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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05HELSINKI1116 2005-10-19 06:24:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Helsinki
Cable title:  

FINNISH PRESIDENT HALONEN'S TRAVELS TO RUSSIA,

Tags:   PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM SENV FI AJ EU RS LG UK EN AM 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HELSINKI 001116 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/06/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM SENV FI AJ EU RS LG UK EN AM
SUBJECT: FINNISH PRESIDENT HALONEN'S TRAVELS TO RUSSIA,
GEORGIA, ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN

REF: A. MOSCOW 12264


B. HELSINKI 873

Classified By: PolChief Gregory Thome, Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: In late Sept. and early Oct., President
Halonen has made official visits to Russia and to Georgia,
Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Russia, the GOF sees bilateral
progress on environmental issues and border security, in part
thanks to the good relations between the two presidents.
However, Putin complained rather bitterly to Halonen that
while he wants to focus on his domestic economic agenda, he's
constantly distracted by "neighborhood" problems like unrest
in the Caucusus and boundary disputes with the Baltics. In
the GOF's view, those issues remain problematic because the
GOR has not initiated longterm policies aimed at resolving
them. In the Caucusus, Halonen's agenda included discussions
of Armenia's relationship with Turkey and with the EU;
Georgia's improving relationship with Ukraine and its
tensions with Russia; and free and fair elections in
Azerbaijan. End Summary.



2. (SBU) On Oct. 5, Presidential Chief of Staff Jarmo
Viinanen and Special Advisor Paivi Kairamo-Hella briefed DCM
and PolChief on Finnish President Tarja Halonen's official
visits to St. Petersburg on September 22 and to Georgia,
Armenia, and Azerbaijan Sept. 27-29.

Finland/Russia: Increasing Environment and Border Cooperation


--------------------------



--------------------------




3. (C) In Russia, Halonen's meetings with President Vladimir
Putin represented another in a series of what Viinanen
characterized as productive and increasingly cordial meetings
aimed at furthering cooperative initiatives, rather than at
addressing areas of controversy. The two presidents
inaugurated a wastewater treatment facility as part of a
joint Swedish-Finnish-Russian effort to improve water quality
in the Baltic Sea. The plant -- plans for which date back to
Soviet times -- will treat the wastewater of 750,000 St.
Petersburg residents that previously flowed into the Baltic
untreated. Finland has made substantial progress in focusing
GOR attention on environmental issues and, in Viinanen's
view, "once Putin became seized with the issue, things
started to happen." The health of the Baltic Sea remains a
crucial regional issue, although one that has become less
contentious over time as a bilateral irritant between Finland
and Russia. For example, Viinanen noted, Putin no longer
accuses the Finns of seeking to "hamper Russia's economic
development" when they raise environmental concerns.
However, he added, the GOF remains very concerned about
potential oil spills, particularly since Russia has made
clear that its use of the Baltic as a major export route for
crude will remain non-negotiable.



4. (C) On border security, the GOF also continues to make
progress in theory -- if not in practice. According to
Viinanen, Putin told Halonen that Russia remains committed to
full cooperation and wants to see all border-crossing
stations fully functional. Unfortunately, the opening of the
newest, best-equipped facility remains thwarted because
Russia has failed to improve the road to it. Viinanen said
he expects Russia to find the funds, not only because of
Putin's intense interest in improving both security and
commerce, but also because high oil prices contribute to the
GOR's ability to find the necessary funding.

Russia and Its Neighbors: Putin Complains


--------------------------




5. (C) Turning from bilateral issues to Russia's neighbors,
Viinanen lamented that Putin appears unable or unwilling to
develop strategies to resolve disputes with the Baltics and
elsewhere. Putin expressed to Halonen bitter frustration
over his perception that he is continually being distracted
from his efforts to expand the domestic economy and improve
Russians' standard of living by boundary disputes and unrest
on Russia's borders, Viinanen said. A border treaty with
Estonia remains unsigned and, as he has in the past (Ref B),
Putin put all the blame for this on the Estonian legislature.
Likewise, Viinanen said Putin does not view the roles Russia
has played in the disputed areas of Georgia as destabilizing
or counterproductive, and seemed unwilling to abandon
practices such as issuing passports to people in those areas.
(Comment: We recognize here that Viinanen's views do not
track exactly with information reported in Reftel A. End
Comment.)



6. (C) Viinanen's general assessment was that Russia is in
large part responsible for many of its "neighborhood
problems," mainly because it has not developed a coherent
strategy for resolving them. Each issue, regardless of the
region, requires a long term political process that must be
driven by Putin in order to be resolved, Viinanen opined;
unless Putin is willing to put such processes in place, he
will continue to find himself distracted from his domestic
agenda. If there was a bright spot, Viinanen did report that
Putin remains extremely encouraged about his rapidly
improving relationship with Latvia's President
Vike-Frieburga. In response to our question, Viinanen also
said that Putin did not raise with Halonen the issue of
Russian minorities in the Baltics.

Finland and Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan


--------------------------




7. (SBU) On the heels of her St. Petersburg trip, Halonen
made her first official visit to the Caucusus. This trip
comes as the EU looks to establish a policy of engagement
with the "new neighborhood," and as the GOF begins to explore
its own options within that wider framework. Finland took a
particularly active role in working with the Baltic countries
prior to their EU accession, although Viinanen cautioned that
now is far too early to envision such robust Nordic
cooperation in the Caucuses. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbiajan
are "too far away" and far too different from one another for
the GOF to say what its or the EU's specific role in those
countries will be at this point.



8. (C) While in Armenia, Halonen suggested the country's
leadership look forward, rather than backward, regarding its
relationship with Turkey. Continued hostility toward Turkey
will ultimately prove counterproductive to Armenia's
interests, especially as concerns its relationship with the
EU. According to Viinanen, President Kocharian acknowledged
this, but noted that a radicalized Armenian diaspora
continues to pressure the GOA regarding Turkey. In
Azerbaijan, Finnish press reports reported that Halonen
openly called on the government to ensure free and fair
elections. To us, Viinanen suggested that both the
government and the opposition have "taken a lesson from
Ukraine" which may not necessarily be positive: the GOAJ
recognizes that widespread allegations of fraud could prompt
an uprising such as occurred in Ukraine, he said;
unfortunately, the opposition also recognizes this, and
President Aliyev expressed concerns to Halonen that it might
seek to make false claims of fraud in order to prompt a
popular movement.



9. (C) On Georgia, Viinanen lauded the GOG's ties with
Ukraine and expressed the hope that reform efforts in both
countries would prove mutually reinforcing. President
Saakasvili complained angrily to Halonen about Russian
meddling in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, alleging that Moscow
is intent on annexing the territories. However, Viinanen
noted that Saakasvili expressed willingness to entertain
ideas of limited autonomy or other flexible measures to
resolve the problems.

Comment


--------------------------




10. (C) While Halonen's (and Viinanen's) impressions of
Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia are those of relative
newcomers to the region, we are encouraged by the GOF's
efforts to establish dialogue. As Viinanen noted, it is far
to early to expect a Baltic-like Finnish engagement in the
region, but as the EU develops its policy toward the
neighborhood, any leadership role the Finns might wish to
play would be welcome. As for Russia, we note that the
themes addressed differ little from those Putin and Halonen
discussed during his late July visit here (Ref B).
Nevertheless, while some have criticized Halonen for
eschewing controversial bilateral issues, her efforts to move
forward in mutually beneficial areas have built confidence on
a bilateral and personal level. End Comment.
MACK