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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW963 2006-01-31 14:04 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #0963/01 0311404
P 311404Z JAN 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000963 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2016 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reason 1.4 (b, d) 
1. (C)   Summary:  Ambassador Burns met with Russian Deputy 
Foreign Minister Karasin January 31 to discuss recent 
developments on regional issues.  They spent most of the 
meeting discussing Georgia; it was clear that President 
Saakashvili's accusations concerning the January 22 pipeline 
explosion have irritated the Russians beyond their usual 
hostility towards their neighbor.  That irritation underlay 
hard-line statements from Karasin about the Russian response, 
if Georgia were to demand the withdrawal of Russia's 
peacekeepers from South Ossetia.  Karasin was no more 
charitable in his exposition of Russian thinking on Abkhazia, 
with demands to jettison or heavily modify the Boden paper. 
Karasin was far more positive on Nagorno-Karabakh (he had 
just returned from Armenia and Azerbaijan) and Ukraine (which 
he will visit in two weeks); he was upbeat about Black Sea 
Fleet and gas negotiations.  On Iran, he lauded the course of 
action the P-5 chose in London as a "good compromise." 
Karasin was cautious in reply to Ambassador's push on 
elections in Belarus.  End summary. 
P Consultations, Karabakh 
2.  (C) Ambassador confirmed for Karasin that Under Secretary 
Burns would participate in the G8 Political Directors' 
meetings in Moscow February 21.  Karasin said he would confer 
with DFM Kislyak about setting aside time for regional 
consultations.  Karasin thought this would allow for a timely 
exchange of views on elections in Ukraine and Belarus. 
Ambassador stressed that we should look at areas, especially 
in Russia's neighborhood, in which we could cooperate to make 
progress -- Nagorno-Karabakh being one possibility.  Karasin 
said he had come away from his recent trip to Azerbaijan and 
Armenia convinced that there was a window of opportunity for 
constructive resolution of the conflict, though no guarantee 
it could be achieved.  At least the parties understood that 
after 2006 there would be no progress for a long time.  The 
atmosphere was on the whole "acceptable."  The international 
community must get the sides to stop playing political games 
and get down to real work.  Karasin said he and U/S Burns 
would be able to discuss this in light of the February 11-12 
meeting between Kocharyan and Aliyev in Paris. 
Georgia:  Thaw or Freeze? 
3. (C)  Karasin said he wanted to discuss Georgia.  Just a 
few minutes previously, President Putin had been asked at his 
press conference (septel) whether there would be a thaw in 
relations with Georgia.  Putin had said Russia was ready for 
such a step.  But the Georgian political leadership -- not 
the Georgian people, with whom there has been no problem -- 
must stay on the path of civilized interaction and avoid 
hysteria.  The explosions of January 22 must be investigated. 
 But "Georgia's partners" (i.e., the U.S. and Europe) need to 
tamp down the "hysteria" on the Georgian side.  Karasin cited 
the January 27 cutoff of gas to the Russian embassy in 
Tbilisi, "even while Gazprom's technicians were working under 
terrible conditions to repair the gas line."  Karasin said 
4th CIS Department Director Andrey Kelin (who attended the 
meeting) would be heading to Tbilisi next week to try to 
smooth relations. 
4. (C)  Ambassador Burns welcomed that step.  He said the 
U.S. has been clear with Georgia on the need for restraint in 
public statements.  We are pleased that gas is being restored 
to Georgia thanks to the repair crews.  Transparency -- the 
presence of a Georgian expert to observe the repair work -- 
would have helped restrain some of the impulses that led to 
the less public statements that the GOR found so 
South Ossetia 
5. (C)  Karasin presented a demarche on South Ossetia.  The 
situation in the zone of conflict was disturbing, and the 
unyielding position of the Georgians had not been understood 
by the South Ossetian side.  The net result was that the 
Joint Control Commission had not met, and we are approaching 
the February 10 deadline set by the Georgian Parliament to 
discuss the situation, including the disposition of the 
Russian peacekeeping forces.  Given the atmosphere, Karasin 
said, the Parliament was likely to react emotionally.  It 
would be important that the Georgian Government and President 
avoid "dramatic" action.  Most residents of South Ossetia are 
Russian citizens, and Russia would take the appropriate 
decisions to "defend stability."  Russia's choice would be 
predictable:  not to abandon its people.  It was important 
MOSCOW 00000963  002 OF 003 
not to get into a dea
d-end situation. 
6. (C)  The Ambassador replied that we would continue to 
encourage careful thinking on all sides.  It would be 
important for Russia to find a formula -- perhaps by ensuring 
that a JCC meeting take place -- that offered the Georgian 
Parliament some prospect of progress and practical steps. 
Russia needs to do all it can to help calm the situation, too. 
7. (C)  In a separate conversation earlier in the day, MFA 
Georgia Office Director Grigoryev told us Russia sees several 
decision points:  a) what action the Parliament demanded on 
the basis of the report, which PM Noghaideli had already 
informed the Russians would be negative; b) what the Georgian 
government decided to do with the Parliament's 
recommendations; and c) what President Saakashvili decided on 
the basis of the Government's recommendations.  Grigoryev 
hinted -- ever so slightly -- that there was room for 
compromise on the structure of the JCC, but he was clear, 
like Karasin, that a demand for withdrawal of the Russian 
peacekeepers would "cross a red line." 
8. (C)  Karasin regretted that Russia's approach on Abkhazia 
in the UNSC had not met with understanding.  The Boden paper 
was weak and had not been working.  Since its submission 
there had been developments elsewhere, in Bosnia-Herzegovina 
and in Serbia-Montenegro with regard to Kosovo.  We could not 
ignore those developments.  Predictably, Karasin said, some 
accuse Russia of supporting separatism.  But Russia wanted to 
persuade Abkhazia to be more constructive and flexible.  For 
example, it should allow the opening of an OSCE Human Rights 
office and think about teaching Georgian in the schools of 
Gali district.  These would be facts on the ground that could 
make a difference. 
9. (C)  The Ambassador responded that Russia's position at 
the UN had led to serious questions about how to interpret 
Russia's current thinking on Georgia's territorial integrity. 
 Karasin responded that "all questions" on that score would 
be answered at the February 2-3 meeting of the Friends Group 
in Geneva.  The Ambassador repeated his question on 
territorial integrity, and Karasin answered that there was no 
change in Russia's position; rather, to go forward we had to 
look at the situation as it was on the ground, not on the 
basis of "old stereotypes."  Modifications were needed in the 
Boden paper, and in its structure.  (Note:  Grigoryev told us 
earlier in the day that the Russians had agreed to the 
request of Abkhaz "PM" Bagapsh to work towards a negotiating 
structure that did not start off by recognizing Abkhazia as a 
part of Georgia.) 
10. (C)  The Ambassador asked Karasin about developments with 
Ukraine, and about Karasin's upcoming trip there.  Karasin 
said he would lead the Russian side when the Black Sea Fleet 
Sub-Commission met on February 14.  Russia would press for 
the confirmation of old agreements that allowed for the 
normal functioning of the fleet and the comfort of its 
personnel.  The Ukrainian side needed to be satisfied on 
financial issues.  The problem was multi-faceted, but Karasin 
was optimistic.  He hoped it would cease to be an irritant in 
relations in the run-up to the Ukrainian election.  After his 
visit, there were no high-level contacts planned before the 
11. (C)  The Ambassador asked about gas negotiations with the 
Ukrainians, noting that we continued to hear rumors of 
another cut-off.  Karasin answered that negotiations are 
proceeding, and the negotiators are down to concrete numbers. 
 There are experienced negotiators on both sides.  Karasin 
assured the Ambassador that there would be no gas cut-off -- 
provided, he qualified, that there were no "unilateral 
provocations" from the Ukrainian side.  "This is the course 
our President has chosen," he stated. 
12. (C)  The Ambassador raised the elections in Belarus, 
noting that Assistant Secretary Fried has yet to receive a 
visa.  Karasin said the Russians had been active on the 
elections, and believed that Lukashenko would let the 
opposition speak out.  But we needed to look at the context: 
we should evaluate elections in Belarus as we did those in 
the Middle East, by considering the region and the history. 
We should not make a fetish out of elections, or see them as 
MOSCOW 00000963  003 OF 003 
a cure for all ills. 
13. (C)  The Ambassador welcomed steps to invite 
international observers to the elections.  But the elections 
themselves had to be conducted fairly.  Only then would the 
observers call them fair.  This would make a difference to us 
and to Europe -- and to the people of Belarus.  He hoped the 
Russians would use their influence with Lukashenko to ensure 
free and fair elections.  Karasin replied that the observers 
themselves had to be honest and unprejudiced.  The Ambassador 
asked about progress toward a Union Treaty with Belarus. 
Karasin said work was progressing slowly. 
Iran, Afghanistan 
14. (C)  Karasin lauded the compromise reached on referring 
Iran to the UNSC.  The Ambassador agreed it was positive. 
Secretary Rice and the EU-3 had listened carefully to what 
the Russians had said on tactics.  The result was a strong 
signal to Iran, and the Ambassador hoped Iran would use the 
next few weeks to make a U-turn in its policies.  Karasin 
cautioned that the Iranians had already had months to think 
through their position, and informing the UNSC does not yet 
mean UNSC consideration of the issue.  But the Russians saw 
the step as useful, and so did the Chinese. 
15. (C)  The Ambassador responded that the firmness of the 
Russian position was critical to getting Iran's attention. 
Iran could not be permitted to play games with the definition 
of uranium enrichment.  Communication among Russia, the U.S. 
and the EU-3 had been excellent thus far on this issue.  It 
showed an ability to work together.  Similarly, it had not 
been easy for Putin to forgive Afghanistan's USD 10 billion 
sovereign debt; this was a good step.  Karasin welcomed these 
"areas of cooperation." 
16. (C)  The Russians are every bit as emotional on Georgia 
as they accuse the Georgians of being, and Saakashvili's 
accusations do not help the Russians think rationally as they 
approach the parliamentary debate in Georgia on peacekeepers 
in Ossetia, and the choices to be faced after that.  The 
childish tit-for-tat cutoffs of gas and electricity to the 
Georgian and Russian embassies in each other's capitals show 
that emotions could make this molehill into a mountain.  The 
slight hint on revising the JCC could be real -- or it could 
be one of
ficial's wishful thinking.  We did not get the 
impression that Kelin would be taking specific proposals with 
him to Tbilisi (the Russians are still too angry); it might 
be helpful if he could come back with concrete, 
well-elaborated proposals from the Georgian government about 
what it would need to guarantee a soft landing on the PKO 


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