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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW2974 2006-03-24 06:29 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #2974/01 0830629
P 240629Z MAR 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002974 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/23/2016 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns; reason 1.4 (b, d) 
1. (C)  Summary:  Emotions seem to be cooling (at least 
temporarily) between Russia and Georgia, and we are seeing a 
return to low-level business.  Statements that would have 
caused an uproar just a few weeks ago are being dismissed 
with good humor.  But that is a long way from making real 
progress, especially on Georgia's immediate goal of a peace 
settlement on South Ossetia.  Rather, both sides appear to be 
girding for what they see as the major struggle -- Georgia's 
prospects for NATO membership and the irreversibility of its 
external orientation.  The U.S. should continue to try to 
keep emotions dampened on both sides and push hard for 
advancing economic aspects of the South Ossetia settlement on 
which the U.S., Russia, and Europe can cooperate.  End 
The Atmosphere Improves... 
2. (C)  At separate meetings with MFA Georgia Office Director 
Semyon Grigoryev and visiting Georgian Deputy Speaker of 
Parliament Mikheil Machavariani, we tried to piece together 
the state of Russian-Georgian relations and their likely 
course over the next few months.  Grigoryev told us March 13 
that relations were in a "pause" that would go on until 
emotions on both sides cooled. 
3. (C)  Emotions in fact seem to be cooling sooner than 
expected.  Machavariani was cautiously upbeat about his March 
20-22 visit ("We expected much worse" is the way Georgian DCM 
Shugarov put it), saying atmospherics were relatively good 
with all interlocutors, even when there was disagreement over 
substance.  To be sure, provocative rhetoric has not 
disappeared.  Georgian President Saakashvili unveiled plans 
for a "Museum of Occupation," provoking Grigoryev to muse on 
exactly whom Stalin, Beria and Ordzhonikidze were 
"occupying."  South Ossetian "President" Kokoity has declared 
that on the basis of a 1774 document, South Ossetia has never 
ceased being a part of Russia -- under the unique legal 
reasoning that while the laws of the defunct Soviet Union are 
null and void, the laws of the even more defunct Russian 
Empire remain in full force.  The Georgians did not rise to 
the bait this time: the press reported March 23 that Georgian 
Minister for Conflict Resolution Khaindrava doubted anyone 
would take Kokoity's words seriously.  Injudicious rhetoric 
has characterized the relationship all along; only the 
emotional reactions vary in pitch. 
4. (C)  In a March 23 discussion, the Ambassador raised 
Kokoity's latest intended provocation with DFM Karasin, 
urging that Russia not let the considerable efforts expended 
to organize a Joint Control Commission meeting be undermined 
by such unproductive rhetoric.  Karasin noted that the 
Georgians were also not innocent of injudicious remarks, but 
he agreed that all concerned should try to arrange a 
successful JCC.  Although neither Russia's nor South 
Ossetia's positions had changed, he said, Russia would try to 
moderate Kokoity's statements. 
...But Will Results Follow? 
5. (C)  Meanwhile, business is resuming, although with ups 
and downs.  President Putin signed the decree on withdrawing 
Russian troops and bases from Georgia.  The Russian Embassy 
in Tbilisi is now issuing visas to Georgians, while Russia's 
military personnel in Georgia have started receiving one-year 
multiple-entry visas.  A JCC meeting on South Ossetia looks 
likely to take place next week in Vladikavkaz, and Grigoryev 
assured us that Russia would not even mind discussing a 
replacement for the Peace Keeping Force -- provided 
discussion took place in an appropriate context such as the 
JCC, and not in the press.  On the other hand, Russia widened 
its ban on the import of plants from Georgia, and is 
discussing a ban on wine (which would probably not affect 
availability, thus helping wine lovers confirm what they 
suspected all along:  that many of the "Georgian" wines they 
drink here are counterfeit). 
6. (C)  Machavariani (joined at our March 22 meeting by his 
predecessor Gigi Tsereteli, Ambassador Chubinishvili and DCM 
Shugarov) said that his main aim in Moscow was to persuade 
Russia to move ahead on the South Ossetia peace process.  He 
feared that if the momentum were to fade, it would appear 
that the peace plan endorsed in Ljubljana was "stale." 
Tsereteli noted that the Georgian electoral cycle -- local 
elections this September and parliamentary elections in 2008 
-- would have a hardening effect on Georgian rhetoric. 
MOSCOW 00002974  002 OF 003 
7. (C)  Machavariani claimed that all his interlocutors -- 
both in Parliament and the MFA -- supported Georgian 
territorial integrity, and all now recognized that there was, 
indeed, a peace pl
an (the Russian MFA previously denied its 
existence).  However, he admitted, no Russian interlocutor 
was in a rush to implement it.  "We're not in a hurry," he 
said the Russians repeatedly told him. "You Georgians are the 
ones in a hurry.  But the idea of resolving this conflict in 
the next two or three years is unrealistic."  Machavariani 
noted that the prospects for Kosovo independence were a brake 
on progress on South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- all the 
separatists were waiting to see what the Kosovars got rather 
than settling now for what could turn out to be less.  All 
the Russians with whom he spoke played up support for Russian 
citizens in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but reacted 
impassively when he described the unilateral 
confidence-building measures Georgia was taking, such as 
adopting a law on restitution. 
The Looming Precipice:  NATO 
8. (C)  The big anxiety for Russia is the prospect of Georgia 
joining NATO.  Grigoryev said that while Russia's official 
line is that joining an alliance is "a country's own 
business," in reality Georgia's NATO aspirations are the 
single greatest spoiler -- present and potential -- in the 
relationship.  Russia's concern is all the more, he said, 
because Georgia's new National Security Strategy identifies 
Russia as the main source of threats to Georgia's security. 
9. (C)  Machavariani confirmed that he heard both the 
official and the unofficial line in his various 
conversations, and that there was sometimes an implicit 
linkage to the frozen conflicts.  Machavariani said his 
interlocutors' arguments boiled down to this:  "Of course, 
it's your choice.  But the choice is this:  are you with us, 
or are you with the Americans?  The Americans are not our 
enemy, but they are our competitor.  If you are joining the 
competition, we will be in no hurry to help you with your 
10. (C)  Grigoryev feared that the NATO factor would come to 
a head this year.  Georgia appeared to be on the NATO 
"escalator."  Its Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) 
review had earned high marks, and it might get a Membership 
Action Plan (MAP) this year -- which to Grigoryev meant 
"automatic" membership in about two years.  A MAP would cause 
an immediate escalation of tensions between Russia and 
Georgia.  Asked what could be done to improve relations in 
the long run, Grigoryev called for a unilateral Georgian 
renunciation of foreign bases or NATO membership. 
Tackling the Dilemma 
11. (C)  Machavariani stressed the importance of creating 
conditions in which Russia would be willing to move forward 
on South Ossetia.  Given Russian fears, we asked how we could 
foster such an atmosphere.  How could Russia be induced to 
see it as worth its while to move forward?  That stumped 
Machavariani, but Chubinishvili listed three factors: 
-- Toned-down rhetoric, eliminating all ad hominem attacks 
("We can't stop our rhetoric entirely," Machavariani noted, 
"or the Russians will believe Georgia accepts whatever they 
-- Working quietly, without fanfare, towards the MAP; and 
-- Enlisting international pressure, revolving around the G8 
12. (C)  With regard to the summit and the economic issues to 
be discussed, Machavariani made clear that Georgia would 
stick to its preconditions, all of them economic, for 
supporting Russian accession to WTO.  The conditions involved 
imports, customs, borders and the elimination of smuggling. 
Only one condition, a demand for a single Russian visa policy 
for all parts of Georgia, could be considered political. 
That condition was moot in any case, Tsereteli noted, because 
their Russian interlocutors claimed that 95 percent of the 
residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia already have Russian 
citizenship.  Machavariani said that if Russia met those 
preconditions, Georgia would support its WTO accession -- he 
made no linkage to South Ossetia. 
Comment:  The U.S. Role 
MOSCOW 00002974  003 OF 003 
12. (C)  Events of the past two weeks have shown that when 
emotions are calmed, Georgia and Russia are capable of 
negotiations that get business done.  But the calm is 
unlikely to last.  Georgia has a concrete short-term goal: 
recovery of South Ossetia, the key to which is in Moscow. 
Georgia also has a concrete medium-term goal:  recovery of 
Abkhazia, the key to which is also in Moscow.  And Georgia 
has a long-term goal:  joining NATO, a prospect that makes 
Russia want to throw away both keys. 
13. (C)  One area in which the U.S. can help is in keeping 
the sides from provoking each other, and in urging calm when 
irritants appear.  Another area in which we can push for 
progress -- an area that is also less likely to provoke one 
side or the other -- is economics.  Most recent peace plans 
for South Ossetia -- Georgian and Ossetian alike -- call for 
a "Special Economic Zone" linking parts of North Ossetia, all 
of South Ossetia and parts of Georgia.  In the long run, that 
may be the best hope for re-uniting the Ossetian and Georgian 
peoples through common interests.  We should make a strong 
push -- including at the April Donors' Conference in Brussels 
-- to set that up independent of all other progress in the 
peace process, and maximize our cooperation with Russia and 
the EU both to make it come about and provide it with 
adequate support. 


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