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Viewing cable 09MOSCOW2734, RUSSIA: MOVING BEYOND BILATERAL ISSUES, MILIBAND

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MOSCOW2734 2009-11-05 17:05 2010-12-10 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
VZCZCXRO0259
PP RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP
RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHTRO
DE RUEHMO #2734/01 3091741
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051741Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5314
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002734 

SIPDIS 

EO 12958 DECL: 11/04/2019 
TAGS PREL, PGOV, ETRD, SENV, IR, AF, UK, RS 
SUBJECT: RUSSIA:  MOVING BEYOND BILATERAL ISSUES, MILIBAND 
REOPENED DIALOGUE

Classified By: Political MC Susan M. Elliott for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d ).

Summary
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1. (C) During Foreign Secretary Miliband’s November 1-2 visit, he put an end to the “period of standoff,” but had little concrete to show for his visit. In pushing a new framework for cooperation, he set aside the most contentious issues and focused primarily on the international agenda during his meetings with Russian FM Lavrov -- START Follow-on, Iran, Afghanistan, Middle East peace, and non-proliferation -- resulting in three joint statements. Miliband also met with Gorbachev and Russian business leaders and political notables. Moscow had some lingering hesitancy, with Medvedev and Putin declining meetings, due in part to concerns based on previous interaction between Lavrov and Miliband, and a desire to avoid giving Miliband a success that he could use in a potential run to head EU foreign policy. End Summary.

Ending the “Period of Standoff”
------------------------------- 

2. (C) On November 1-2, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband ended the five-year hiatus in bilateral visits. In his discussions with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, Miliband was able to set a new pattern for addressing contentious bilateral issues in the future, while forging ahead on the international agenda. While the Russian press has hailed this as a “reset,” it comes after the slow build up of bilateral contacts at all levels, and is therefore less of a breakthrough than a symbolic final hurdle.

3. (C) While the visit succeeded in reestablishing constructive dialogue, President Medvedev and PM Putin had rebuffed British Embassy feelers for meetings with the Foreign Secretary. According to British diplomats, the Russians were unsure that the visit wasn’t going to be another round of “slapping them around the face.” The diplomats also credited Medvedev as the driving force in ending the “period of standoff.”

4. (C) During his two-day stay, Miliband dined with Lavrov on Sunday, followed on Monday by working meetings with Lavrov and First Deputy PM Igor Shuvalov. Miliband also met with Mikhail Gorbachev, lunched with select eminent politicians and held separate round-tables with Russian NGOs and the British business community (including TNK-BP). Miliband and Lavrov issued three joint statements regarding the 2010 Review Conference for Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Afghanistan, and the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).

International Agenda
-------------------- 

5. (C) START Follow-On: Lavrov was reportedly upbeat regarding START follow-on negotiations. According to British diplomats, Lavrov said the key issues involved conventional weapons on ICBMs, verification, and the “numbers gap,” which was being narrowed. Following this treaty, Lavrov suggested multilateral negotiations on further reductions involving the P5, the D3 (Israel, India, Pakistan) as well as “dormant” nuclear powers such as Japan. He also called for close Russian-British cooperation across the arms-control agenda: the NPT, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. CFE was not discussed. The sides issued a joint statement on the NPT, calling for efforts to ensure the 2010 review conference reinvigorated and strengthened it, and noting that an “agreement before the end of the year on a new legally binding treaty to further reduce Russian and U.S. strategic offensive weapons will be a major contribution to this shared endeavor.” The statement also said that both sides were committed to “ensuring the IAEA has the necessary authority and capacity to assure compliance with non-proliferation obligations.”

6. (C) Iran: Lavrov claimed Russia had no prior knowledge of the Qom facility and said the S300 deal was in a “holding pattern.” Regarding the IAEA negotiations, Lavrov agreed with Miliband’s call for continued unity among the 5 plus 1 group and was ready to discuss the substance of a “freeze for freeze” deal. According to British diplomats, Lavrov was slippery about sanctions, saying “we’re ready to consider applying sanctions if necessary, but it’s too early.” Lavrov reportedly added that if sanctions are agreed at the UNSC, there shouldn’t be additional unilateral sanctions and sanctions should be limited to “officials” and the nuclear program.
MOSCOW 00002734 002 OF 003

7. (C) Afghanistan: Lavrov conveyed that Russia wanted NATO to stay and to succeed. He made the usual pitch for formal CSTO consultations with NATO and for Russia to have a seat at the table of “troop contributing” countries. In the joint statement, the sides condemned the Taliban’s attempts to disrupt the Afghan electoral process and destabilize the country. The statement “noted” the Afghan government’s attempts to reintegrate former fighters, but said that the two governments remained committed to UNSCR 1267. The UK and Russia also made a non-specific commitment to explore opportunities for cooperation in counter-narcotics, which British diplomats said will be pursued at the working level.

8. (C) MEPP: The joint statement urged “Israel to immediately end all settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem, and to allow access to the Gaza Strip.” The statement also endorsed the work of the U.S. and the Quartet and restated support for the Russian Moscow conference proposal. British diplomats, however, said that it was clear GOR officials knew the conference would not happen soon.

9. (C) NATO/European Security: Miliband reaffirmed that Georgia and Ukraine remained on the NATO membership track and rejected Russia’s concept of a “sphere of privileged interests.” Lavrov was on the defensive and sought to redefine privileged interests to mean closer bilateral relations, which Russia sought to develop with a range of countries, not just those in the CIS. Miliband rebuffed Lavrov’s calls for a new European security treaty, saying he understood Russia feels uncomfortable but that it was too early for a new treaty; he urged Russia to work this through the OSCE’s “Corfu process.”

10. (C) WTO/Climate Change: Deputy PM Igor Shuvalov told Miliband that he had offered the U.S. a return to the bilateral negotiating track to facilitate Russis’s WTO accession. Shuvalov proposed this during his September visit to Washington, but claimed that the U.S. refused. Miliband lobbied Shuvalov to increase Russia’s carbon-reduction commitments from its current offer of 15 percent by 2020. Shuvalov said the Russian position was not cast in stone, but the GOR did not want to be tied to targets that would then restrict the expected surge in Russia’s economic growth in the coming decade.

Bilateral Issues
---------------- 

11. (C) In addition to the joint statements, some progress was made on bilateral economic ties. Foremost was the November 5 visit of Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin to London as part of the bilateral financial working group, during which Kudrin is expected to pitch the sale of Eurobonds to fill part of Russia’s projected 2010 budget deficit. The sides had to “agree to disagree” on the more thorny bilateral issues that have poisoned the relationship for the past five years: the British extradition request for Andrey Lugovoi related to the murder of former FSB officer Aleksadr Litvenenko (Nov. 1 was the third anniversary of the murder), and Russian extradition requests for Russian tycoon Boris Berezovskiy and Chechen leader Akhmed Zakayev. Lingering in the background were the tit-for-tat expulsions of British and Russian diplomats over the “rock incident,” the closure of the British Council’s offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, the handling of the TNK-BP management dispute, and the prior harassment of British diplomats by Nashi youth activists at the presumed behest of Russian officials. That said, British diplomats noted that Lavrov and Miliband agreed to step up cultural relations (especially in 2011) to make up for the decrease in British Council programs. British diplomats believed that there was an understanding that the British Council would take the lead in these activities, but the technicalities were not discussed.

Comment
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12. (C) While Russia and the UK found some common ground during Miliband’s visit, there was a lingering hesitancy on the Russian side, demonstrated by the lack of solid deliverables and the unavailability of the tandem, Putin and Medvedev. The GOR could have gone further in offering the UK transit (either land or air) to support British operations in Afghanistan, but hedged. Although Miliband’s visit followed many working-level and even senior-level meetings on the sidelines of international conferences, it was clear that the GOR lowered expectations in the event the tone of the visit returned to that following the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. The Russian press added into the mix the possibility that
MOSCOW 00002734 003 OF 003
Miliband was in Moscow to demonstrate that he could talk to “even the most difficult of partners,” thereby burnishing his credentials for a future post with the EU. If that was the case, the GOR has done little to assist him. Beyrle