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Viewing cable 08REYKJAVIK8, Iceland: Russian activities in region a growing concern

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08REYKJAVIK8 2008-01-23 14:02 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0008/01 0231458
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231458Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3542
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE 0068
RHMFISS/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0036
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L REYKJAVIK 000008 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/17/2018 
TAGS: PREL MOPS PGOV RU IC
SUBJECT: Iceland: Russian activities in region a growing concern 
 
Refs: A) 07 Reykjavik 247 
  B) IIR 6 872 2046 06 (DTG 231540Z AUG 06) 
  C) 07 Reykjavik 322 
 
Classified By: Amb. Carol van Voorst for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  Russian foreign policy continues to irritate and 
puzzle the Government of Iceland. In the hour-long special on Russia, 
broadcasted by an Icelandic television channel on January 15, Russian 
Ambassador Tatarintsev claimed that recent Russian foreign policy 
moves are tied to Russia's desire for a multipolar world, a notion 
threatening to "American military and political circles that want to 
dictate their political will to everybody else, and we Russians will 
never allow it."  The Ambassador's remarks did not win any fans at 
the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, particularly when 
Tatarintsev accused the Government of Iceland of "hanky panky" in 
unfairly excluding Russian manufacturer Kazan from procurement of new 
search and rescue helicopters for the Coast Guard here.  While the 
Russian Embassy here may be pleased for having aired their point of 
view, they may have miscalculated just how poorly received it would 
be among the government and public.  END SUMMARY. 
 
Russian Public Diplomacy: Not Quite Warm and Fuzzy 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
2.  (SBU) Icelandic TV Channel 2 devoted its hour-long newsmagazine 
"Compass" on January 15 to Russian foreign policy, both in a global 
sense and regarding Iceland in particular.  The first segment of the 
show focused on the resumption of long-range aviation (LRA) activity 
by Russia beginning in the summer of 2007 (Ref A) and centered on the 
visit of the Compass crew to Engels Air Base in Russia, where most of 
the recent LRA flights near Iceland have originated.  (Note:  Though 
Compass noted that the Russian Embassy facilitated their crew's 
travel to Engels as well as to the Kazan helicopter manufacturing 
plant (para. 4), the assumption here is that the trip was largely 
Russian-funded.  Compass and Channel 2 are "flat broke," in the words 
of one local media commentator.  End Note.)  During the visit, bomber 
crews spoke in glowing terms of Iceland's beauty, which they noted 
during their circumnavigations of the island.  The crews also 
downplayed any threat to Iceland from the flights, and avoided any 
direct answer to concerns raised here regarding any possible danger 
to civil aviation. 
 
3.  (U) The show's second portion turned to the broader question of 
recent Russian activities on the global stage, and how President 
Putin plays at home and abroad.  The segment gave Russian Ambassador 
to Iceland Viktor Tatarintsev ample speaking room.  In his most 
provocative comments, Tatarintsev opined: "What we are advocating for 
is to have a multipolar world...there will not be any superpower that 
thinks it can do whatever it wants to with everybody else as its 
smaller servants.  It will not be that way and the Americans know 
that.  Therefore, they are concerned with the growing power of 
Russia, and we will become much stronger.  It is a real threat to 
Americans, not the American population, but a threat to American 
military and political circles that want to dictate their political 
will to everybody else, and we Russians will never allow it.  It is 
pretty simple and it is as simple as that." 
 
4.  (U) The show wrapped up with a lengthy explication of the 
Icelandic Coast Guard's (ICG) SAR helicopter procurement efforts. 
Starting in summer 2006 (Ref B), Tatarintsev has repeatedly claimed 
that the Government of Iceland has unnecessarily shunned Russian 
offers to present Kazan's MI-172 helicopter as an option for the ICG. 
 The Compass crew traveled to Kazan's manufacturing facility in 
Tatarstan, and after devoting considerable screen time to the 
MI-172's capabilities and its advocates, concludes that the aircraft 
would not meet ICG needs as well as other options on the table. 
Nonetheless, Tatarintsev complained that his embassy has never 
received a written reply to GOR offers of assistance and dismissed 
MFA responses that answers were provided orally.  Terming the 
handling of Kazan's offer and the recent Iceland-Norway agreement to 
pursue a joint SAR helo procurement plan "hanky-panky," Tatarintsev 
closed the program with the pledge that Russia "will not allow" such 
discrimination to go forward. 
 
Icelanders Not Impressed 
------------------------ 
 
5.  (C) In a January 16 meeting on an unrelated matter, Icelandic MFA 
Permanent Secretary Gretar Mar Sigurdsson told the Ambassador that he 
had repeatedly discussed the SAR helicopter issue with the Russian 
Ambassador and was greately irritated by Tatarintsev's claim that the 
MFA had not answered the mail.   Sigurdsson further noted that he 
found Tatarintsev's explanation about Russian foreign policy neither 
comforting nor convincing.  Separately, MFA contacts have mentioned 
to Pol Chief their bewilderment at both the aims of the Russian 
Ambassador's TV appearance as well as Russian goals in general. 
 
6.  (C) Comment:  When Tatarintsev took up his posting here in summer 
2006, he made a point in several interviews of mentioning his love of 
Reykjavik's swimming pools and other Icelandic cultural touchstones, 
leading many to believe this was a "new kind of Russian Ambassador." 
With his comments to the press on the LRA resumption in August 2006 
("These flights are just something that Icelanders will have to get 
used to,") and in the January 15 Compass episode, many here now 
believe Russia and her envoy are again showing their true colors. 
Icelandic anxiety over Russian intentions worldwide and in the North 
Atlantic neighborhood will continue to grow, translating directly 
into greater interest in robust defense and security ties with the 
U.S. and NATO. (Ref C). 
 
van Voorst