07MOSCOW381, AFGHANISTAN: TIME TO REENGAGE WITH RUSSIA?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW381 2007-01-30 16:57 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2707
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0381/01 0301657
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301657Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6979
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0437

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000381 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2017 
TAGS: PREL PTER ETRD SNAR AF RS
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN:  TIME TO REENGAGE WITH RUSSIA? 
 
REF: 06 MOSCOW 11373 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons:  1.4(B/D) 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Foreign Minister Lavrov's February 2-3 
Washington consultations provide an opportunity to seek 
support for the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan's security 
and reconstruction.  While Moscow has been critical of U.S. 
and Western efforts in Afghanistan, it has also expressed 
interest in moving forward on economic investments, renewing 
arms supplies to Kabul, and boosting counternarcotics 
cooperation with the Karzai government.  We should press for 
specific progress in these areas, as well an expanded 
NATO-Russia Council counternarcotics program and a more 
substantial Russian contribution to Afghan reconstruction. 
End Summary. 
 
RUSSIA AND THE KARZAI GOVERNMENT 
-------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  Moscow's post-London Conference support for the 
Afghan government has been measured.  Positive steps like the 
bilateral debt agreement have been accompanied by persistent 
criticism of counternarcotics efforts and growing concern 
about the upsurge in Taliban/Al-Qaeda activity.  Russia has 
never been particularly supportive of Karzai, but he is still 
viewed as a better choice than any of the alternatives. 
Moscow's beefs are that Karzai has sidelined Russia's former 
Northern Alliance clients while not effectively reining in 
Pashtun warlords, and that Russia bears the brunt of efforts 
to stem narcotics trafficked to Europe through the Northern 
Route. 
. 
DEBT RELIEF OPENS DOORS 
----------------------- 
 
3.  (C)  Despite the complaints, we have seen the beginnings 
of a more positive Russian agenda for Afghanistan.  Moscow's 
agreement to reconcile Afghanistan's outstanding debt of USD 
11.2 billion and its reiteration of a commitment to forgive 
100 percent of that debt will remove a significant obstacle 
to improved cooperation with Kabul.  Deputy Foreign Minister 
Alekseyev told the Ambassador that Russia would propose 
specific development and investment projects once the 
agreements were finalized; some private Russian companies are 
already pursuing joint ventures in the energy field with U.S. 
companies and Afghan partners.  Lavrov's planned January 24 
visit to Kabul (scrubbed because of bad weather conditions) 
was to have been marked by an agreement in principle on the 
language of the formal debt agreement, to be followed by 
signatures in February. 
. 
ARMS SUPPLIES TO AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY 
------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C)  Russia is also weighing whether to restart the arms 
supply relationship that saw Moscow donate USD 200 million to 
the Afghan Ministry of Defense over the past five years. 
Russia drew from stockpiles to provide Soviet-era transport 
aircraft, communications equipment, spare parts for tanks and 
APCs, artillery and jeeps, as well as repairs to helicopters 
and fixed wing aircraft.  The MFA told us that new donations 
stopped after General Abdurrahim Wardak took over as Defense 
Minister in early 2005, replacing Russian ally General Fahim 
Khan.  According to the Russians, Wardak said Afghanistan was 
no longer interested in Russian equipment and could count on 
the Americans for his supplies.  After FM Spanta's October 
visit to Moscow, the GOR agreed to take another look at 
supplying arms, perhaps at a substantial discount. 
. 
COUNTER-NARCOTICS FOCUS 
----------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  Russia's mantra over the past several years is that 
more needs to be done to combat narcotics flows from 
Afghanistan -- which contribute to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS 
problems in Russia -- but Moscow has taken few initiatives 
itself.  Russia has touted its cooperation with Central Asian 
states through Operation Channel, but this semi-annual event 
under CSTO auspices is more an interdiction blitz than a 
unified operation.  Russia's long-standing pledge in the 
bilateral Counterterrorism Working Group to put a narcotics 
liaison in Kabul has yet to be realized. 
 
6.  (C)  However, during the past year, Russia put 
substantial effort as G-8 President into hosting a 
ministerial conference on Afghan drug trafficking routes 
(Paris 2 - Moscow 1) that focused on concrete steps to 
prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals used to produce 
heroin.  Also this year, Russia joined with Central Asian 
states and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to establish a 
Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center 
 
MOSCOW 00000381  002 OF 002 
 
 
(CARICC) to foster information sharing on counternarcotics 
and transborder crime.  October saw the kickoff of a pilot 
project under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) 
under which Russia trains Afghan narcotics officials at the 
Interior Ministries' Domodedovo Training Center. 
. 
ENGAGING THE RUSSIANS 
--------------------- 
 
7.  (C)  Cooperation with Russia in support of the
 new U.S. 
comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan offers an opportunity 
to make progress in priority areas -- countering narcotics 
trafficking, spurring economic development and 
reconstruction, and equipping Afghan security forces -- while 
keeping Moscow on board regarding Afghanistan's political 
development.  President Putin has made clear that Russian 
combat troops will not be deployed to Afghanistan, and the 
Afghan government would be unlikely to welcome such an offer, 
so Russia's contribution to stability in Afghanistan will 
need to come in other areas.  FM Lavrov's February 
consultations in Washington offer an opportunity to assess 
Russian willingness to work with the U.S., NATO and its 
global partners to support security and reconstruction in 
Afghanistan.  If early indications are positive, the dialogue 
begun during Assistant Secretary Boucher's October visit to 
Moscow could be resumed with more specific discussions. 
 
8.  (C)  We offer the following recommendations for areas 
where Russia might be willing to cooperate: 
 
-- Counternarcotics:  Russia is focused on increasing its 
direct contacts with the Afghan government to combat 
narcotics trafficking, but this is sometimes couched in terms 
of Afghan participation in the CSTO-sponsored Operation 
Channel.  While there might be some benefit from this, we 
should encourage Moscow to act on its pledge to set up a 
narcotics liaison in Kabul.  Russia should also be encouraged 
to consider scaling up the NRC pilot project.  We could also 
explore with the Russians whether Afghan participation in the 
CARICC makes sense. 
 
-- Reconstruction and economic development:  Russian 
participation in economic projects in Afghanistan should be 
encouraged to support development and improve security. 
Russian firms have significant Soviet-era experience with 
Afghanistan's mineral and energy resources.  Efforts to 
develop joint ventures with Afghan and foreign firms could be 
productive.  Russian firms are also interested in working as 
contractors or subcontractors on assistance projects -- 
including road building and power construction -- that 
support U.S. priorities.  We should encourage Russia to build 
more commercial relations with Afghanistan by sending a trade 
delegation to Kabul. 
 
-- Military Assistance:  To the extent consistent with U.S. 
plans to train and equip Afghan national security forces, we 
could encourage Russia to renew its donations to the Afghan 
National Army channeled through the Afghan Defense Ministry. 
 
 
-- Humanitarian Assistance:  Immediately after the fall of 
the Taliban, Russia provided over USD 30 million in 
humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.  While this aid ended 
soon thereafter, we could approach the Emergencies Situation 
Ministry (MCHS), which delivers Russian assistance worldwide, 
to see whether Moscow would underwrite a project in the area 
of health.  We could also encourage Russia to increase the 
scholarships it allocates to Afghan students.  Russian firms 
interested in doing business in Afghanistan could also be 
encouraged to provide training slots for Afghans. 
. 
Comment 
------- 
 
9.  (C)  It's time to see whether Russia's rhetoric about 
cooperation can be matched by efforts in collaboration with 
other Afghan Compact members to foster security and economic 
reconstruction.  Lavrov's February 2-3 Washington 
consultations offer a preliminary opportunity to test whether 
Moscow is ready to step up its efforts. 
BURNS

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