never recognizing Georgian
sovereignty over its territory, including the two enclaves.

12. (S/NF) Audibert, noting he was raising his "if-raised"
point, brought up the issue of France's potential sale of a
helicopter carrier Mistral-class ship to Russia. He asserted
that the French had merely agreed to negotiate with Russia on
the potential sale, but then argued that sale would be only
for the ship without armament systems. Audibert also said
that while France understood U.S. concerns over the potential
for Russia to use the ship for projection of power, it was
important to note that any decision on the issue would, in the
end, be political in nature. Miraillet stated that this sale
would be a gesture of good will to Russia as France assessed
the Russian Navy was in dire condition. In any case,
concluded Miraillet, if France did not make the sale, the
Netherlands and Spain would likely sell similar technology.

13. (S/NF) On Mistral, USD(P) observed the optics and policy
behind the sale were perplexing as it would "fly in the face"

STATE 00013750 004 OF 004

of President Sarkozy's personal engagement on resolving the
Georgia crisis in 2008. She asserted that this sale would
send a confusing political signal to Russia as well as to
other Europeans. U/S Burns concurred with USD(P), noting the
sale would feed Georgia's fears and could lead to an arms
race, increasing the chance of miscalculation by one or both
sides. USD(P) concluded that while we understood that France
wanted to actively engage Russia, the U.S. would prefer that
France find a different confidence-building measure than a
Mistral sale.


14. (S/NF) U/S Burns stated that the international community
had reached a point where it had to begin looking for further
consequences for Iran as the credibility of our efforts was at
stake. U/S Burns noted that other actors were watching
Western actions on Iran. He cautioned that moving China
toward greater sanctions would not be easy, but that we need
to continue engaging them.

15. (S/NF) Audibert noted that France was using every means
possible to bring the EU together on Iran. He noted a
recently EU Council decision to task Foreign Ministers with
developing new ideas on the way forward with Iran. Briens
stated that since the Iranian regime cracked down following
the June 2009 elections, the EU was more solid as a block on
sanctions. In particular, Spain and Sweden, who were
reluctant to support sanctions in the past, were more
supportive because of recent gross human rights violations.

Middle East Peace Process

16. (S/NF) Audibert hailed U.S. efforts to reestablish peace
talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He asked pointedly
where the U.S. saw the process in the next six months, and how
to further involve Europe, especially regarding a possible
settlement. Notably, the French did not advocate for a Middle
East summit in Paris.

17. (U) Participants:

United States:

Department of State
William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Phil Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for European and
Eurasian Affairs
Paul Jones, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and
Maureen Cormack, Director for Western Europe
Tamir Waser, Special Assistant to U/S Burns
Andrew Lorenz, Senior France Desk Officer

Department of Defense
Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Alexander Vershbow, Assistant Secretary of Defense for
International Security Affairs
Jim Townsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
European and NATO Policy
Andrew Winternitz, Deputy Director for European Policy


Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Jacques Audibert, Under Secretary for Political and Strategic
Martin Briens, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear
Nicolas Roche, Political Counselor, Embassy of France

Ministry of Defense
Michel Miraillet, Director for Strategic Affairs
Gen Gratien Maire, French Defense Attache to the U.S.
Gen Emmanuel de Romemont, Deputy Director for Disarmament and
Col Cyrille Claver, Deputy Director for European and NATO
Col Frederic Pesme, Director for North America

18.This cable was cleared by U/S Burns and USD(P) Flournoy.

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