06MOSCOW11029, RUSSIAN REACTS TO ARRESTS OF SOLDIERS IN GEORGIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW11029 2006-09-29 15:38 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5032
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #1029/01 2721538
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 291538Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3275
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 02 MOSCOW 011029 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/29/2016 
TAGS: PREL MARR NATO GG RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN REACTS TO ARRESTS OF SOLDIERS IN GEORGIA 
 
REF: MOSCOW 10986 
 
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Daniel A. Russell.  Reasons:  1. 
4(B/D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  The Ambassador strongly encouraged 
restraint in a September 29 telephone conversation with 
Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin.  Karasin responded that he 
appreciated U.S. responsiveness and welcomed Tbilisi's 
decision to permit joint patrolling of the Kodori Gorge.  The 
MFA confirmed that it has begun taking diplomatic and 
political steps to obtain the release of the Russian officers 
arrested in Georgia.  The MFA told us September 29 that the 
Russian Ambassador to Georgia had been recalled, the Embassy 
in Tbilisi was being drawn down, diplomatic and military 
employees in Georgia were being evacuated and visa issuance 
to Georgians was suspended.  Moscow will also increase the 
tempo of its diplomatic efforts in capitals and possibly in 
New York.  Public opinion remains angry over the Georgian 
move, but most public figures are calling for a political 
rather than a military resolution. Russian analysts we spoke 
to were unanimous in viewing the arrests as an escalatory 
step by Saakashvili that would likely backfire.  End Summary. 
 
. 
DFM KARASIN WELCOMES U.S. EFFORTS 
--------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  The Ambassador, participating in an economic 
conference in Sochi, telephoned DFM Karasin September 29 to 
reiterate U.S. calls for restraint, underscore that the U.S. 
had taken serious note of the GOR non-paper, and detail U.S. 
efforts to de-escalate the situation in Tbilisi.  Karasin 
appreciated the U.S. follow-up on the incident and the 
opportunity in Washington for an exchange between Russian 
Ambassador Ushakov and U/S Burns.  He welcomed Tbilisi's 
decision to allow joint CIS-UNOMIG patrolling of the Kodori 
Gorge as a means to reduce tensions. 
. 
MFA:  DIPLOMATIC STEPS . . . FOR NOW 
------------------------------------ 
 
3.  (C)  MFA Fourth CIS (Caucasus) Deputy Director Dmitriy 
Tarabrin reviewed the diplomatic steps that Russia had or was 
about to take today in response to the arrests.  They are: 
 
--  recall of Russian Ambassador to Georgia Kovalenko for 
consultations in Moscow. 
--  drawdown of staff and dependents from the Russian Embassy 
in Tbilisi and Russian military facilities in Tbilisi, Batumi 
and Akhalkalaki. 
--  dispatch of two EMERCOM planes on Friday to Tbilisi to 
evacuate employees and dependents.  Ambassador Kovalenko is 
likely to join the first group of evacuees. 
 
4.  (C)  In addition to these steps, the MFA has issued a 
travel warning to Russian citizens recommending against 
travel to Georgia because of the threat of violence.  Visa 
issuance to Georgians (whether in Tbilisi or elsewhere) has 
been suspended with exceptions to be made only in emergency 
cases.  Russia will be making demarches in major capitals to 
argue that the officers must be freed and allowed to return 
to Russia.  He said Russia would weigh bringing the issue of 
the detentions to the notice of the UN Security Council. 
 
5.  (C)  Tarabrin said that these measures would be 
sufficient for now, but Moscow was actively considering other 
diplomatic, political and financial measures that might be 
taken against the Georgians.  He emphasized several times 
that Russia was not contemplating military measures.  He 
would not be drawn out on when such further measures might be 
put in place, but said that if the situation was not resolved 
in the next few days, Russia would weigh taking additional 
steps.  He pointed to the large sum of funds transferred 
annually to Tbilisi in the form of remittances (he put the 
unofficial figure at USD 2 billion) but shared no details on 
what practical steps Russia could take to stop such transfers. 
. 
PUBLIC STATEMENTS MODERATING? 
----------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  Compared to statements on September 28, when news 
broke of the arrests, public officials were more restrained. 
Russian television channels ran (edited) clips of the 
Georgian tapes supposedly showing acts of espionage, but 
newscasters were dismissive about what the tapes proved. 
While the arrests continue to draw across-the-board 
condemnation, few public figures were recommending a military 
response.  The Public Chamber called for the release of the 
officers, pointing to the damage it was doing to the 
bilateral relationship, while Duma Foreign Affairs Committee 
Chairman Konstantin Kosachev ruled out the use of force to 
 
MOSCOW 00011029  002 OF 002 
 
 
resolve the situation and noted that the U.S. was playing a 
role in calming tensions.  Carnegie Center analyst Aleksey 
Malashenko dismissed the possibility of war, but thought the 
relationship would remain "in crisis."  A staffer on the Duma 
Defense Committee told us that he did not expect any serious 
consequences to the arrests, which would likely be resolved 
through diplomatic means.  Such views were not universal -- 
for example, Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Andrey
 
Kokoshin called Georgia a "failing state" and warned that 
Russia would "stop at nothing" if its security interests were 
threatened. 
. 
THINK TANKERS SEE GEORGIAN MISCALCULATION 
----------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (C)  Embassy contacts at political-military think tanks 
were unanimous in blaming Saakashvilli for the incident, 
seeing his goal as an escalation of Tbilisi's confrontation 
with Moscow that would draw in the U.S. and other Western 
partners.  Boris Makarenko of the Center for Political 
Studies said Saakashvilli felt emboldened by Georgia,s new 
ID status with NATO.  Alexander Belkin, of the Council of 
Foreign and Defense Policy, told us Saakashvilli was raising 
the stakes and that Georgia hoped Russia would make a mistake 
and overreact.  Pointing out that "real" espionage incidents 
were resolved quietly, Ivan Safranchuk of the World Security 
Institute said that the arrest might be a good tactical move 
to escalate the conflict, but Saakashvilli was engaged in a 
high stakes gamble. 
. 
WESTERN PARTNERS 
---------------- 
 
8.  (C)  Among our Quad partners, only the Germans approached 
the MFA on this issue and received much the same readout as 
we did.  Because of what they characterized as the positive 
tone of discussions in Berlin during the September 28 Friends 
of Georgia meeting, the Germans have concluded that no 
demarche is needed and that the Russians were responding 
along political and diplomatic lines.  The UK Embassy is 
advocating a coordinated response both in Moscow and in 
Tbilisi to encourage restraint and the expulsion of the 
detained Russians.  The British were more alarmist about the 
prospect for unanticipated escalation into a military 
confrontation. 
. 
NEXT STEPS 
---------- 
 
9.  (C)  Russia has now taken measured steps to respond to 
the arrests and has -- for the most part -- dialed down the 
rhetoric.  However, if this matter begins to drag into next 
week, there is an increasing chance that harsher measures 
will be implemented because of growing political pressure to 
be seen as doing something.  Russia's preexisting sanctions 
against Georgia (embargoes on trade and transit restrictions) 
cut down on the options available to Moscow.  A decision to 
expel the officers quickly in order to resolve this matter 
would remove Russia's temptation to pursue more heavy-handed 
measures. 
BURNS

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