06MOSCOW10986, NOT WAR, BUT CLOSE:” RUSSIAN REACTION TO GEORGIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW10986 2006-09-28 15:11 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3467
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0986/01 2711511
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281511Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3209
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 010986 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2016 
TAGS: PREL MARR NATO GG RS
SUBJECT: "NOT WAR, BUT CLOSE:"  RUSSIAN REACTION TO GEORGIA 
ARRESTS OF RUSSIAN SOLDIERS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reason 1.4 (b, d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  DFM Karasin told Ambassador September 28 the 
arrest of Russian officers in Georgia "could have been a 
casus belli."  Russian reaction "will be more reasonable." 
Russia "has the impression that it cannot rely on its 
American partners."  Karasin asked for U.S. help in freeing 
the officers.  He made clear that expulsion to Russia would 
be acceptable.  He passed a non-paper on the Russian 
position.  Karasin was tough -- but the opinion of Russia's 
political classes is tougher still.  End Summary. 
 
2. (C) Ambassador met Karasin September 28 to discuss the 
September 27 arrest of Russian military intelligence officers 
in Georgia.  Karasin handed Ambassador a non-paper 
(translation, para. 11).  He said a chain of events showed 
Georgia has an "orientation to force."  The situation is "not 
war, but close to war."  The arrest of Russian officers was a 
"qualitatively new escalation."  It called forth a "whole 
bouquet of tough and unpleasant thoughts."  The officers were 
there to help withdraw Russia's military bases -- in 
fulfillment of Russia's commitments. 
 
3.  (C) The arrest, Karasin said, was part of a chain of 
events:  the September 21 decision on Intensified Dialogue 
(ID) for Georgia; the Kodori Gorge operation with its 
aftermath of "political circus;" and intensified attacks on 
Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Later he 
added the GUAM initiative on frozen conflicts as one of 
Georgia's "provocative actions." 
 
4. (C) Karasin regretted that Georgia had received 
encouragement:  the push for ID, the applause for Pres. 
Saakashvili's UNGA speech, and the generally anti-Russian 
tone of Georgian policy.  This encouragement has created the 
impression in Russia that it cannot rely on its partners, and 
in particular on the U.S.  The explosion of tensions in South 
Ossetia was unnecessary.  It is a zone of Russia's vital 
interests; America must understand the dangers. 
 
5. (C) Karasin said Russia insists on immediate freedom for 
its soldiers and for an end to the blockade around the Group 
of Russian Forces in the Trans-Caucasus (GRVZ).  Tomorrow, 
Russia will evacuate the families of embassy employees.  It 
will recall its ambassador.  Washington, he concluded, must 
understand the gravity of the situation. 
 
6. (C) Ambassador promised to convey Karasin's seriousness to 
Washington.  Neither the U.S., nor Russia, nor Georgia needed 
an increase in tensions.  We appreciate Russia's fulfillment 
of its obligations to withdraw its bases.  Despite Russian 
perceptions, the U.S. message to Georgia has been consistent: 
 we are prepared to move down the road toward Georgian NATO 
membership, but Georgia must show restraint on Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia.  Ambassador asked what outcome would work for 
everyone in the present crisis. 
 
7. (C) Karasin responded that Russia is still considering its 
course of action.  Karasin did not want to close any option. 
Its priority is the release of its people.  This "could have 
been a casus belli," he said, "but our response will be more 
reasonable."  However, he stressed, "Our reserve of patience 
is near an end."  It was important to return the situation to 
"a more reasonable basis."  When a situation evolves on its 
own, he said, there can be a dangerous chain reaction.  There 
were a million Georgians in Russia.  This gave the problem 
great magnitude.  Russia would have to think about how to 
proceed.  "We hope our partners will help," he said, "by 
being tough and precise with Georgia."  He said Ambassador 
Ushakov would be seeking a senior appointment to make these 
points in Washington, and hoped he would be received.  He 
added that if Saakashvili "returns to normal negotiations on 
Abkhazia," ending the "political circus" in Kodori, which 
"smells of adventurism," Russia will try to convince the 
Abkhaz "there is a chance." 
 
8. (C) Ambassador reiterated he would convey Karasin's sense 
of seriousness.  He asked whether the Russian Embassy had 
access to the detainees.  Karasin said yes; they were in 
satisfactory conditions.  At a later date -- after their 
release -- Russia would be prepared to discuss the claims 
against them.  He reiterated that it was important that these 
people be freed.  "They can stay or leave the country," as 
long as they get out of jail. 
 
9. (C) Karasin's comments, tough as they were, are restrained 
in comparison to the public statements of political figures 
and the analyses of our institutional contacts.  Foreign 
Minister Lavrov stated that Russia would seek an emergency 
session of the UN Security Council to discuss the detention. 
All commentators note the proximity to the NATO decision on 
 
MOSCOW 00010986  002 OF 003 
 
 
ID, and call the arrests a deliberate provocation, not a 
serious counter-
espionage operation.  A number stated that 
the U.S. must have approved, or at least did not veto the 
arrests, and some point to the arrests as part of 
Saakashvili's "narrow agenda to undermine Russia" -- 
presumably as a catspaw for American ambitions.  Federation 
Council Chair Mironov bluntly said the arrests "could lead to 
war."  Fyodor Lukyanov, Chief Editor of Russia in Global 
Politics, told us that the detentions would unite radical 
elements in Russian politics.  He said the only positive 
element he could see so far was that Russian elites were 
calling for sanctions rather than military action.   Lukyanov 
thought that the incident would demonstrate to NATO what 
Georgia's membership would entail NATO disputes with Russia. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
10. (C)   The Russian non-paper below is a cry of anger and 
outrage -- but without concrete decisions on the Russian 
reaction, because Russia has no good options in this case. 
We strongly recommend pressing Georgia to expel the Russian 
officers and make public its evidence for the accusations. 
The sooner that is done, the sooner the crisis can be 
defused, and it would also help dampen some of the more 
inflammatory rhetoric.   Some of that rhetoric is genuine 
outrage; some an attempt to recoup after the decision on ID. 
Russia's message to NATO members is clear:  giving Article V 
guarantees to Georgia allows Georgia to embroil NATO in a war 
with Russia. 
 
Text of Russian Non-Paper 
------------------------- 
 
11. (C) Begin text of informal Embassy translation: 
 
On the blatant provocation by the Georgian side 
 
The Russian side expresses the most serious concern in 
connection with the arbitrary action (proizvol) committed by 
Georgian security forces yesterday evening and early morning 
against Russian military personnel who were on territory of 
Georgia, in the staff of the Group of Russian Forces in the 
Trans-Caucasus (GRVZ)  completely legally and in accordance 
with treaties. 
 
The series of arrests undertaken by Georgian authorities on 
27 September against Russian officers of the GRVZ was the 
latest blatant attack confirming the anti-Russian course of 
the leadership of Georgia.  The actions of the Georgian side 
contradict the conditions of the Agreement between the 
Russian Federation and Georgia on the timetable and regime of 
temporary functioning and withdrawal of Russian military 
bases and other military sites of Russian Forces in 
Trans-Caucasus deployed on the territory of Georgia; in 
particular, of Article 4, which mandates "the provision of 
normal living conditions and temporary functioning" of 
Russian military bases.  Despite the treaties, the Georgian 
authorities continue to put outrageous obstacles in the path 
of the normal work and living conditions of Russian military 
personnel, who are responsible for the fulfillment of their 
obligations, inter alia in the interests of and in accordance 
with the wishes of Georgia itself.  Last week the last 
echelon of Russian military equipment was sent from Georgian 
territory in accordance with the timetable planned for 2006 
for the withdrawal of equipment and materiel by bilateral 
Agreement.  The logic of steps by the Georgian side clearly 
directed at disruption of the process, worked out with such 
effort, of withdrawing the Russian military bases is 
completely incomprehensible to us. 
 
The provocative actions of the Georgian side against Russian 
military personnel in Georgia when taken together with the 
incessant chain of defiant actions of Tbilisi, together with 
the use of force against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, 
exacerbate tensions throughout the region and constitute a 
direct threat to stability and security in the 
Trans-Caucasus.  The consequences of such actions are 
unpredictable and fraught with the most negative effects both 
on bilateral Russian-Georgian relations and the region-wide 
situation.  Given the existence of unregulated conflicts in 
the Trans-Caucasus, the irresponsibility of the Georgian side 
cannot remain unnoticed by the international community. 
 
We consider the unceremonious and impudent character of the 
actions by the Georgian "siloviki" with regard to Russian 
citizens, and other actions by the Georgian side directed at 
undermining existing agreements, demolishing the negotiating 
and peacekeeping formats and mechanisms in the region, worthy 
of unqualified condemnation by all leading international 
organizations, in the first instance the UN and OSCE, 
 
MOSCOW 00010986  003 OF 003 
 
 
directly involved in the issue of world security and conflict 
resolution.  We expect the Georgian provocations will be 
given an appropriate and unbiased evaluation by the 
international community.  It must be recognized in Tbilisi 
that the period of indulgence and permissiveness, including 
by a number of Western states, has ended and that the time 
has come to answer for one's actions. 
 
Concrete conclusions will be drawn in Russia from the 
Georgian leadership's line.  We have no intention of leaving 
our citizens in trouble -- whether ordinary tourists or 
military personnel fulfilling their service obligations 
abroad in accordance with international treaties.  The 
reaction of the Russian side will be appropriate calculated 
as a warning against the repetition of such unfriendly acts. 
 
End text. 
BURNS

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