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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09PARIS1563 2009-11-24 15:46:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Paris
Cable title:  

FRANCE GROWS CLOSER TO RUSSIA: OPPORTUNITIES FOR

Tags:   PGOV PREL MASS GG PL RU FR 
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VZCZCXRO7260
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #1563/01 3281546
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241546Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7599
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 PARIS 001563 

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL MASS GG PL RU FR
SUBJECT: FRANCE GROWS CLOSER TO RUSSIA: OPPORTUNITIES FOR
DIVERGENCE AND CONVERGENCE WITH U.S. INTERESTS

REF: A. PARIS 01529

B. PARIS 01544

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission, Mark Pekala, Reasons 1.4(b),(d)
.



1. (C//NF) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: Franco-Russian relations are
growing closer and more stable, driven by France's
increasingly pragmatic approach toward Moscow and desire to
take the lead in shaping European relations with Russia.
Bilateral exchanges have grown more intense, "dense," and
frequent, with an evolution toward business ties as the
motivating factor, say French diplomats. President Sarkozy's
push to improve relations with Russia has quickened the tempo
of engagement, and Moscow appears eager to strengthen the
partnership. Moscow initially viewed Sarkozy with some
skepticism, but now sees him as "someone who understands
realpolitik," according to longtime Russian Political
Counselor in Paris, Artem Studennikov. France's deepening
dialogue with Russia and growing pragmatism bring policy
choices -- on issues such as arms sales, Georgia, and a new
European security architecture. They present the possibility
of increased divergence with the United States but also the
potential for Washington and Paris to consult more closely
and act in tandem to incentivize better Russian actions. The
French press has chided President Sarkozy as evolving from
"Sarkozy, the American" to "Sarkozy, the Russian;" our view
is that Sarkozy is primarily an energetic pragmatist seeking
to put Paris on the first rung of world leaders. END SUMMARY
AND COMMENT.

FRENCH-RUSSIAN RELATIONS: FULL-STEAM AHEAD


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

-



2. (C//NF) In a series of meetings in November, French
government officials, policy analysts, and Russian, Georgian,
and Polish diplomats responded with a unanimous bottom line
to poloffs' questions regarding how French policy toward
Russia has changed under Sarkozy and where it is headed:
Franco-Russian relations have grown closer under Sarkozy, and
an increasingly pragmatic approach by Paris, often driven by
economic goals, will continue to strengthen ties. Since
Sarkozy took office, Franco-Russian bilateral exchanges have
grown more intense, "dense," and frequent, according to MFA
Russia DAS Florence Ferrari. Ferrari told poloffs on
November 10 that the French approach under Sarkozy has
changed because Sarkozy himself is eager to show progress in
the relationship. He also "reacts strongly to crises,"
Ferrari noted, adding that Sarkozy believes crises require
action, whereas his predecessor (Chirac) took a more cautious
approach. This activist approach led Sarkozy to take a
leadership role in the war in Georgia, Ferrari argued.
Ferrari, along with MFA Russia Desk officers Arnaud Migoux
and Madeleine Courant, pointed out that the upcoming Year of
France in Russia and Year of Russia in France "is a sign that
France and Russia are growing closer strategically."



3. (C//NF) Isabelle Facon of the Paris-based Foundation for
Strategic Research told poloffs on November 9 that the French
have not adopted a "grand strategy" toward Russia. Instead,
their approach to Russia has become "increasingly pragmatic"
and is comprised of "small pieces." French-Russian relations
are now more "fluid," and "economic interests have more
importance" than they did under Chirac, she argued.
Moreover, she continued, Sarkozy believes that "an angry
Russia is not good for European security," hence Sarkozy's
commitment to engagement of Moscow.



4. (C//NF) Whatever Russia does, however, Paris will continue
to regard Moscow with some distrust, Facon noted -- a
sentiment that was echoed by French government officials.
Facon also noted, however, that Russia remains suspicious of
France's closeness, under Sarkozy, to the United States.
France appears less "independent" (in other words, less
anti-American) under Sarkozy, Facon said. "Now that the
French have reintegrated into NATO and they have a sort of
rapprochement with Washington, they appear less predictable
to the Russians," she remarked. In response to an inquiry by
poloffs, Facon admitted that public skepticism in France
about Russia will not necessarily constrain French foreign
policy. The French popular press is fairly unified in its
critical coverage of Russia; Chechnya, she said, played a
large role in establishing this trend, and the war in Georgia
also sparked a negative reaction in France.



5. (C//NF) Polish Embassy First Secretary Krzysztof Rozek
spoke on November 9 with poloffs about what he called the
"privileged relations" that Russia enjoys with France, which
he dated to 2003, in the run-up to the war in Iraq. He
emphasized, however, that French-Russian ties under Sarkozy

PARIS 00001563 002 OF 005


have grown deeper, more stable, and more wide-ranging. Rozek
described foreign policy under Sarkozy as a "little
revolution," with significant changes in the French approach
toward Russia. The Poles view French policy toward Moscow as
motivated increasingly by economic profit -- in particular,
opening new markets -- and by France's desire to play the
role of a great power. The French appear increasingly
unwilling to criticize Moscow as readily as they criticize
Washington, he added.



6. (C//NF) Drawing on his eight-and-a-half years of service
in the Russian Embassy in Paris -- under Russian Presidents
Yeltsin, Putin, and Medvedev -- Political Counselor Artem
Studennikov told poloffs on November 12 that he has witnessed
a "constant progression" in Franco-Russian ties. According
to Studennikov, Franco-Russian rapprochement began, slowly,
in November 2000, during former President Putin's first trip
to France. (Relations had cooled considerably in 1999 and
into 2000, following Russia's actions in Chechnya, he noted.)
In 2001 France and Russia launched their first annual
bilateral "seminar" on joint economic projects, and in 2002
they began a 2-plus-2 strategic dialogue. (Russia is one of
only two countries -- the United States is the other -- with
which France has established such dialogue.) Studennikov
noted that relations advanced rapidly in 2003, as Russia and
France joined forces to oppose the war in Iraq. Before
Sarkozy took office, the Russians viewed him skeptically,
Studennikov remarked. They considered him a "big" supporter
of the Atlantic alliance, and took note of his criticisms of
Russia during his presidential campaign. After he took
office, the Russians learned that Sarkozy is a "very
pragmatic" leader who "accepts the idea of realpolitik." He
has not developed the personal "closeness" with Russia that
Chirac had, but "there are no difficult issues between Russia
and the France of Sarkozy," Studennikov said. A difference
of opinion over Georgia, he said, "doesn't complicate things
too much."

FRENCH CALL MISTRAL SALE A "SMART" MOVE FOR BOTH SIDES


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



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





7. (C//NF) The possible sale of French Mistral-class
helicopter carrier ships to Russia is an example of French
pragmatism and signals "normalization" of trade, particularly
arms sales, with Russia, according to French policy analyst
Facon. A Mistral that docked in St. Petersburg on Monday,
November 23, was featured in an International Herald Tribune
(November 24) photo with a caption noting that France hopes
to sell up to three Mistral vessels to Russia. French
government officials agreed that such a sale should be seen
in an economic context and not as supplying implements of
war. Georgian Embassy Political Counselor Gocha
Javakhishvili and Polish diplomat Rozek disagreed with this
assessment, emphasizing that the ships could be used against
Russia's neighbors. French MFA Assistant
Secretary-equivalent for Continental Europe Roland Galharague
pointed out to poloffs on November 10 that the French view a
Mistral sale as a smart decision by both sides -- one that
will provide employment for French workers and help Moscow to
streamline and modernize its military. See Reftel A (Paris
01529) for more information on the Mistral sale.

"CHANGING THE CONVERSATION" ON EUROPEAN SECURITY


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

---



8. (C//NF) French leaders perceive dialogue with Russia on
European security as a means to "reassure Moscow" and prevent
it from isolating itself, according to Galharague and
Ferrari. "Russia becomes more aggressive when it is
isolated," according to Facon. The desire to reassure
Russia, however, has limits and will not automatically
translate into support for a new security treaty and
institutions, according to MFA officials. Galharague spoke
broadly about Russia's view that a new European security
architecture "is needed," but he noted that such a proposal
remains "vague." Ferrari described it as "more a posture
than a proposal." The French have not yet seen a draft,
Galharague noted, and are waiting for Russia to provide
concrete details as proof of their seriousness. According to
Galharague, "you cannot sell the house in advance." The
French expect the issue to be raised at the OSCE ministerial
meeting in early December, according to Ferrari.



9. (C//NF) Galharague remarked, however, that just as
Washington has "reset relations" with Russia, "In Europe, we,
too, have changed the conversation." He noted that a summit
in Europe that engages Russia to discuss security issues is
preferable to refusing dialogue and "giving Moscow a pretext
to go out on its own." According to Galharague, it would be
better to "pull the rug out from under the Russians" in the

PARIS 00001563 003 OF 005


context of discussion than "have the rug pulled out from
under the Europeans by Russia." Galharague suggested that
talks on a Russian proposal could be held under the title of
an "informal summit" or "political meeting" with heads of
state attending and preparations beginning several months in
advance.



10. (C//NF) Studennikov said the Russians "do not seek a new
security treaty;" they want to change Europe's security
"architecture." The Cold War system is still in place right
now, he noted. Moscow does not seek to "liquidate" NATO,
which would be "naive and unrealistic." Instead, Russia
seeks to modernize the system so that it represents "the
reality of our time," he stated. As the Russians have
broached this subject with NATO members, they have found
"hesitations among some" and "interest among others,"
Studennikov explained. The French fall into the latter
category, he said. The Russian proposal moves beyond the
Corfu process in that it seeks to involve all five major
European institutions that touch on security issues involved
in the dialogue, which Studennikov listed as: NATO, the OSCE,
the EU, the Community of Independent States, and the
Collective Security Treaty Organization. French officials
appear amenable to this approach, Studennikov said. The
French, however, want to broaden the discussion to include
economic and humanitarian issues, whereas the Russians want
to focus exclusively on hard security issues. The Russians
are currently drafting a proposal in Moscow, Studennikov
said, which should be ready "in the next few months." When
asked whether the Russians would show it to the French first,
since they have proved receptive, Studennikov replied that he
believed that the USG, not the French, would see it first.
For additional reporting on France's position on strategic
issues, notably Missile Defense, see Reftel B (Paris 01544).

A SHARED APPROACH TO IRAN


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





11. (C//NF) There is a growing "convergence" between Russia
and France on Iran, according to Ferrari and her team. MFA
Desk Officer Courant said the French believe the Russians are
"more on our side now than in a 'Russia-China' camp, even if
their pronouncements are contradictory at times." Ferrari
and Courant noted that the Russians appear to be trying to
influence the Iranians more often now, to convince them to
change their behavior. French MFA officials noted that Paris
is counting on the Russians to use their influence with the
Iranians to achieve Tehran's compliance with the IAEA's
October proposal that responded to Iran's request for fuel
for its research reactor. Studennikov offered that the
Russians are actively engaging the Iranians and doing
"everything they can" to "press" Tehran. Studennikov pointed
out, however, that there are "profound" differences among the
Iranians themselves that will take time to resolve. The
Russians perceive the French as ahead of the Americans with a
"tough line" approach to Iran, according to Studennikov. In
response to poloffs' question about the status of a proposed
Russian delivery of an S-300 missile system to Iran,
Studennikov noted that the Russians have put the delivery "on
hold."

GEORGIA NOT AN IMPEDIMENT TO IMPROVING RELATIONS


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

---



12. (C//NF) France's role in mediating a solution to the
conflict in Georgia "did not boost, but did not damage"
Franco-Russian relations, according to Ferrari. The French,
however, are "embarrassed" and "irritated" by Russian
behavior in Georgia, according to Ferrari and Facon. After
France mediated an end to the conflict, "everyone lauded the
success of French diplomacy -- then the agreement was not
implemented or respected," Facon remarked. She noted that
Washington drew a "very clear red line," on Georgia, but now
the French have a sense that Americans are disengaging on
Georgia in favor of Afghanistan.



13. (C//NF) Georgian Political Counselor Javakhishvili told
poloffs on November 9 that the Georgian Ambassador to France
had officially and vehemently protested the possible Mistral
sale to senior advisors to the French Foreign and Defense
Ministers. "The Europeans are cynical in their approach, and
they give the Russians reason to believe European anger will
simply pass with time," Javakhishvili told poloffs on
November 9. "The Europeans will disagree with the Russians on
Georgia, and say a few words of indignation, but do nothing
more," he asserted. The French want "normalization" with
Russia, Javakhishvili said, "but at what price?" "Will they
sacrifice Ukraine, Georgia, and Chechnya?" he asked. The
government of Georgia has asked Sarkozy to raise Russia's
non-compliance with the peace accord, according to

PARIS 00001563 004 OF 005


Javakhishvili, but the French would not make any promises.
"It's not a la mode right now," he commented wryly. The
Georgians have warned the French that their failure to hold
the Russians accountable will have consequences for the whole
region. "It is a precedent," Javakhishvili said.

EU MEMBERS ON RUSSIA: A "CONVERGENCE" OF VIEWS


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

-



14. (C//NF) Responding to poloff's question regarding
whether the European Union's perspective on Russia resembles
that of France, Ferrari used the word "convergence" several
times: "the way forward is to engage," she remarked. Support
for engagement is now "unanimous," she claimed, admitting
that such unanimity developed only recently. Ferrari
described an evolution in Europe, during which new member
states have become less suspicious of Russia ("even the Balts
and the Poles," she claimed). Despite this broad agreement
in favor of engagement over confrontation, not everyone in
Europe "is on the same page about Russia," Ferrari confessed,
but she argued they all now "share the same objective" -- to
create a constructive EU-Russia partnership.



15. (C//NF) With that aim in mind, the French have been
pressing for the renewal of the EU-Russia Partnership Accord,
which was in force between 1997 and 2007, according to
Ferrari. France is leading the negotiations, Ferrari said,
to replace the Accord with a more vigorous agreement. The
new agreement will take into account changes in Europe since


1997. "The European Union can do more with Russia now," she
stressed, since the EU itself has expanded and recently
consolidated its authority. The Accord's "four spaces of
cooperation" will include a section on Human Rights and
Democracy, Ferrari noted. There will be "less on this front"
(Human Rights), she admitted, than in new areas of
cooperation, including Justice, Home Affairs, and Commerce.

PUTIN VISIT ON NOVEMBER 26-27 TO EMPHASIZE ECONOMIC TIES


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



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





16. (C//NF) Galharague described Russian Prime Minister
Putin's visit to Paris November 26-27 as completely focused
on bilateral relations, with emphasis on three areas of
cooperation: 1) launching the reciprocal Year of Russia in
France and Year of France in Russia; 2) making progress on a
"small package" of agreements, including the rights of French
expatriates in Russia; and 3) French-Russian trade projects,
which he emphasized as the main focus of the visit.
According to Galharague, the visit as a whole will focus on
"contracts, not politics." A plenary session and bilateral
meetings with Fillon will take place, but Galharague noted
that Putin is Russia's "authorized salesman," while Medvedev
handles the broader political portfolio. The GOF likely will
not raise Russia's non-compliance with the French-brokered
peace agreement in Georgia. "We're addressing that issue at
different levels," Ferrari noted in response to a question
from poloffs. (Javakhishvili said the Georgians asked French
Prime Minister Fillon to raise the issue of non-compliance
with the peace agreement when he met with Prime Minister
Putin in Yaroslavl on September 14. Fillon agreed to do so,
according to the Georgian, but then decided against it,
explaining it would not be appropriate.)



17. (C//NF) Studennikov described French-Russian economic
relations as robust and noted a list of business projects
under discussion during Putin's visit. Although Studennikov
judged that Russia maintains stronger overall economic ties
with Germany, and even with the United States, its ties with
France have been growing "deeper and more extensive" in
recent years. Franco-Russian commercial ties have grown
rapidly, he said. France and Russia have a joint satellite
project and other aerospace collaboration, including Airbus
involvement in the manufacturing of Russian planes for
regional flights. (The "Jet Cent (100)" Russian planes took
part in the Paris Air Show of 2009, according to
Studennikov.) French and Russian companies have collaborated
in the field of atomic energy. The French are involved in
various ways with both Nord Stream and South Stream. The
French construction firm Vinci has almost completed a
contract to construct a major highway between St. Petersburg
and Moscow. Renault has a factory near Moscow, and Peugeot
has plans to build one nearby. The French bank, Societe
Generale, has invested heavily in Russia, being one of the
first foreign banks to obtain a general license, and
expanding its presence by acquiring shares of Russian banks.
Studennikov also noted that increasing collaboration on visa
and other consular issues is improving movement in both
directions for French and Russian businessmen.



18. (C//NF) Comment: During his electoral campaign, the

PARIS 00001563 005 OF 005


French press chided President Sarkozy as "Sarkozy, the
American", a label the newly elected President embraced.
Later, based on his easing critiques of Russian human rights
practices, the French press dubbed him "Sarkozy, the
Russian." Both of these miss the point. In our view,
Sarkozy is instead an energetic pragmatist who seeks first
and foremost to advocate French national interests and put
Paris on the first rung of world leaders. While Paris'
deepening relationship with Moscow could lead to U.S.-French
policy divergences, it also provides a potential opportunity
to influence Russian behavior through collaboration with a
like-minded partner. Increased engagement with France on
Russia can enhance our direct diplomacy with Moscow; some
messages will be more palatable to the Russians if they come
from Paris. Still, the French constantly note to us that "we
are neighbors of Russia; we live in the same space." The
French use this basic fact (along with their "pragmatic"
economic goals) as a reason to "avoid provoking Russia" at
all costs and on almost all issues. As a result, when we
need to engage on important Russia-related matters with
Paris, the French will be more willing to listen to us if
they understand that our approach to Russia is also
collaborative, cooperative, and constructive wherever
possible -- and that well-founded criticism and robust
defense of democratic pronciples are not provocations.

RIVKIN

RIVKIN