06MOSCOW10990, NATO SOFA RATIFICATION: VERDICT STILL OUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW10990 2006-09-29 07:22 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO4335
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0990/01 2720722
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 290722Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3217
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 010990 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2016 
TAGS: MARR MOPS PGOV RS
SUBJECT: NATO SOFA RATIFICATION:  VERDICT STILL OUT 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 10230 
     B. MOSCOW 9821 
 
Classified By: DCM Daniel A. Russell. Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  According to the Foreign Ministry, the 
Russian Government is completing its review of the NATO 
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) -- which was signed last 
year -- and expects to send it to the Duma "within weeks." 
The MFA assured us that all GOR entities, including the 
Ministry of Defense, supported the agreement, albeit with 
some reservations.  Non-official contacts do not share the 
MFA's rosy assessment and attributed the long review process 
to concerns about closer military cooperation with Western 
nations.  Duma representatives told us that the legislature 
would consider the agreement "in due course," suggesting that 
the measure might not be taken up during the Duma's current 
session, which ends in December.  Election dynamics will 
complicate prospects for SOFA ratification, with little 
obvious political gain in advocating closer military 
relations with NATO and the U.S.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
------------------------------------ 
REVIEW OF NATO SOFA ALMOST COMPLETED 
------------------------------------ 
 
2.  (C) Grigoriy Sumkin, Counselor in the NATO Section of 
MFA's European Cooperation Department, told us September 26 
that the GOR was nearing completion of its second review of 
the NATO SOFA signed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in 
April 2005.  He anticipated that the government would submit 
the agreement to the Duma for ratification "within a few 
weeks."  Sumkin emphasized that there was no political reason 
for the long official review, explaining that it was not 
unusual for international agreements to undergo more than one 
round of scrutiny to ensure that all provisions conformed 
with Russian law.  He said Lavrov had stressed the same 
points in a September 19 meeting in New York with NATO 
Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer.  In the case of the NATO 
 
SIPDIS 
SOFA, Sumkin continued, several provisions had not initially 
complied with domestic law.  He declined to specify the exact 
differences but suggested that they pertained to customs 
duties and liability for property damages.  These issues were 
being resolved.  He asserted that the entire government, 
including MOD, supported the SOFA and looked forward to 
closer military cooperation with the U.S. and other Western 
nations. 
 
3.  (C) Nonetheless, Sumkin said the government might send 
the agreement to the Duma accompanied by several 
clarifications; their nature and wording were still being 
negotiated.  Characterizing the SOFA as a framework agreement 
that could be tailored to individual circumstances, Sumkin 
argued that some NATO partner nations had issued similar 
clarifications upon ratification without significant effects 
upon their military cooperation.  Sumkin did not think the 
GOR's clarifications would impose artificial barriers or 
otherwise undermine the agreement's implementation.  The GOR 
understood the reciprocal nature of the SOFA and would not 
deliberately risk disadvantaging its military personnel 
abroad. 
. 
-------------------------------- 
DEFENSE ANALYSTS LESS OPTIMISTIC 
-------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) Several of our non-official contacts did not share 
the MFA's optimism concerning ratification.  Aleksandr Golts, 
a respected defense analyst with the Weekly Journal, 
Aleksandr Belkin of the Council on Foreign and Defense 
Policy, and independent analyst Pavel Felgengauer all told us 
separately that a decision to ratify the agreement would be 
based mainly on political considerations.  All echoed the 
sentiment that neither Duma consideration nor a final 
decision on ratification was imminent. 
 
5.  (C) Belkin emphasized that there was not a strong lobby 
for closer ties to the U.S. or NATO.  The MOD mindset was 
still mired in Soviet-era thinking that did not permit the 
military or civilian leadership to recognize the merits of 
active cooperation with more advanced armed forces.  Belkin 
noted that there were only a handful of people in the Duma -- 
deputies or staffers -- who understood defense issues and 
would be able to analyze objectively the implications of the 
NATO SOFA.  If the government did send the agreement to the 
legislature soon, he thought the most likely time to consider 
it would be in the latter part of the current session or the 
early part of the spring session (in other words, after this 
autumn's regional and local elections but before next 
 
MOSCOW 00010990  002 OF 002 
 
 
autumn's parliamentary campaign).  He said the Kremlin was 
sensitive about the timing of any decision regarding 
ratification.  Isabelle Francois, Head of the local NATO 
Information Office, also told us that Duma consideration of 
the SOFA was unlikely until the spring legislative session. 
. 
-------------------------------------------- 
DUMA UNLIKELY TO PUT AGREEMENT ON FAST TRACK 
-------------------------------------
------- 
 
6.  (C) Contacts in the Duma confirmed that the legislature 
had not yet received the agreement nor is it now on the 
docket for consideration during the current session.  Valeriy 
Ignatyev, a knowledgeable staffer on the Defense Committee, 
told us this week that the agreement was still with the MFA, 
which had not finished clearing the SOFA with other 
ministries.  Ignatyev mentioned that the agreement would be 
considered "in due course" but would likely require several 
amendments to existing Russian law before it could be 
implemented.  His own sources had informally told him that 
the SOFA was not expected at the Duma before the end of the 
year. 
. 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
7.  (C) We are encouraged that the MFA is moving ahead on 
interagency consideration of the draft NATO SOFA.  That said, 
ratification will depend on political considerations with an 
eye toward the forthcoming electoral campaigns.  The Russian 
reaction to the landing of NATO forces in Ukraine and to 
NATO's decision to offer Intensified Dialogue to Georgia 
shows that cooperation with NATO remains a political 
hotbutton here.  Nonetheless, Russia's decision to 
participate in NATO's Active Endeavor Mediterranean 
interdiction operation shows that there are Russian 
decision-makers who recognize the value of increased 
practical cooperation with NATO.  De Hoop Scheffer's October 
26 visit to Moscow is the next opportunity to raise the SOFA 
with Russia's leadership.  We will continue to press the MFA 
and others to accelerate consideration of the agreement. 
BURNS

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