Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 1295 / 251,287


Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin


Browse by tag


Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious


If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09MOSCOW2529.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MOSCOW2529 2009-10-06 14:02 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #2529/01 2791432
P 061432Z OCT 09 ZDK
C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 002529 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/05/2019 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Susan Elliott for 
reasons 1.4 (b), (d) 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  During consultations with GOR officials on 
September 30, Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for 
International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow discussed 
ways to implement bilateral cooperation in a number of key 
areas of mutual interest.  Both sides praised progress since 
the "reset" in U.S.-Russian relations during the first 
Obama-Medvedev meetings, though both agreed that concrete 
actions are necessary to realize true cooperation.  ASD 
Vershbow emphasized that the reset needs to be reciprocal and 
noted that Iran would be a critical test case.  Both sides 
expressed interest in further cooperation on Afghanistan, 
especially in the sphere of counternarcotics.  While the 
Administration's missile defense announcement has met with a 
generally positive reaction in the Russian media, Duma and 
Security Council representatives made clear they had 
questions about the later phases of the new U.S. plan and 
questioned whether the U.S. would be prepared for cooperation 
going beyond information exchange.   Russian interlocutors 
acknowledged the dangers posed by Iran's nuclear program, but 
stressed Moscow's skepticism about sanctions.  Throughout the 
meetings, ASD Vershbow emphasized that Russia's efforts to 
assert a regional sphere of influence posed a threat to the 
reset in bilateral relations, and reiterated the U.S. 
commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and territorial 
integrity of Georgia, Ukraine and other partners in the 
region.  END SUMMARY. 
2.  (C) OVERVIEW OF MEETINGS:  ASD Vershbow met with the 
following GOR officials:  Viktor Mikhaylovich Zavarzin 
(Defense Committee Chairman of the State Duma), Aleksandr A. 
Gorbunov (Chief of the Main Directorate for International 
Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense), General 
Yuriy Nikolayevich Baluyevskiy (Deputy Secretary of the 
Security Council and former Chief of Defense), Aleksey 
Nikolayevich Borodavkin (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs), 
and Grigoriy Borisovich Karasin (First Deputy Minister of 
Foreign Affairs and State Secretary).  He also met informally 
with academic experts and pundits and gave an interview to 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
3.  (C) At all meetings, ASD Vershbow and his Russian 
interlocutors noted that U.S.-Russia relations since the 
"reset" have been moving in the right direction, with 
opportunities for increased bilateral cooperation in areas of 
mutual interest.  The Bilateral Presidential Commission and 
associated working groups will be useful to inject momentum 
into our work.  However, ASD Vershbow stressed that words 
alone or mere information exchanges are not enough, and the 
reset must be reciprocal.  Both sides need to take action to 
implement agreements already concluded and to pave the way 
for additional areas of work and to identify concrete 
projects for cooperation.  Mechanisms for enabling these 
efforts need to be established (e.g., the Ministry of Defense 
is currently undergoing a major organizational reform, which 
has hampered efforts for implementing the previously approved 
2009 military-to-military work plan, and both sides need to 
ensure that planned events are conducted). 
4.  (C) ASD Vershbow agreed that next steps must be taken in 
other areas where we have agreed to cooperate previously 
(e.g., implementing a ballistic missile joint threat 
assessment, a Joint Data Exchange Center, and the lethal 
transit overflight in support of efforts in Afghanistan that 
was agreed to at the July summit).  The U.S. and Russia must 
be united in addressing common threats, such as the nuclear 
and ballistic missile programs of Iran and North Korea. 
5.  (C) During his meeting with MOD International Military 
Cooperation Chief Gorbunov, ASD Vershbow emphasized that 
transparency should be a major aspect of cooperation. 
Vershbow observed that DoD has been very open with the 
Russians about sensitive issues.  For example, DoD has shared 
information about efforts to help prepare Georgian troops for 
deployment to Afghanistan in support of ISAF efforts; 
however, the Russians have not reciprocated in this vein 
(e.g., their Zapad 2009 and Ladoga exercises). 
6.  (C) Both Duma Defense Committee Chair Zavarzin and 
Security Council Deputy Secretary Baluyevskiy stressed that 
they are ready to work on all areas of mutual interest on the 
condition that Russia's voice be heard.  In particular, 
Zavarzin cited the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council 
(1997-2002) in which Russia claims its views were ignored, 
the NATO-Russia Council (the PJC's successor) in which Russia 
"still did not have a full say," and Russia's interest in 
working on anti-missile defense since 2000 which "did not pan 
out."  ASD Vershbow acknowledged that both NATO and Russia 
bore responsibility for areas where cooperation was not 
successful, but suggested that we need to look ahead rather 
than debate the past. 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
7.  (C) The Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) is in the midst 
of major reform.  International Military Cooperation Chief 
Gorbunov described the main goal of the reform as the 
creation of the "most effective military force in the world," 
despite existing limitations (e.g., demographics, large 
landmass and borders, resources, and various threats along 
the borders).  He identified two distinct processes as part 
of the reform -- building of the armed forces and control of 
the forces.  Today, Russia is focusing on building the 
forces, including a large influx of civilian personnel in 
management and specialist roles, improving pay/benefits of 
service members, improving quality of equipment, and trying 
to change decision-making processes at all levels.  Gorbunov 
emphasized that these changes are intended to make Russia a 
strong competitor, but also a reliable partner. 
8.  (C) Gorbunov explained that the reform process is having 
a significant impact on the Main Directorate for 
International Military Cooperation (GUMVS) at the MOD.  The 
Foreign Liaison Directorate (UVS) is being closed on October 
1, and a new International Liaison Directorate is being 
created.  Because of these changes, correspondence will be 
slow over the next six weeks or so, which will impact the 
Attache Corps in Moscow.  Gorbunov offered his personal 
assistance during this period. 
9.  (C) ASD Vershbow raised the Bilateral Defense 
Consultations (BDC) which the U.S. had proposed for November, 
and suggested the possibility of a broader dialogue between 
the MOD and DoD on policy and strategy issues to complement 
State-MFA exchanges.  Vershbow explained that DoD's proposed 
BDC topics (including confidence-building measures and 
transparency, risk reduction and notification procedures, 
expanded military technical cooperation, etc.) were carefully 
considered, but we welcomed Russia's suggestions for 
additional topics.   Gorbunov responded that the MoD agrees 
with the general notion of the BDC, but stipulated that the 
General Staff needs to identify the right experts to address 
topics to be discussed, and they plan to propose other topics 
for consideration.  He gave no indication as to when a 
response would be provided. 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
10.  (C) ASD Vershbow's meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister 
Borodavkin and MOD International Cooperation Chief Gorbunov 
particularly focused on Afghanistan.  Borodavkin mentioned 
that Russia views Afghanistan not only as a threat, but as an 
opportunity for cooperation with the U.S. and other countries 
(e.g., NATO), and suggested that ISAF could play an important 
role in fighting illegal drug trafficking.  He recalled that 
the U.S. and NATO had participated in the March 2009 
conference held in Moscow at which counternarcotics was a top 
11.  (C) When asked by Borodavkin about whether more U.S. 
troops will be sent to Afghanistan, ASD Vershbow explained 
that General McChrystal's assessment is being reviewed at the 
highest levels.  He noted that while the situation in 
Afghanistan has not gone as well as hoped over the past six 
months, the U.S. cannot allow the Taliban to regain control. 
Expansion and training of the Afghan National Security Forces 
(ANSF), improving governance, and economic assistance are all 
still essential components of the U.S. strategy in 
Afghanistan and we will continue to seek cooperation in these 
12.  (C) Borodavkin introduced a number of proposals for 
increased Russian contribution.  He said that Russia would 
like to launch cooperation with the U.S. on the economic 
rehabilitation of Afghanistan and referred to a clause in the 
July Summit Joint Statement that without economic 
improvement, terrorism and other threats cannot be 
eliminated.  Borodavkin suggested tripartite cooperation 
(Russia-U.S.-Afghanistan) to reconstruct the Soviet-era 
Salang Tunnel to provide a much needed reliable 
transportation route.  The Russians have already undertaken a 
technical study on this project and Borodavkin said that with 
adequate resources, it would be a useful cooperative effort. 
(Note:  Borodavkin's staff confirmed that the MFA has 
submitted a proposal to the State Department on the Salang 
13.  (C) Russia considers narco-trafficking to be its highest 
priority vis-a-vis Afghanistan.  Borodavkin said Russia is 
ready to help the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Interior 
Ministry in these efforts.  He noted that Russia is already 
providing counternarcotics training to the Afghans at the 
Domodedovo Center, and mentioned Russian counter-narcotics 
chief Ivanov's statement that he is ready to provide 
increased assistance on bilateral and multilateral levels 
such as NATO and the OSCE.   Both Borodovkin and Vershbow 
agreed that while the U.S. and Russia are currently working 
together on this and the related issue of threat financing 
through the Bilateral Presidential Commission, we need to 
address these problems more forcefully.  Illicit financing 
has been raised at Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) 
and OSCE meetings, offering one area of possible cooperation. 
14.  (C) At his meetings at the MOD and MFA, ASD Vershbow 
expressed appreciation for Russia's expression of interest in 
providing weapons and equipment to the ANSF, and requested 
that any such help be made in the form of donations with no 
fees attached, as those charges would have to be paid for by 
the U.S.  He underscored that some of the equipment/weapon 
donation requests provided to Russia are intended to support 
counter-narcotics efforts, so the U.S. hopes Russia will be 
able to provide this support.  ASD Vershbow also asked that 
Russia work with the Combined Security Transition Command - 
Afghanistan (CSTC-A) to ensure that ANSF priority 
requirements are met and provided a list of requirements. 
15.  (C) Borodavkin said that Russia will be able to supply 
limited numbers of weapons to the ANP as aid and will 
consider selling more weapons to the ANP and the Afghan 
National Army (ANA).  He also expressed concern that there 
are unlicensed (counterfeit) Russian weapons on the market, 
which are of inferior quality.  Gorbunov explained that 
donating equipment and weapons to Afghanistan is a 
presidential decision, which would entail President Medvedev 
asking the military services to donate items from current 
16.  (C) Borodavkin also asked ASD Vershbow's perspectives on 
the European proposal for a conference on Afghanistan after 
the new Afghan government is established.  ASD Vershbow said 
the U.S. saw merit in this idea as a means of seeking 
additional international support for Afghanistan, but noted 
that the timing of the initiative will depend on 
Afghanistan's domestic politics; given the problems with the 
Presidential elections, conditions were not yet right. 
17.  (C) Borodavkin mentioned the work of the Afghanistan 
sub-working group under the Bilateral Presidential Commission 
and stated that the Foreign Ministry is hoping that Amb. 
Holbrooke can reschedule his planned visit to Moscow. 
Borodavkin requested that ASD Vershbow pass on the invitation 
to Amb. Holbrooke. 
18.  (C) ASD Vershbow also raised the lethal transit 
agreement signed at the July summit in his meetings with 
Gorbunov, Borodavkin, and Zavarzin.  He underscored the 
importance of a timely Duma decision now that the General 
Authorization has been delivered.  ASD Vershbow expressed 
hopes that the inaugural flight of the agreement could take 
place prior to Secretary of State Clinton's visit to Moscow 
on October 12-14.  Zavarzin thought the Duma would approve 
the agreement without any problem; Borodavkin confirmed that 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on the request, 
but warned that they do not have the sole voice on this 
19.  (C) ASD Vershbow discussed the recent U.S. missile 
defense decision during each of his consultations.  In his 
meeting with Duma Defense Committee Chairman Zavarzin, ASD 
Vershbow observed that the Russian press may have been overly 
positive in its assessment of the September 17 announcement, 
focusing on the cancellation of the Program of Record rather 
than the new MD architecture.  While the new phased adaptive 
approach to MD does not pose a threat to Russia, there will 
likely continue to be missile defense elements in 
central-eastern Europe, with an SM-3 site in Poland if the 
Government of Poland agrees.  However, the physical 
characteristics of the new system are different from the old, 
and the U.S. believes Russia has no basis for concern that 
the system could threaten its strategic forces.  The new 
architecture will be more effective and be able to provide 
protection to vulnerable parts of Europe more quickly. 
Vershbow emphasized that the U.S. intends to be open about 
the new architecture, citing information available through 
congressional testimony and other open sources.  The U.S. aim 
is to make this a project for NATO because the system is 
designed to protect all of NATO's territory (starting in 
southeastern Europe, where the current threat is, but 
eventually covering all of NATO). 
20.  (C) ASD Vershbow affirmed the U.S. also views missile 
defense as an opportunity for cooperation with Russia against 
a common threat, noting Secretary of Defense Gates' support 
for cooperation on missile defense.  Vershbow emphasized to 
Zavarzin and Security Council Deputy Secretary Baluyevskiy 
that we should begin by implementing the Joint Data Exchange 
Center (JDEC), on which the Russians had postponed a decision 
until after the U.S. missile defense announcement.  Vershbow 
told Zavarzin and Baluyevskiy that linking radars could 
follow, which could then lead to broader areas of cooperation 
that could be implemented either bilaterally or within the 
NATO-Russia Council (NRC) framework.  He suggested that U.S. 
and Russian experts explore concrete ways to implement 
military technical cooperation, noting that such cooperation 
would be mutually beneficial and would send a strong signal 
to Iran that could help in resolving the nuclear issue. 
21.  (C) Zavarzin acknowledged that the Russian political 
elite has no illusions about missile defense and understands 
this was a U.S. decision with no quid pro quo expected from 
Russia.  Security Council Deputy Secretary Baluyevskiy noted 
that the system's planned capability to intercept ICBMs does 
raise some of the same concerns Russia has had before. 
Zavarzin agreed that we need to identify specific projects to 
work on together, but that Russia wants to ensure its voice 
will be heard.  Both Zavarzin and Baluyevskiy stressed the 
need to develop bilateral cooperation methods, potentially by 
linking existing U.S. and Russian early warning systems to 
gather and share information about threats.  They also asked 
whether the U.S. was prepared to go even farther, to include 
joint technology projects, which would of greater interest to 
Russia than information exchange. 
22.  (C) ASD Vershbow discussed the serious test that Iran's 
nuclear program will pose to both Russia and the U.S. in the 
coming months, noting that our interests coincide in many 
ways, even if they are not identical.  The U.S., he stated, 
wants to see if diplomacy can succeed, but we need to be 
realistic and be prepared for tougher measures if diplomacy 
fails.  Citing the recently exposed covert nuclear facility 
and the recent missile tests, Vershbow described the 
situation as urgent, and said that the U.S. was encouraged by 
President Medvedev's recent comment that sanctions might 
become necessary. 
23.  (C) ASD Vershbow mentioned that the Islamic world is 
very concerned about Iran's nuclear program (e.g., several of 
its Arab neighbors have asked the U.S. for Patriot missiles 
and other measures to protect them against Iranian attack). 
The ability of the U.S. and Russia to work together on the 
Iran challenge over the next few months will be just as 
important as our work on missile defense will be over the 
next few years.  ASD Vershbow stressed that if we fail to 
stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, we could have a 
"volatile, possibly explosive," situation in the Middle East. 
24.  (C) In their respective meetings, Duma Defense Committee 
Chairman Zavarzin and Security Council Deputy Secretary 
Baluyevskiy agreed that Iran is a concern, but said that 
Russia continues to work closely with them and that sanctions 
cannot be pursued until after diplomatic efforts have been 
made.  Deputy Foreign Minister Borodavkin expressed concern 
that sanctions could be ineffective (citing past experience 
in Iraq) and could have a negative impact on the wider 
Islamic world. 
25.  (C) ASD Vershbow stated in several meetings that our 
interaction in the post-Soviet space continues to be a 
sensitive issue and, if not handled carefully, could 
undermine recent gains in bilateral relations.  In this 
regard, President Medvedev's proposed amendment to the law on 
use of Russian forces overseas has raised many questions. 
Duma Defense Committee Chairman Zavarzin said that Russia 
will not interfere with the U.S. as it engages with nations 
in the region, and that there is no cause for concern 
regarding the legislation about use of Russian forces -- it 
is intended to protect Russian citizens living in those 
countries and that other countries have similar provisions. 
26.  (C) UKRAINE:  ASD Vershbow spoke of his visit to Ukraine 
immediately preceding his arrival in Moscow, and cited 
Ukrainian concerns about Russian respect for Ukraine's 
sovereignty and borders.  Vershbow stated that the U.S. 
continues to support the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security 
Assurances and Ukraine's freedom to choose its security 
relationships, and encourages Russia to reaffirm its 
adherence as well.  He suggested that President Medvedev's 
open letter to Ukraine had been counter-productive.  The U.S. 
favors close and mutually beneficial Russian-Ukrainian 
relations -- this is not a zero-sum game. 
27.  (C) Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin said that Ukraine is 
Russia's closest neighbor, and is a "key partner" in 
international activities.  Russia is not trying to influence 
Ukraine, but wants a stable Ukraine and a secure 
neighborhood.  He also said that Russia cannot ignore 
attempts to depict it as a major threat to Ukraine.  Foreign 
Minister Lavrov will be visiting Ukraine this week to meet 
with Ukrainian Acting Foreign Minister Khandogiy and there 
even is a possibility that Medvedev and Ukrainian President 
Yushchenko will meet at a summit of CIS countries shortly 
after that.  Karasin said that Russia wants to deal with 
Ukraine in a normal way and that Ukrainian citizens are the 
ones to decide what they want. 
28.  (C) GEORGIA:  Security Council Deputy Secretary 
Baluyevskiy, Zavarzin, and Karasin asked why the U.S. is 
providing military assistance to Georgia when it threatens 
stability in the Caucasus region.  This causes concern and 
Russia cannot allow renewed aggression against Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia.  ASD Vershbow explained that as a matter of 
principle, the U.S. will help Georgia protect its sovereignty 
and independence, but stated that the U.S. is not rearming 
Georgia, as Russia has repeatedly alleged.  Since the August 
2008 war, there has been no U.S. lethal assistance to 
Georgia; DoD funds were transferred to the State Department 
for humanitarian purposes.  In the short term, the U.S. is 
proceeding with great care and focusing on training, 
education, and helping prepare Georgia to participate in 
Afghanistan under the command of U.S. Forces.  At the same 
time, Georgia is a sovereign state with the right to 
self-defense.  We do not accept any arms embargo, and we may 
provide weapons to Georgia in the future. 
29.  (C) Zavarzin made a point of saying that Russia does not 
dispute Georgia's sovereignty, but it cannot allow new acts 
of aggression; a regional consensus is necessary.  Karasin 
said that, in Russia's view, the current Georgian leadership 
is irresponsible.  ASD Vershbow reiterated that the U.S. had 
made clear to Georgia that there is no military option 
regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia and that the Georgians 
need to take a long view on reintegration of the territories. 
 Karasin noted some successes in repairing relations since 
last August, including the Geneva talks that enable the 
Georgians to talk directly to the Abkhaz and Ossetians. 
Vershbow said that stability in the Caucasus and creating 
conditions to help improve Georgian-Russian relations is very 
important to the U.S. 
30.  (C) Karasin mentioned the EU independent report on the 
August 2008 conflict in Georgia, which had just been released 
on the afternoon of September 30.  ASD Vershbow mentioned 
that he looked forward to reading the report and stressed 
that even if we do not agree completely on the report's 
findings, we need to look ahead and promote stability in the 
region, including an international presence in the 
territories.  Karasin said that international presence in 
Abkhazia and South Ossetia must be discussed with the Abkhaz 
and the Ossetians (not the Russians).  Russia has "bilateral 
agreements" with them, and Russian border guards are 
protecting them to help restore stability. 
31.  (C) Karasin asked whether the U.S. intends to establish 
a military presence in Georgia by contributing personnel to 
the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM).  This would be a serious 
problem for Russia, as they believe it would send the wrong 
message to President Saakashvili that he could use force 
again.  ASD Vershbow said there has been lots of speculation 
on this subject that was not based on fact.  If the EUMM did 
make such a request in the future, the U.S. would consider 
it, but this would likely involve civilian monitors. 
Vershbow added that Russia needs to fully withdraw its forces 
from positions beyond the line of the outbreak of hostility, 
per the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement, since this non-compliance 
was a continuing source of tension.  Karasin insisted that 
Russia was in compliance, while acknowledging that the U.S. 
does not see it that way. 
32.  (C) EUROPEAN SECURITY TREATY:  In response to 
Baluyevskiy's inquiry about President Medvedev's proposed 
European Security Treaty, ASD Vershbow acknowledged there 
could be ways to improve the effectiveness of existing 
conflict-prevention mechanisms, but that the U.S. and most of 
our allies did not see a need for new structures or a new 
treaty.  However, the U.S. is ready to engage with Russia on 
this issue in the Corfu process and other fora. 
33.  (C) CENTRAL ASIA:  Karasin inquired about the Manas 
Transit Center and the numbers of U.S. military personnel 
that would be deployed under the new arrangement.  ASD 
Vershbow said that he did not have precise figures.  However, 
in contrast with the previous agreement, security for the 
facility is now being provided by the Kyrgyz, which reduced 
the U.S. presence somewhat. 
34.  (U) ASD Vershbow has cleared this cable.