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Viewing cable 09BAKU226, DEFENSE MINISTER ON GABALA, ARMAVIR, RUSSIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BAKU226 2009-03-19 12:12 2010-12-01 23:11 SECRET Embassy Baku
VZCZCXRO3866
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKB #0226 0781219
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 191219Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0941
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0887
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0942
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T BAKU 000226 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/PRA-ANITA FRIEDT, EUR/CARC, DAS BRYZA, 
INR (PSTRONSKI),DEFENSE FOR OUSD(P) DMELLEBY 

EO 12958 DECL: 03/20/2034 
TAGS PREL, PGOV, AJ, RU, PINR 
SUBJECT: DEFENSE MINISTER ON GABALA, ARMAVIR, RUSSIA 

Classified By: Ambassador Anne Derse, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S) Summary: Defense Minister Safar Abiyev on March 14 told the Ambassador he did not object to exploration of joint U.S.-Russian use of the Gabala radar station, but was deliberately vague on whether the Russians’ lease would be renewed on its expiration in 2012. He also shared details of his recent visit to Moscow, which came at the Russians’ invitation amid the controversy over allegations of large-scale arms transfers by Russia to Armenia. End Summary.

2. (C) The immediate reason for the Saturday morning meeting was to agree on a procedure for the quick negotiation of the Exercise Support Agreement (ESA) for the planned April-May bilateral exercise REGIONAL RESPONSE 09 (RR-09). While the MoD had been planning on postponing the exercise due to interagency differences in Baku - later shown to be political reservations held by the Foreign Minister personally about the international message sent by the exercise (Reftel), Abiyev was now determined to move forward after a lengthy after-hours meeting with Foreign Minister Mammadyarov after the latter’s meeting with Ambassador and DATT. Abiyev offered his full support to the exercise and a visit from a USEUCOM negotiator to finalize the agreement; adding, however, that he was in full agreement with the Foreign Minister’s desire to make the exercise appear as multilateral as possible to avoid raising the ire of Russia and Iran.

Gabala Issues
------------- 

3. (S) Responding to Ambassador’s question about Azerbaijan’s future intentions regarding Gabala, Abiyev replied that it was late in 2007 that Russian DefMin Anatoly Serdyukov approached him about extending Russia’s use of the site beyond 2012. According to Abiyev, he responded in surprise and asked Serdyukov to explain his request because then-President Putin had said before that Russia no longer needed the site. Serdyukov’s response was “(that was a long time ago.” Abiyev told the Russians that the time to discuss the renewal of the lease - or the expansion of the facilities or military contingent there - was 2012.

4. (S) Asked about the Armavir (“Voronezh”) station Russia recently put into operation in the Krasnodar region, Abiyev said that it is a relatively “weak” station with much less capability than Gabala, regardless of Russian claims about its effectiveness. He claimed this was obvious because Russia had put almost 1 billion USD into improvements at Gabala over the years and had only spent USD 70 million on Armavir; and furthermore the Armavir radar only has a range of 2,500 km compared to 8,500 for Gabala. (Note: Other sources give the cost of Armavir at 2.85 billion rubles, or USD 84 million at current rates, and a range of 4,000 km. Russia built the station to replace the radars at Sevastopol and Mukachevo in Ukraine, which it lost when the GOU refused to continue their leases. End Note.)

Conversations With Serdyukov
---------------------------- 

5. (S) Abiyev told the Ambassador about his late-January trip to Moscow to discuss Azerbaijan’s allegations that Russia had made extensive weapons transfers to Armenia throughout 2008. In formal meetings, Abiyev said, his Russian counterpart stuck to the talking points and denied any involvement. However, “after the second bottle of vodka,” that evening, he said, the Russians opened up and admitted to having transferred weapons to Armenia.In an interesting side note, Abiyev quoted Serdyukov as saying: “Do you follow the orders of your President?...Well, I follow the orders of two Presidents.”
DERSE