07MOSCOW2659, LOCAL PUNDITS ON RUSSIA’S ESCALATING RHETORIC

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW2659 2007-06-05 16:12 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5999
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2659/01 1561612
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 051612Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0898
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002659 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2017 
TAGS: PREL MCAP PGOV RS
SUBJECT: LOCAL PUNDITS ON RUSSIA'S ESCALATING RHETORIC 
 
REF: MOSCOW 613 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Daniel Russell.  Reasons:  1.4(B/D) 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  The latest Russian rhetoric against U.S. 
missile defense plans, in conjunction with last week's 
missile testing, is read by both pro-Kremlin and liberal 
analysts as further evidence of Putin's continued frustration 
with U.S.-Russian relations.  They argue that the combative 
tone reflects the litany of grievances that triggered Putin's 
February remarks in Munich.  In explaining the latest 
outbursts, experts focus on the election year benefits of 
America bashing, as well as on rejection of the U.S. 
rationale for missile defense and conspiracy theories about 
the U.S. driving "new" Europe's assertiveness in EU-Russian 
relations.  Criticism and suspicion of U.S. intentions is, 
however, not limited to the Kremlin.  Former PM Gaidar told 
us that U.S. MD will always be viewed as offensive, 
potentially destabilizing weapons; forty-five percent of 
those recently polled by Russian Newsweek consider the U.S. a 
"hostile" country.  Given the emphasis Putin places on his 
relationship with the President, most believe that the 
Kennebunkport visit provides the best opportunity to lower 
the rhetoric and to reinforce areas of agreement, while 
addressing sharpening areas of disagreement on European 
security architecture, Kosovo, and democracy.  End Summary. 
 
Drumbeat of Criticism 
--------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU)  Russia's May 29 testing of new generation cruise 
(R-500) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (RS-24) has 
been accompanied by a steady drumbeat of criticism over U.S. 
missile defense plans, including Putin's comments from a 
pre-G8 Summit interview declaring that Russia would have to 
weigh targeting MD sites in Europe.  Putin has asserted that 
the tests were a direct response to U.S. MD plans and NATO 
members' "non-compliance" with the A/CFE Treaty.  In a May 29 
press conference following a meeting with Portuguese PM 
Socrates, he warned that U.S. MD plans were threatening to 
turn Europe into a "powder keg."  Later, he warned against 
the "diktat and imperialism" by "certain members" of the 
international community.  First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey 
Ivanov and MOD Anatoliy Serduykov got their licks in as well 
-- the latter compared U.S. MD plans to mining Russia's 
"apartment door," while FM Lavrov dismissed U.S. assurances 
on missile defense as "laughable." 
 
3.  (C)  Political commentators attribute the harsh Kremlin 
spin to continued frustration with the U.S., which generated 
Putin's rhetorical blast in Munich.  Kremlin-connected 
political consultants Vyacheslav Nikonov and Sergey Markov 
separately told us that Putin was "just sick and tired" of 
the perceived accumulated slights and ticked off missile 
defense, Secretary Gates' testimony placing Russia and North 
Korea in the same threat category, U.S. criticism over 
Russian efforts to transition Belarus to market prices for 
gas, and Western failure to condemn Estonia's removal of the 
Soviet-era WW2 monument as feeding this anger.  Fedor 
Lukyanov, the liberal editor of "Russia in Global Affairs," 
agreed and noted that from Putin's perspective, Russia did 
everything to "help" the U.S. post-9/11, including opening up 
Central Asia for coalition anti-terrorism efforts, but had 
expected something in return.  What the Kremlin wanted, 
liberal defense expert Aleksey Arbatov told us, was respect 
for Russia's "legitimate interests."  The Kremlin's 
complaint, Lukyanov reprised, was that Russia instead was 
confronted with NATO expansion, zero-sum competition in 
Georgia and Ukraine, and U.S. military installations in 
Russia's backyard.  This perceived abuse of Russian 
cooperation, coupled with U.S. "triumphalism," continued to 
aggravate the leadership, according to public relations 
adviser to First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov, Sergey Zverev. 
 All underscored to us that for Putin and his inner circle, 
the U.S. "uses" Russia for its own ends but returns nothing. 
. 
MD:  Continuing Target 
---------------------- 
 
4.  (C)  The Russian leadership continues to reject the 
threat analysis that drives U.S. missile defense plans and 
remains deeply distrustful of U.S. long-term intentions and 
"break-out" capacity.  Former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar 
recalled in a dinner last week with us that the Moscow ABM 
system, which consisted of missiles armed with nuclear 
warheads, could easily be switched from a defensive system to 
an offensive system.  This knowledge made it impossible for 
 
MOSCOW 00002659  002 OF 003 
 
 
the U.S. to persuade the Russians that the same could not 
easily be done with interceptors based in Poland.  Gaidar 
added that Russia will always view these interceptors as 
potentially offensive, forward-based weapons, which could 
cause a dangerous destabilization in the strategic balance 
because of their ability to be launched and reach western 
Russia in a matter of minutes.  Inspections
would not 
necessarily be reassuring. 
 
5.  (C)  Efforts to cast the test launches of the ballistic 
and cruise missiles as a direct response to a recent, 
U.S.-induced arms race reflect the Kremlin's focus on raising 
alarms over U.S. plans.  However, military experts dismiss 
Putin's offered rationale and tell us that these long-planned 
tests merely signaled Moscow's pragmatic decision to move 
forward on force modernization.  However, Kremlin friendly 
observers claim that the testing schedules were advanced in 
order to make the point that five years after the U.S. 
abrogation of the ABM Treaty, Russia was in a position to 
push back, with Putin characterizing the development as 
"retaliation" for the "tough and absolutely unjustified 
unilateral steps by our partners." 
. 
New Slights: EU and New Europe 
------------------------------ 
 
6.  (C)  MD is not the only area of Russian complaints about 
U.S. policy.  According to Nikonov and Markov, some of the 
anger towards the U.S. is generated by developments in the 
Russia-EU relationship.  Quoting Putin's line that the 
"caravan can only move as fast as the slowest wagon," Nikonov 
accused the U.S. of working through Poland and the Baltics to 
stymie the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement 
negotiations and to set "new" Europe against Russia's "old" 
partners.  Dismissing Russian liberals' critiques of the 
GOR's misadventures in the "near abroad" and inability to 
forge healthy relations with the Baltics, Nikonov attributed 
Poland's refusal to participate in Track 2 diplomacy or to 
answer the correspondence of FM Lavrov on the meat dispute as 
an example of U.S. encouragement of misbehavior.  Whether it 
was Poland, the Baltics, Georgia, or Ukraine, Markov charged, 
the U.S. played the role of puppeteer. 
. 
Factoring in Domestic Politics and Elections 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (C)  Many believe that an obsessive focus on succession, 
combined with dissatisfaction over the state of U.S.-Russian 
relations, helps fuel anti-Western rhetoric.  Russia's 
neither fully democratic nor fully dictatorial system created 
a shaky and fragile transitional situation, Lukyanov argued, 
in which every move from the outside was viewed as a threat 
that could influence the outcome.  Ekho Moskvy Editor Aleksey 
Venediktov told us that the rhetoric was intimately tied to 
succession politics.  The United States, he argued, had 
replaced the oligarchs as the "enemy" around which Russian 
voters could unite.  While Venediktov believed the ferocity 
of the Kremlin's attacks was artificial, he stressed that the 
underlying anger towards the United States was real and -- 
based on the response to his radio station's programming -- 
resonated well with Russians. 
 
8.  (C)  Both pro-Kremlin and pro-Western analysts confirm 
that the anti-U.S. message is a popular one, with the major 
political parties all falling in line, and a general 
political consensus having formed around the desirability and 
need for a resurgent Russia to play a more assertive role 
internationally.  While Nikonov rejected any linkage between 
Putin's foreign policy and the upcoming elections, arguing 
that with popularity readings at a firm 80 percent and 
trending upwards there was little Putin had to fear, he 
acknowledged that the message played to the sentiments of a 
majority of Russians.  (Note: Polls published in the Russian 
edition of Newsweek show 45 percent of Russians consider the 
U.S. a "hostile" country.)  Foreign policy adviser to the 
Kremlin-sanctioned Just Russia opposition party, Mikhail 
Demurin, noted to us that Putin's unchallenged popularity and 
fin-de-regime status allowed him to say what many Russians 
feel when they catalogue the recent behavior of the United 
States.  Defense analyst Arbatov told us that Putin's primary 
motivation was not to play to the crowd, but to shore up his 
legacy.  The message is simple:  Russia is back and demands 
its due.  Putin does not seek a new Cold War, but rather is 
making a plea for respect, with the hope that the West will 
listen and heed Russia's concerns. 
. 
Comment 
 
MOSCOW 00002659  003 OF 003 
 
 
------- 
 
9.  (C)  This cycle of rhetoric notwithstanding, Putin 
continues to characterize the United States as a "friend," to 
dismiss anti-Americanism as harmful, and to reiterate his 
respect and friendship for the President.  Most here agree 
that the July 1-2 Kennebunkport visit, and the friendly and 
informal setting it will provide, offers the best opportunity 
to lower the rhetoric, to reinforce our areas of common 
agreement, and to better define how to address our sharpening 
differences on European security architecture, Kosovo, and 
Russia's democratic evolution. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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