07MOSCOW3567, AFGHANISTAN: MOSCOW STIRS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3567 2007-07-20 12:26 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8174
PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW
DE RUEHMO #3567/01 2011226
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201226Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2253
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 003567 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2017 
TAGS: PREL PTER MASS EAID SNAR AF RS
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN:  MOSCOW STIRS 
 
REF: MOSCOW 381 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons:  1.4(B/D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Russia has sharply stepped up its 
engagement with the Afghan government since FM Lavrov's 
February visit to Kabul.  Moscow intends to finalize its debt 
relief agreement with Kabul by the end of the month and is 
actively weighing increased arms supplies and initiating a 
program of reconstruction assistance.  Russian firms are more 
aggressively seeking investment opportunities in Afghanistan. 
 According to the MFA and Russian Afghan hands, Russia is 
motivated by concerns about a resurgent Taliban and drug 
trafficking as well as hopes to gain from a recovering Afghan 
economy.  While Russia has agreed to expand training slots 
for Afghan counternarcotics officials through a NATO-Russia 
Council pilot project, Moscow's focus is on using the 
Collective Security Treaty Organization to stem trafficking. 
The upcoming meeting of the U.S.-Russian Counterterrorism 
Working Group is an opportunity to gauge Russian willingness 
to cooperate more actively across the board in support of 
shared goals of Afghan stability.  End Summary. 
 
The Pace Quickens 
----------------- 
 
2.  (SBU)  FM Lavrov's February 23 visit to Kabul marked the 
start of a higher level of Russian engagement with 
Afghanistan.  Soon after Lavrov's return, MFA Second Asia 
Department Director Aleksandr Maryasov announced that Moscow 
was strengthening its ties with Kabul by finalizing a debt 
relief agreement, seeking greater investment opportunities 
for Russian firms and considering renewing arms supplies to 
the Afghan National Army.  In late-March, the MFA singled out 
the appointment of a new Afghan ambassador to Russia after a 
long gap as reflective of improved relations.  May saw the 
establishment of a joint Russian-Afghan Business Council and 
the visit by a delegation led by Afghan Speaker Yunus Qanuni. 
 Moscow agreed to double the number of training slots for 
Afghan and Central Asian counternarcotics officials at the 
Domodedovo facility in June.  On July 18, Deputy Finance 
Minister Storchak told U/S Jeffrey that the long delayed 
signing of the debt relief agreement would finally take place 
at the end of the month when Afghan Finance Minister Ul-Haq 
Ahady visited Moscow. 
. 
Mixed Motives 
------------- 
 
3.  (C)  Afghan experts have been direct about the reasons 
behind the energized relationship.  Moscow remains concerned 
about what they view as a steadily deteriorating security 
situation in Afghanistan and the effects this might have on 
their Central Asian neighbors.  One expert observed that the 
appeal of a resurgent Taliban posed a much more concrete 
challenge to Russian security interests than the proposed 
U.S. missile defense system, that the GOR recognized this, 
and that it was using the tools available to it to influence 
and bolster the Afghan government.  The threat posed by 
narcotics trafficking also preoccupies GOR decision makers; 
Northern Route drug trafficking is blamed for rising drug 
abuse and HIV/AIDS problems in Russia as well as vastly 
increasing the scale of corruption of law enforcement 
personnel and border guards. 
 
4.  (C)  At the same time, Moscow sees economic advantage for 
Russian companies as the Afghan economy expands and 
reconstruction funds are plentiful.  An MFA official who 
handles Afghan issues candidly acknowledged to us that the 
debt deal with Afghanistan had been delayed as lower-level 
officials in the Finance Ministry argued that Russian firms 
were still not being given a fair shake.  He told us this 
might have once been true; Russian firms had long claimed 
that they were being discriminated against.  However, there 
had been a shift in the past year.  Technopromeksport, one of 
Russia's leaders in power plant construction, won a USD 30 
million contract to refurbish the 100 MW Naghlu hydroelectric 
plant, beating out Chinese and Iranian firms.  A Russian firm 
with ties to Kremlin-connected metals oligarch Oleg Deripaska 
was now bidding on the chance to develop the massive Anyak 
copper deposit.  Russian firms were also looking at oil and 
gas prospects and road construction contracts.  The Afghan 
DCM noted to us that Kazan had just hosted a trade fair in 
June that was aimed at reinvigorating ties between firms in 
Muslim Tatarstan and Afghan contacts that dated back to the 
Soviet occupation. 
. 
Loosening Purse Strings 
----------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  Private firms are not the only ones looking to 
invest in Afghanistan.  In the past, the GOR rarely made 
 
MOSCOW 00003567  002 OF 003 
 
 
donations of humanitarian or reconstruction assistance, but 
Moscow's now bulging coffers have persuaded the Finance 
Ministry to provide some limited aid money to the MFA.  The 
Afghan desk has told us that Russia now plans to donate USD 3 
million for additional humanitarian assistance (wheat, &#x00
0A;cooking oil, tents and blankets) in northern Afghanistan. 
Russia is also considering rehabilitating a hospital in Mazar 
and allocating approximately USD 5 million for a university 
in Kabul. 
 
6.  (C)  Moscow's money is likely to be hedged with various 
conditions and Russia is not aiming to be a major donor. 
When approached about contributing to the Afghan 
Reconstruction Trust Fund for justice projects, the MFA 
argued that much of the aid money already given in 
Afghanistan had been wasted and that the Afghans needed to 
build their own self-sustaining institutions. 
. 
Political Support for Karzai 
---------------------------- 
 
7.  (C)  Russia has never been particularly fond of Karzai, 
but he is viewed by the MFA as the better than any of the 
alternatives; MFA Second Asia Department Director Maryasov 
stressed to us that the GOR was focused on strengthening the 
Afghan President's authority.  When UN Special Representative 
for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs met in early June with DFM 
Yakovenko, the Russians underlined their concerns about the 
Taliban's strength and infighting among Afghan politicians. 
MFA sources frequently express exasperation with the 
political scene in Afghanistan, observing that everyone 
imagined themselves as a leader, but few were devoted to 
demonstrating leadership in building a unified Afghanistan. 
The MFA tells us that when Qanuni visited Moscow in late-May, 
he lobbied for Russian support, but, according to our 
sources, he did not receive it.  The absence of viable 
alternatives to Karzai led the MFA to tell Koenigs that 
Russia was willing to support combining the dates for 
upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in 
Afghanistan, even if this meant Karzai stayed on an 
additional year. 
 
 . . . but there are no moderate Taliban 
---------------------------------------- 
 
8.  (C)  While the MFA views Karzai as the one Afghan 
politician who can hold the nation together, the MFA and 
Russian experts have been critical of the central 
government's lack of control over outlying provinces and what 
they viewed as the corrosive effect of pervasive corruption 
in Karzai's government.  The MFA has also slammed Karzai's 
efforts at national reconciliation; during Koenig's visit, 
the MFA rejected any suggestion that former Taliban leaders 
should play a role in the national government, arguing that 
it was a "fantasy" to believe there were "moderate Taliban." 
The MFA stressed to us that they were adamant that Governor 
Munib remain on the UNSCR 1267 sanctions list and argued that 
the Taliban "should be outlawed from public life as were the 
fascists in Germany." 
 
Security and Counternarcotics Help 
---------------------------------- 
 
9.  (C)  Moscow's concerns about the threats posed by the 
Taliban's resurgence and increased drug trafficking have 
spurred more concrete offers of assistance, but progress has 
been slow.  Russia's willingness to resume arms supplies to 
the ANA (USD 200 million in arms were donated from 2002-05) 
is one of the more promising avenues for cooperation.  After 
both FM Spanta's October visit to Moscow and Lavrov's 
February visit to Kabul, the sides agreed to consider 
renewing the supply relationship, but not much has been done 
since.  The MFA complains that the Afghans are dragging their 
heels in working on a comprehensive list of defense 
equipment; we also understand that the Russians want to sell 
arms to Afghanistan, albeit at a substantial discount, rather 
than donate the materiel. 
 
10.  (C)  On a more positive note, MFA European Cooperation 
Department Director Ryabkov told us that there was no 
political impediment to increasing Russian cooperation 
through the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) and that the Russian 
Ambassador is under instructions to continue contacts and 
explore means of supporting NATO forces in Afghanistan, as 
well as strengthening the Karzai government.  The GOR is 
examining a range of proposals, with President Putin 
personally involved in the issue. 
 
11.  (C)  On counternarcotics cooperation, Russia is going to 
double the number of Afghan officials to be trained under the 
NRC project, but still stresses its interests in pursuing 
counternarcotics cooperation through the Collective Security 
 
MOSCOW 00003567  003 OF 003 
 
 
Treaty Organization (CSTO).  Ryabkov argued that the CSTO was 
the "missing link" in counternarcotics cooperation between 
the West and CIS states in Afghanistan.  Acknowledging that 
the Central Asia states were already members of the NATO's 
EAPC, Ryabkov, said that the U.S. and its NATO Allies were 
missing the point that real counternarcotics cooperation was 
taking place within the CSTO, including interdiction, 
information exchange and training.  Russia was not seeking to 
insert a "bloc" mentality in its approach to cooperation with 
the U.S. on Afghanistan, but wanted to tap all mechanisms 
that reinforced our common goals.  Even symbolic cooperation 
would be seen as a significant step by the GOR, according to 
Ryabkov. 
. 
Comment:  Marshaling Russian Support 
------------------------------------ 
 
12.  (C)  It is clear that Russia will be more assertive in 
its engagement with Afghanistan.  In some priority areas -- 
countering narcotics trafficking, spurring economic 
development and equipping Afghan security forces -- Russian 
efforts could dovetail with the U.S. comprehensive strategy 
in Afghanistan.  In particular, we need to build on Moscow's 
new found willingness to aid reconstruction efforts in ways 
that meet Afghan Compact goals.  On other key issues, 
particularly Afghanistan's political transition, we need to 
sustain the international consensus while anticipating and 
addressing differences before they become larger problems. 
The early September meeting of the bilateral Counterterrorism 
Working Group offers an opportunity to register support for 
Russian initiatives that contribute to Afghan stability while 
exploring whether further cooperation is possible. 
BURNS

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