VZCZCXRO2827 OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV DE RUEHFR #7755/01 3461305 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 121305Z DEC 06 FM AMEMBASSY PARIS TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3715 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0399
1. (S) SUMMARY: EUR A/S Dan Friedâ€™s December 7 meeting with presidential diplomatic advisor Maurice Gourdault-Montagne (MGM) focused largely on Russia, with France in a defensive posture. MGM raised the aborted Putin-Chirac dinner on the margins of the NATO Riga Summit, saying it had been instigated by Russia, and portrayed France as having attempted to steer in a way compatible with Latvian interests. In contrast to French Political Director Araud (septel), he showed reluctance to see the Kremlinâ€™s hand in the Litvinenko poisoning, preferring to ascribe it to rogue elements. MGM claimed to support Georgian independence while suggesting that NATO Article 5 obligations precluded Georgian NATO membership. On Kosovo, he reviewed Franceâ€™s plans to persuade the EU to agree to offer Serbia an SAA agreement not linked to fulfillment of its ICTY obligations but worried above all about Putinâ€™s explicit threat to veto a UN Security Resolution mandating independence; there was a risk of instability and partition if the West did not exercise sufficient care in managing the Russians. Fried countered that the West needed to be prepared to proceed in extremis without the Russians, and warned against allowing the Russians to hold up a decision through the threat of a veto.
2. (C) SUMMARY CONT: On other issues, MGM reviewed the Franco-German proposal for a review of Turkeyâ€™s implementation of its Ankara Protocol commitments between 2007 and 2009, assured Fried that France wanted to avoid a train wreck, but insisted it was incumbent on the Turks to make a gesture. Fried reminded MGM of the strategic importance of keeping Turkey tied to EU; MGM agreed in principle but insisted Turkey had to play by the EUâ€™s rules and noted the difficulties of managing domestically public sentiment against Turkey. Fried and MGM agreed that France and the U.S. had worked well together at the NATO Riga Summit. END SUMMARY.
3. (C) EUR A/S Daniel Fried, accompanied by the Ambassador and POL Deputy (notetaker), met December 7 with President Chiracâ€™s diplomatic advisor (NSA-equivalent) Maurice Gourdault-Montagne (MGM) to discuss a number of European issues that revolved largely around Russia. MGM was joined by Presidency Middle East advisor Dominique Boche and strategic affairs advisor Laurent Bili.
Putin-Chirac at Riga
4. (C) Noting at the outset that he had been directly involved in the aborted Putin-Chirac dinner on the margins of the NATO summit, MGM assured Fried that French actions had been above board. Kremlin advisor Pridhodko had originally proposed that Putin meet Chirac privately at a Paris airport November 29 in order to express his birthday wishes (MGM cited Putinâ€™s meeting in Hannover with former Chancellor Schroeder as a precedent). France had agreed, while noting that the dates coincided with the Riga Summit. Pridhodko suggested Riga, which France dutifully vetted with the Latvians with the understanding that they would have to host such a dinner, and assuring the Latvians that France was prepared to say â€œnoâ€ to the Russians if a meeting would in any way cause them embarrassment. The Latvians were prepared to proceed, so long as the Russians also agreed to a bilateral meeting, which MGM conveyed to Pridhodko. Pridhodko had suggested that this could be â€œdifficultâ€ given negative Russian public opinion toward Latvia. The Latvians told MGM that the Russians had refused to meet at the official palace or residence, but were considering the Latvian cultural center. MGM said he had encouraged the Russians to accept the last offering, and they had proceeded as if it might be acceptable. Late Tuesday, however, they balked, apparently because the center was located about 200m from the Latvian museum of occupation.
5. (C) MGM concluded his presentation with the argument that such a meeting would have been positive for Russian-Latvian relations and would have helped to blur dividing lines between NATO and Russia. He complained over Latviaâ€™s going â€œpublicâ€ with the cancellation by querying NATO SYG Hoop de Scheffer as to whether â€œwe are allowed to receiveâ€ the Russian president. He commented that, had they remained silent, the cancellation would have been a non-event. Fried countered that the Latvians had been right to inform NATO and thus avoid a surprise. He contrasted the Russiansâ€™ clumsiness in managing the dinner with the Latviansâ€™ transparency, suggesting that it was time for the Russians to accept the independence of the Baltic states. He added pointedly that the U.S. would no longer accept putative Russian concerns about Latvian treatment of their citizens at a time when they were still rounding up Georgians on the
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basis of ethnicity. MGM commented meekly that the timing had not been right for the visit and agreed that the Latvian government no longer had a problem of non-citizen ethnic Russians.
6. (S) Fried commented that the short-term trend inside Russia was negative, noting increasing indications that the UK investigation into the murder of Litvinenko could well point to some sort of Russian involvement. MGM called attention to Chiracâ€™s statement encouraging the Russians to cooperate in the investigation. He wondered aloud who might have given the order, but speculated the murder probably involved a settling of accounts between services rather than occurring under direct order from the Kremlin. Fried, noting Putinâ€™s attention to detail, questioned whether rogue security elements could operate, in the UK no less, without Putinâ€™s knowledge. Describing the current atmosphere as strange, he described the Russians as increasingly self-confident, to the point of arrogance.
7. (C) Fried, noting he had discussed Georgia the previous evening with MFA Political Director Gerard Araud (septel), said it was important to support Georgian sovereignty against Russian pressure for three reasons: the situation overall in Georgia was improving under Saakashviliâ€™s leadership; violation of Georgian territorial integrity would set a dangerous precedent; and Germany and Central and Eastern Europe had a strong interest in ensuring that gas and oil pumped from Azerbaijan and Central Asia did not travel exclusively through pipelines owned or controlled by Russia. MGM responded that France supported Georgiaâ€™s independence but wondered how to accomplish this within existing structures. The heart of NATO was Article 5, and it was doubtful that NATO would declare war on Russia over Georgia; it was therefore important to bypass Article 5 and find a â€œspecific wayâ€ that did not involve NATO membership. If Georgia joins, Armenia may follow. Even in the case of Turkey, was its Kurdish problem one for Europeans, MGM asked.
8. (C) Fried assured MGM that the U.S. was not seeking membership for Georgia soon, but it was important not to close the door in order to continue to promote Georgian reform and development. It was incumbent on the West to support Georgian sovereignty and maintain a united front against Russia, he argued. He related that he had urged Saakashvili not to seek crises with Russia, since crisis worked only for Russia, and time was on Georgiaâ€™s side so long as it moved quietly. In five years, a burgeoning Georgian economy had the potential to dramatically change the politics of the region. MGM agreed in principle, but suggested one could differ on ways and means.
Serbia and Kosovo
9. (C) Fried explained that the U.S. had decided to offer PFP to Serbia as a means of supporting democratic forces in the upcoming elections; President Tadic had made a strong case for Serbiaâ€™s Euro-Atlantic future. Similar considerations had prompted the U.S. to support Ahtisaariâ€™s recommendation to postpone tabling his proposals on Kosovo status. But it was critical to move quickly after January 21. Additional delay would encourage the Serbs and others into thinking the West felt intimidated; it was time to push onward to supervised independence. Fried said that while Russia could be expected to cause difficulties, in the end he believed it would abstain on a UNSCR, although he could not be certain. What was certain was that the Russians must not be allowed to believe that the threat of a veto will work, because they would exploit any opening. The West therefore had to send the signal that it was prepared to move without them if necessary, because no signal would be interpreted as tacit acquiescence in Russiaâ€™s raising the bar. This was a terrible option, but paralysis was worse.
10. (C) MGM reviewed the history of French-Serbian relations (back to the Salonika Front of WWI, on which MGMâ€™s grandfather had served), judged PFP as a positive offer, and said Chirac had proposed to Merkel that the EU move to a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia, even in the event of insufficient ICTY cooperation. Merkel had initially responded negatively, citing Tadicâ€™s failure to request it, but France continued to believe that offering SAA could make a difference in the January elections. If the Germans were not on board by early January, France would move on its own to propose SAA. As for the Ahtisaari proposals, MGM said Putin had told the French â€œRussia will not hesitate
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to veto any solution that does not enjoy the agreement of all the stakeholders.â€ MGM urged great caution in moving forward, citing Putinâ€™s purported concerns about the risks of a partition and a merging of the north with Serbia and the south with Albania, leading potentially to a radicalized Muslim state in the heart of Europe.
11. (C) Fried responded that the Serbs and Albanians had been told that Kosovo would be independent, and that it would be a mistake to turn back. Perhaps the Russians were bluffing, but even if they were not, wavering would lead to disaster, beginning with riots by Kosovars that risked turning KFOR into an occupying force and could led to the very radicalization we had successfully avoided so far. MGM said France was not advocating further delay, but was nonetheless concerned that independence could have unintended consequences. Public opinion could change, and Russia might become yet more irrational in the run-up to legislative and presidential elections. Fried agreed on the desirability of negotiating a UN Security Council Resolution that would be acceptable to the Russians -- perhaps even leaving out the word â€œindependenceâ€ -- but the West needed to be prepared in extremis to move forward without Russian support. Russia would seize on any paralysis to try to raise the bar. MGM agreed in principle, but urged again finding ways to â€œcoddleâ€ Russia.
12. (C) During a discussion cut short by a summons from President Chirac, Fried asked MGM how France planned to avoid a Turkey-EU train wreck. MGM said France supported Turkey, but Turkey needed to play by EU rules and fulfill its commitments. It was not the EUâ€™s fault that the UN Cyprus plan had not been approved by referendum, but this could not be used as an excuse for not implementing the Ankara Protocol. It was critical that Turkey â€œstart to implementâ€ the protocol through a gesture. MGM said that Chirac and Merkel had agreed (on the basis of the Commission proposal) not to open eight chapters and not to close any other chapters; but they had also agreed to insist on a review of Turkish implementation -- to serve as the basis for a further EU decision -- in the time frame between a 2007 Commission report and 2009 European parliamentary elections. Although Erdogan had told Merkel not to expect any further Turkish gestures, MGM nonetheless hoped the Turks would find a way, as they had so often in the past, to do something at the last minute.
13. (C) Fried described the U.S. approach of encouraging Turkey to respond constructively, expressed the hope that the EU would not be too one-sided in its judgment of the Ankara Protocol implementation, but reminded MGM that the EU also had not followed through on its promises (which MGM hotly denied). Fried continued that the U.S. wanted to be helpful but was avoiding taking a public stance. He reiterated that the stakes were high, given Turkeyâ€™s strategic value.
14. (C) This message was cleared by A/S Fried.
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