2007-08-06 14:30:00
Mission USNATO
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DE RUEHNO #0445/01 2181430
O 061430Z AUG 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 07 USNATO 000445 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/06/2017


Classified By: Classified by U.S. HLTF Deputy Representative Jennifer L
aurendeau for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 07 USNATO 000445



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/06/2017


Classified By: Classified by U.S. HLTF Deputy Representative Jennifer L
aurendeau for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) Summary. The July 26 HLTF focused on discussion of
what the Allies, game plan should be for achieving key CFE
and related policy goals in the period prior to December 12,
when Russia,s threat to suspend implementation of CFE would
become operational. U.S. HLTF Deputy Jennifer Laurendeau
(serving as Head of Delegation in place of DAS Karin Look)
outlined in broad terms a concept for ending the deadlock
with Russia on fulfillment of Istanbul commitments and
ratification of Adapted CFE via a plan for parallel,
reciprocal actions by both NATO and Russia. She stressed
that any game plan for moving beyond the current deadlock
would need to be agreed and implemented as a unified Alliance
position. Several Allies offered initial reactions, and most
were positive.

-- Most Allies who spoke expressed support for the U.S.
"action for action" approach as a concrete and creative
concept for moving forward, though some (Canada, Czech
Republic, Romania) were uneasy that this could compromise
NATO,s longstanding support for the right of Georgia and
Moldova to choose whether to allow foreign forces on their

-- Many Allies questioned Russia,s goals, arguing it was not
clear that Russia was serious about saving the CFE Treaty.
Thus, they said, there was a risk inherent in the U.S.
concept, that NATO would find itself in the position of
having taken steps on ratification, while Russia took no
further action on the Istanbul commitments. None disagreed
with the U.S. rejoinder that regardless of what Russia,s
intentions might be, NATO,s interest lay in trying to find
a way forward that had the potential to preserve the benefits
of the CFE regime and secure implementation of remaining
Istanbul commitments.

-- Allies and the NATO International Staff (I.S.) welcomed
the opportunity to comment on the U.S. ideas before they were

broached with Russian authorities, asked for a readout of the
U.S. meeting with DFM Kislayk, and expressed the hope that
details of the U.S. approach would be provided on paper for
review in capitals.

2. (C) Other issues. In a tour de table on the Russian
notification of July 14 regarding its intention to suspend
CFE implementation in December, most Allies said they viewed
the current situation as primarily political requiring
engagement through dialogue, rather than legal steps. Many
endorsed a UK idea to explore NATO,s legal position and
options in the event Russia suspends on 12 December. Turkey
reported that in a bilateral exchange, Ukraine said Moscow
was pressuring them to support elimination of the flank
regime (Ukraine and Russia are the only CFE countries that
have both flank and other zonal limits in force on their
territory). Several Allies reported that Russia was
promoting the concept of small group discussions in Vienna;
Allies want to agree on a unified approach before responding.
End Summary.

HLTF: Announcement of Russian Suspension

3. (C) Allies agreed that the Netherlands, as Depositary, had
managed Russia,s July 14 suspension notification effectively
and that HLTF Deputies had been extremely efficient in
issuing NATO,s statement in response. All Allies agreed
suspension is not the same as withdrawal, but if Russia
actually suspends in December it will be a very serious
situation for the Treaty. Most viewed the current situation
as requiring a political rather than legal response. At the
same time, several Allies suggested NATO needed to actively
explore its legal position and options in the event Russia
suspends on 12 December. The UK opined Russia would be in
material breach after 12 December. Canada cautioned that
acquiescence to the Russian view that suspension is permitted
may forego legal rights with negative implications for other
Treaties. Several Allies suggested a discussion of legal
issues in the context of the next HLTF.

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HLTF: Contacts and Bilaterals - Russia,s Mixed Message
-------------- --------------

4. (C) HLTF Chair (Assistant Secretary General Martin
Erdmann) noted he had been approached by the Armenian
Ambassador with a warning of the collateral damage which
could result from a Russian suspension of CFE, namely a
potential arms race with the escalation of tensions in the
Caucasus. He also reported on the Russian presentation in
the NRC Ambassadorial meeting the previous day, with its call
for significant renegotiation of Adapted CFE provisions:
Russian authorities appeared to be sending a two-track
message on CFE. Russian representatives had reiterated
President Putin,s key themes about CFE: Russia was out of
patience with the current Treaty, which, they argued,
disadvantaged Russia. While Antonov and Buzhinskiy had
underscored Russia,s readiness to engage in dialogue,
including on Moldova and Georgia as well as CFE, with a view
to achieving entry into force of Adapted CFE (though they
rejected NATO,s linkage of Istanbul commitments to
ratification of Adapted CFE),Russia,s specific proposals
had focused on Moscow,s agenda for sweeping changes to the
Adapted CFE Treaty once it entered into force. This led
several Allies to question Russia,s true intentions (to save
CFE: or to pursue an appearance of dialogue) and it colored
their response to U.S. ideas on an "action for action"
approach (below).

5. (C) Several Allies (UK, Turkey, US directly, and Spain,
Italy and France indirectly) noted they had been contacted by
Russia with a request to participate in a small group in
Vienna to discuss key issues. Allies agreed to return to the
issue, and provide a unified reaction. Several observed that
the viability of the small group idea depended on the agenda,
level, and venue and expressed skepticism that a small group
in Vienna could resolve the core political issues in play on
CFE/Istanbul commitments, not least because the Russian JCG
Ambassador, Ulyanov, did not appear empowered to address

6. (C) Turkey reported on discussions with Russia and with
Ukraine. Ambassador Bayer (Director General of International
Security Affairs) noted that a planned bilateral meeting with
Russia had been postponed to August, but HLTF Rep Gun had
received a letter from the Russian Embassy regarding the
small group discussions that indicated the U.S., UK, Italy,
France and Spain had also been contacted. Gun reminded his
Russian counterpart that the flank regime was an integral
part of adapted CFE, noting an agreement of understanding
signed between Russia and Turkey in Istanbul. Bayer noted
that in bilateral discussions with Ukraine on July 19, the
Ukrainians indicated the Russians were pressuring them to
support Russia,s call for elimination of the flank regime
and pressuring Belarus to announce suspension of the CFE
Treaty. Ukraine and Russia are the only CFE countries with
multiple CFE sub zonal limits on their territory.

7. (C) Laurendeau shared information, per ref a, on CFE
discussions at Kennebunkport and in meetings that followed,
between U/S Burns and DFM Kislyak.

The way Ahead - Agreed NATO Priorities

8. (C) The main substantive focus of the HLTF and related
meetings, as anticipated in ref a, was an extended discussion
of what the Allies, game plan should be for achieving key
CFE and related policy goals in the period prior to December
12, when Russia,s threat to suspend implementation of CFE
would become operational. U.S team engaged Allies and the
NATO international staff on the margins (in meetings with
Turkey; UK/FR/Ger; Romania; Lithuania; and briefly, Latvia
and Canada as well as the I.S.) and in the HLTF plenary in
order to forge agreement on basic goals and priorities and
explain U.S. thinking on an "action for action" plan where,
by agreement, Allies would move forward on ratification of
Adapted CFE while, at the same time, Russia took concrete
steps to complete remaining Istanbul commitments, with a view
to achieving fulfillment of all Istanbul commitments by early
2008, which would provide the basis for ratification of
Adapted CFE by all 30 States Parties.

9. (C) Overall Priorities. There was general agreement in
the HLTF on basic priorities outlined in ref a guidance.
Discussion focused on how Allies could:

USNATO 00000445 003 OF 007

-- Achieve fulfillment of remaining Istanbul commitments on
Georgia and Moldova, which would create the conditions for
ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty by all 30 States
-- Avoid a situation where Russian implementation of the CFE
Treaty lapses;
-- Maintain the integrity of the CFE regime, including the

U.S. -- Action for Action

10. (C) In that context (by prearrangement with the chair)
Laurendeau suggested that Allies use the HLTF to brainstorm
on possible ways forward that might help break the current
deadlock and achieve those goals. She noted that the U.S.
would be meeting bilaterally with a Russian team in
Washington July 30-31, and that this would include a session
on CFE. The U.S. hoped it would be possible to elicit from
Allies some initial reactions to ideas we were developing in
advance of that meeting. She prefaced her presentation of
those ideas with a basic caveat:

-- As far as the U.S. was concerned, it was absolutely
critical for NATO to maintain a unified position on CFE.
Allies had stood together during successful CFE negotiations
and in the 8 years since Istanbul. She had no doubt that
Moscow found it remarkable that this solidarity had proven
unshakeable. That unity was a core strength that must be

-- In all Allied interventions that followed, this aspect of
U.S. thinking was resoundingly endorsed.

11. (C) Laurendeau then outlined the basic threads of the
"action-for-action," idea contained in ref a, arguing that
Allies needed to consider taking at face value the message we
had received from senior Russians in the last weeks,
including President Putin. That message was, rightly or
wrongly, that Russia believed it had done a great deal to
create the conditions that would make entry into force of
Adapted CFE possible, including fulfillment of most of the
Istanbul commitments in Georgia, and of one of the
commitments in Moldova. In the Russian analysis, that effort
had not been matched by NATO. Russian authorities had told
U.S. interlocutors that their priority was to achieve
movement by NATO on ratification of Adapted CFE.

-- Their message suggested that it would be an important
signal if even one Ally ratified the Treaty.

12. (C) Laurendeau observed that Allies, key goal was to
achieve fulfillment of the Istanbul commitments and thus lay
the basis for ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty by all
30 States Parties. Therefore, it seemed worthwhile to
consider whether it would be possible to craft an approach
where, to break the current impasse, both sides agreed to
take steps that would move us toward achievement of both sets
of priorities.

-- Would it be possible, she asked, to develop a plan where
Allies agreed to move forward on ratification of Adapted CFE,
and Russia agreed, in the same timeframe, to complete
remaining Istanbul commitments? For such a plan to work,
Allies would need to rely on the diversity of their political
systems: some Allies might be able to take publicly visible
steps toward ratification early on, while the U.S. system,
for example, had less flexibility. Allies would need to
agree in advance on who would move forward, and at what pace.

-- She noted for such an "action-for-action" approach to
succeed, specific timelines and benchmarks would be needed.
This was important to make clear that NATO,s position of
principle remained steadfast - fulfillment of all remaining
Istanbul commitments was still critical to create the
conditions for Adapted CFE to enter into force.

-- She also noted that in the context of agreement on such an
approach, it would be our expectation that Russia would not
suspend fulfillment of current CFE obligations.

13. (C) Allies immediately recognized the significance of
the U.S. idea, and most who spoke welcomed it as a creative
and concrete way forward. The "action for action" moniker

USNATO 00000445 004 OF 007

was an immediate hit, although the Germans suggested it might
be preferable to describe it as an "orchestrated" approach to
ratification. Allies, comments fell into three groups:

-- tentative support on the spot (UK, France, Germany,
Turkey, Slovak Republic, Italy, Spain, Norway, The
Netherlands, Belgium);

-- no immediate substantive comment (Greece simply said it
would carefully report the U.S. ideas to Athens; this was
also the approach of a number of allies who remained silent);

-- red flags (Czech Republic, Canada, Romania).

The supporters - who also have hard questions

14. (C) Comments by most supporters echoed two basic
themes: they agreed with the U.S. that some dynamic step by
NATO was needed to attempt to end the current impasse, and
that NATO should be seen to be trying to save the CFE Treaty
without abandoning support for Georgia and Moldova. Thus
they welcomed the action for action idea as an effort to find
a way forward that remained true to basic principles, but had
the promise of ending the deadlock. This did not/not mean,
however, that Allies in this group were blind to the
potential challenges of the idea. Indeed, they raised many
of the hard questions anticipated in ref a:

-- What would happen if NATO Allies moved forward on Adapted
CFE ratification, and Russia failed to fulfill the Istanbul
commitments? Wouldn,t this create an impossible political
situation for NATO? If there was no actual "action for
action", NATO would "lose it all", both the moral high ground
associated with Istanbul, and the Treaty. (Slovak Republic)

-- How could a plan where some Allies moved forward on
ratification quickly, and some did not, be framed in a way to
avoid the appearance of disunity? Will we end up with a
perception that there are good Allies and bad Allies?

-- Would the Russians sign up to an action for action
approach, given their attitude toward linkage of ratification
and fulfillment of the Istanbul commitments? (Italy)

-- How could Allies manage the process once the Treaty had
been sent to Parliaments? (several) There is a risk of long
gestation, with the Russians furious at the delay, for

15. (C) Germany and France (who together with the UK had
been briefed on the margins prior to the plenary) highlighted
the U.S. ideas as an important effort to end the current
impasse. French HLTF rep Camille Grand suggested that it
would be essential to establish redlines in order to frame
the "action for action" idea: Grand suggested that one
redline was obvious - no ally should deposit instruments of
ratification until all Istanbul commitments had been
fulfilled. But within that framework, Allies could proceed
with national processes.

16. (C) Turkey (Bayer also pre-briefed bilaterally by the
U.S.) welcomed the U.S. idea as the most concrete proposal
advanced, with the most possibilities of any idea yet. For
Turkey, Bayer underscored, the CFE Treaty and the flank
regime were a key component of security. The Istanbul
commitments were a basic point of principle. Turkey did not
want to lose either. Bayer said he understood why the U.S.
had chosen a brainstorming approach, given the sensitivity of
the issues. He suggested that the U.S. engage the Russians
to see if there was a possibility to build on the action for
action idea, and then provide Allies with a readout and
further details, set out in a paper. Norwegian rep Lars
Loken echoed similar themes, noting it was a valuable
approach that focuses on the heart of the matter.

The Uneasy Three

17. (C) Of the three vocal skeptics, Romania was the least
close-minded; Czech Republic the most worried; and Canada the
most voluble. Only the Czech Rep Kuchynova briefly hinted
that it would be better if Allies could think further about

USNATO 00000445 005 OF 007

the U.S. idea before its presentation to the Russians, but he
did not press the point, and he did not contradict Turkey,s
action plan specifically. Common themes emerged:

-- Action for action supposes that Russia actually wants to
retain the CFE regime. Based on Russian comments, including
in the NRC, it appears Russia does not want to maintain
CFE/Adapted CFE in anything approaching its current form. In
the context of repeated Russian statements that it wants to
change CFE fundamentally, including by dropping the flank
regime, how can Parliaments be expected to ratify the Adapted
Treaty? (Romania)

-- Russia says it is willing to engage in dialogue, but its
idea of dialogue is to advance unreasonable, maximalist
proposals that would undercut the Treaty. In fact, Russia
has so far refused to engage on any of the creative ideas
NATO has advanced for example, there,s no movement from
Moscow on the U.S. idea of a multinational replacement for
the current Russian PKF in Moldova. (Romania/Canada)

-- Russia is engaging in a blame game and NATO shouldn,t
give in to the Russian proposition that NATO has somehow "not
done enough". In fact, Russia could have the Adapted CFE
Treaty in force today simply by fulfilling remaining Istanbul
commitments. NATO should not panic, but should remain firm
in its position and principles, and let Russia make its
choice. Russia actually needs CFE more than NATO does, if
its stated security concerns are serious. There would be
time after December 12 to consider other steps. (Canada)

18. (C) Comment: from body language around the table, it
was clear that these basic questions about Russian intentions
had broad resonance. The difference between skeptics and
supporters appears to lie not in their worries about the
potential risks of the U.S. idea which mirror questions
outlined in ref a but in their assessment of Russia. On the
other hand, none of the skeptics wants to lose the CFE
Treaty; and these three are not/not among those who harbor
any hopes for a successor regime, should CFE fail. End

U.S. response

19. (C) Laurendeau expressed appreciation for all the
reactions provided, and said they would be treated as such an
initial response. She said the U.S. would provide a speedy
readout on our exchange with the Russians and would seek to
respond to Turkey,s suggestion for a set of ideas on paper
that could be thoughtfully considered in capitals. Drawing
on ref a talking points, Laurendeau responded to some of the
major concerns raised:

-- Context: Laurendeau agreed that Russian fulfillment of
all Istanbul commitments would have avoided the current
impasse, but the fact was that at present, we faced a
deadlock. She did not see a reason to suppose that Russia
would fulfill remaining Istanbul commitments in the near term
in the absence of a creative diplomatic initiative.
Laurendeau observed that waiting until after Russia,s CFE
implementation had lapsed in order to move forward struck her
as a very risky strategy: it would not be easy to maintain
the integrity of the CFE regime once Russia had ceased to
implement it, and the diplomatic context would be more

-- Russia: Laurendeau agreed that Russian proposals calling
for major changes to the Adapted CFE regime were unhelpful;
it was hard to tell Russia,s real goals from their rhetoric,
particularly after listening to comments in the NRC. It was
ratification of Adapted CFE not changes to it that had been
the focus in senior bilateral exchanges with the U.S. We
hoped that reflected Russia,s actual goals, but this would
only become clear through engagement.

-- Process/Redlines: Responding to France,s comment,
Laurendeau observed that redlines alone would not be enough
to guide the ratification elements of action for action. It
would be important for Allies to review their national
processes and agree together on a plan for going forward.
She noted that the U.S. took seriously the concern that
diversity of action could be read as disunity; this would
need to be managed publicly, and Allies would need an
agreement internally on how/when individual allies would go

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forward. In this respect it would be useful to share
information on national ratification procedures.

-- Categories of Allies/Risks: Laurendeau agreed that it
would be essential to ensure against any perception that
those Allies who moved quickly to ratify Adapted CFE were
good, and others something less. This underscored the
importance of an agreed plan of action within the Alliance.
She agreed that Allies would need to consider how to deal
with a situation where Allies had moved forward on Adapted
CFE ratification, and Russia had stalled on remaining
Istanbul commitments. She noted that her guidance for this
meeting specifically highlighted this concern, which we
shared. It would be an important question to return to in
the context of developing a unified plan.

Other Issues

20. (SBU) Seminars: Germany emphasized that the time
pressure resulting from the impending suspension requires
Alliance initiative through a mixture of informal and formal
meetings. Informal meetings could be used to assess where
there is room for maneuver; formal meetings, such as the JCG,
could be used to formalize any consensus positions. The
Germans are proposing an informal seminar (as listed in the
Alliance position prior to the Extraordinary Conference)
among all 30 States Parties on October 1-2 at a resort
outside Berlin to be attended at the Deputy Foreign Minister
level with the aim of addressing Russian issues and concerns.
(Note: The HLTF ran long and the U.S. Del was not able to
provide feedback, as per ref a, on the German food for
thought paper that mentions this seminar. A response will be
provided separately. End note)

Meetings on the Margins

21. (C) Meetings on the Margins. Laurendeau and team held a
number of meetings with Allies primarily to preview the U.S.
action for action joint approach prior to presenting the
concept at the HLTF, but also to discuss other key issues:

-- UK, July 25: UK Rep Tissot expressed general support for
the action-for-action idea and urged that the U.S. be as
transparent as possible with Allies regarding contacts with
Russia. He outlined UK concerns about the German-proposed
1-2 October CFE seminar in Berlin and the 24 October special
FSC meeting recently approved in Vienna. Tissot was pleased
to hear that the U.S. shared the UK,s skepticism about
informal seminars at 30 or 30 as a way to move forward with
Russia on key CFE issues. Tissot observed that the German
paper on its October seminar went beyond the informal meeting
previously proposed by Germany; the UK would like to see the
agenda focused on a few key CFE-specific issues.

-- Turkey, July 26. At the U.S.-Turkey pre-HLTF meeting
Ambassador Bayer emphasized the need for intensive dialogue
between Russia, the Alliance, and other States Parties in
seeking ratification of a/CFE and fulfillment of the Istanbul
commitments. Bayer was unambiguous in making clear that
A/CFE without the flank was a non-starter. He emphasized
that Allies should not refer to the flank as a Turkey/Norway
issue; this was an Alliance issue and the Alliance must be
united in defending the interests of its members. Regarding
the potential for discussing modifications when and if the
Adapted CFE Treaty comes into force, Ambassador Bayer
specified the progression must be fulfillment of Istanbul
commitments first, followed by ratification and entry into
force of a/CFE, and then, and only then, would it be possible
for a State to request a review within the provisions of the
Treaty. It would be critical not to give the impression of
negotiating a new Treaty.

-- Romania, July 26. Most of the discussion with the
Romanian Rep Mikula focused on the U.S. thinking on a
possible way forward through the "action for action" plan.
Mikula was hesitant about brainstorming but expressed
appreciation for the fact that the U.S. had taken its ideas
to NATO for a discussion. He suggested that Russia might
not be ready to negotiate seriously until after 12 Dec, when
the full impact of its suspension had become obvious.
Romania does not recommend "rushing" into action without
concrete steps by Russia. Laurendeau observed that in the

USNATO 00000445 007.4 OF 007

absence of diplomatic initiative, there was a real risk that
we would close out 2007 with Istanbul commitments unfulfilled
and Russian implementation of the CFE Treaty lapsed. This
would not help NATO, Moldova, or Georgia. She concurred that
Alliance unity remained the top priority. But at the moment,
it appeared to her that given differences of view among
Allies, keeping the Alliance together would requires movement
at some level to find a way forward that does not violate the
core principles.

22. (C) Quad Meeting (U.S., UK, France, Germany). At the
UK-hosted Quad prior to the HLTF, discussion centered on the
HLTF agenda topics legal interpretation of the Russian
suspension; active engagement of Russians in bilateral
discussions; an initial, generally positive, reaction to the
U.S. proposal for a way ahead; and a brief run down of the
German-proposed Berlin seminar. Tissot distributed a summary
of the UK,s current legal assessment which indicates that
Russian suspension on 12 Dec will constitute a material
breach of the CFE Treaty and that it would be advisable for
Allies to make this clear. Although all others indicated
material breach implications were still under review, there
was general consensus that the current situation requires
primarily political responses.

23. (C) In looking forward, German Rep Biontino opined that
Russia has moved beyond its a/CFE ratification agenda and now
has developed a number of additional concerns that must be
addressed. French Rep Grand disagreed: Russia does have
additional concerns, but the fact they provided a 1 July 2008
timeline for ratification demonstrates a "reasonable"
expectation for negotiating a solution, which was unlikely if
Russia had a laundry list of additional priorities. Grand
suggested that in addition to Istanbul commitments and a/CFE
ratification it was necessary to formulate a comprehensive
package to address other concerns such as the Baltics
(possibly providing written statements about the conditions
under which they would join Adapted CFE) and the possibility
of CSBMs to address the issue of substantial combat forces.
UK Rep Tissot focused on concern about Russian forum shopping
a thinly veiled segue into concerns about the German seminar
idea. Laurendeau used the session to preview the U.S. action
for action plan and her intent to outline these ideas at the
HLTF. Germany called the concept an "orchestrated" approach
to ratification that included different concrete steps with
the same song sheet. Laurendeau said agreed orchestration
would be a key to ensuring a unified NATO message. France
echoed the importance of Alliance unity and noted that
France, as Germany, has procedures in its ratification
process such as a legal analysis that could publicly
demonstrate movement on ratification. The UK proposed the
need to review Quad methodology and coordinate more frequent
and lengthier meetings to enable more detailed discussions on
the way forward.

Next HLTF Meeting

24. (SBU) HLTF Deputies will meet regularly throughout the
summer break. Dates for the next HLTF meeting were left open
with the IS proposing late September (20 or 27) and some
calling for early September (6 or 13). This will be
discussed at the HLTF Deputies meeting on 7 August.