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Viewing cable 10PARIS207, FRENCH MFA ON RUSSIA, BALKANS, AFGHANISTAN, IRAN,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10PARIS207 2010-02-22 14:02 2010-12-06 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Paris
VZCZCXRO2986
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #0207/01 0531431
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221431Z FEB 10 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8368
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 000207

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2020
TAGS: PGOV PREL RS GG SR BK AF IR AM FR
SUBJECT: FRENCH MFA ON RUSSIA, BALKANS, AFGHANISTAN, IRAN,
CAUCASUS

PARIS 00000207  001.2 OF 004

Classified By: Political Counselor Andrew R. Young, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d
).

1.  (C/NF) SUMMARY: During separate discussions with OSD
Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs
Alexander Vershbow and EUR Deputy Assistant Secretary Spencer
Boyer in early February, Roland Galharague, MFA
A/S-equivalent for Continental Europe, adopted a defensive
posture about the potential sale of Mistral class ships to
Russia; expressed skepticism about the depth and durability
of Russia's support for sanctions against Iran; acknowledged
Putin's dominance in Russia while proposing, as a means to
strengthen Medvedev, that we respond positively to his
proposals for reforming European security and holding an OSCE
summit; asserted that Serbia cannot win back Kosovo and also
win entry into the EU; expressed pessimism about the future
of Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations and about the impact of
instability in Iran on Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Armenia;
and claimed that Bosnia and Afghanistan could become
difficult issues for trans-Atlantic relations this year
because of the USG's alleged disengagement from Bosnia and
its alleged failure to consult adequately with European NATO
allies on strategy in Afghanistan.  END SUMMARY.

-----------------------------------------
MISTRAL: FRENCH ADOPT A DEFENSIVE POSTURE
-----------------------------------------

2.  (C/NF) When asked about the potential sale of Mistral
class ships to Russia, Galharague inquired as to why the USG
seems to be singling out France for criticism on this issue.
"I recently spoke to my Dutch counterpart," he reported, "and
he said you have not approached him on this subject" despite
recent Dutch (and Spanish) efforts to make similar sales.
Furthermore, the Mistral is not "top end" military equipment,
Galharague argued, describing it instead as a combination
between "a truck and an oil ship" with some helpful
navigation tools.  It will not contribute significantly to
Russian military capabilities.  Russian leaders have been
over-selling the military significance of the Mistral in
order to quell domestic opposition to its purchase from
abroad.  Some Russians consider the sale a harbinger of the
end of shipbuilding in their country, and claim the ship
could be built at home but would simply take longer.  The
production and sale of armaments is a major industry in
Russia, possibly second only to oil and gas.  In his February
10 press conference, the Chairman of Russia's National
Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, seemed "very reticent"
about the possible sale, according to Galharague.

4.  (C/NF) Asked about Georgia's reaction to the possible
sale, Galharague insisted that France has maintained "very
good" relations with Tbilisi.  The GOF "strategy" for Georgia
to recover its lost territory is to persuade the Tblisi
government to engage with the leaders of the secessionist
territories and to continue on their path toward EU
accession.  The demands of accession -- such as internal
democratic reforms and good relations with their neighbors --
will serve Georgia and the region well.  Nonetheless,
Galharague acknowledged that Tbilisi has good reason to fear
Russia, given their recent history.  This ship will not,
however, affect their strategic situation, Galharague argued:
"The Russians have already invaded Georgia without the ship."

5.  (C/NF) While acknowledging that Georgia and the Baltic
countries feel threatened by Russia -- with reason --
Galharague concluded that Russia is not a threat to us and
there is no reason we should not sell equipment to them which
does not fall into the realm of restricted armaments.  The
Mistral class ship does not contain high end or sensitive
technology, he insisted.

-------------------------------------------
RUSSIA'S COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP WITH IRAN
-------------------------------------------

6.  (C/NF) The Russians are currently benefiting from their
helpful statements on Iran while realizing full well that
China will water down any sanctions proposals, Galharague
asserted.  When praising Russia's new stance, he argued, we
should be cognizant of their complicated relationship with
Iran.  Russians have an interest in strong ties with Tehran,
especially because Iran is still a primary market for Russian
arms sales.  On the other hand, were Iran to normalize its
relations with western governments, it could develop into a
major Russian rival for gas sales to the European market.  To
balance various and competing elements of its relationship
with Iran, Russia has an interest in serving as a
"go-between" in the conflict between Iran and the west.  In
fact, Galharague claimed, Russian leaders were furious when
Turkey recently started to seize that mantel.

PARIS 00000207  002.2 OF 004

---------------------
MEDVEDEV VERSUS PUTIN
---------------------

7.  (C/NF) When discussing the comparative influence of
President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, Galharague
claimed that Medvedev, whose initial gut reactions to events
clearly differ from those of Putin, is trying to assemble his
own power bases independent of the former President.  In the
meantime, "power still rests with Putin," Galharague
assessed.  Putin, not Medvedev, constantly juggles and
balances competing domestic interests in Russia.  As a case
in point, Galharague cited the Russian government's reaction
to the financial crisis.  After the government painstakingly
established a mechanism for determining how to divide
stimulus funds among various economic sectors and private
interests, Putin simply decided unilaterally who would
receive state support.  In general, Galharague observed,
Putin much prefers to focus on domestic issues rather than
foreign policy.  Putin prefers cutting deals in the murky
Russian business world to delving into the complexities of
international politics.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
STRENGTHEN MEDVEDEV BY RESPONDING TO HIS SECURITY PROPOSAL
--------------------------------------------- -------------

8.  (C/NF) Galharague described the long-standing French
effort to strengthen Medvedev by respecting his official role
as president of Russia, regardless of Putin's competing power
and influence. "We treat Medvedev as president and address
presidential issues with him."  They also seek to validate
Medvedev's initiatives, regardless of the substantive
content, in order to reward his efforts to put new ideas
forward.  As an important example, Galharague mentioned
Medvedev's proposal for revamping European security
architecture.  Medvedev invested a lot of political capital
in this effort, Galharague argued, and we should provide a
positive response, even if we do not accept the proposals.
For this reason, President Sarkozy sent Medvedev a letter of
acknowledgment after receiving the proposal.  Tying this
approach to USG policy toward Russia, Galharague several
times asked how the USG plans to measure the success of the
"reset" with Russia?  The French, he said, would like to know
whether the USG has established benchmarks for progress, and
they wonder how START negotiations might fit into this
equation.

-------------------------------------------
EUROPEAN SECURITY: GOF SUPPORTS OSCE SUMMIT
-------------------------------------------

9.  (C/NF) Galharague stated that the French largely agree
with us about how to address questions of European security,
except in one area: they support the idea of an OSCE summit.
While Paris concurs with the USG analysis that the Russian
proposals for reforming Europe's security institutions
contain a number of "unacceptable" elements, he argued that
we must understand that "we're playing a game of judo -- we
do not want to give the Russians a pretext to claim they're
being ignored."  He added that the Russians are adept at
manipulation.  "We constantly feel like we have a better hand
but they're playing a better game -- it's the same in
business and economic arenas."  Claims of disrespect by
western nations resonate in Russian domestic politics, to our
detriment, he warned.  Therefore, we must emphasize the
positive elements of the Russian proposal and communicate a
sincere willingness to engage.  An OSCE summit can help with
these aims, Galharague argued, and at the same time support
the Corfu process.  A summit would need to involve at least a
minimum number of substantive issues, such as regional
conflicts or the status of conventional forces in Europe, but
by agreeing to move ahead with the summit we would put the
onus back on Russia.

--------------------------------------------- -----
BALKANS: SERBS CAN'T WIN IN BOTH KOSOVO AND THE EU
--------------------------------------------- -----

10.  (C/NF) Galharague asked that the USG work together with
the EU to discourage the Serbians from proposing a new U.N.
resolution on Kosovo, stating that Serbian Foreign Minister
Jeremic "seems to believe Serbia can win on Kosovo and win EU
entry.  We need to let him know this is not true."  Right
now, Galharague reported, "the Serbs are furious with us (the
French)" in response to the demarche the GOF delivered in
Belgrade in early February (reftel) about Serbia's possible
plans for a U.N. resolution.  "We delivered the message in
very forceful terms."  In fact, the Serbs interpreted the
demarche as a major change in position, Galharague reported.

PARIS 00000207  003.2 OF 004

The EU had thus far maintained the position that the issues
of Kosovo and Serbian entry into the EU were not formally
linked.  "There was no formal conditionality," Galharague
said, adding that the Serbs now understand that to be a
member of the EU they must eventually recognize Kosovo.  "We
told them we do not want another Cyprus," he explained,
referring to Cyprus' controversial EU accession in 2004 as a
divided island where EU legislation remains partly
"suspended" in the northern part of the island which is
outside of the government in Nicosia's control.  Nonetheless,
Galharague predicted the Serbs will likely go ahead with the
U.N. resolution in any case, and the USG and the EU will be
forced to oppose it.

11.  (C/NF) Furthermore, Galharague asserted, before the
Serbs join the EU, they will need to resolve key issues with
Kosovo in the fields of justice, police, customs, transport,
agriculture, and also any differences over names and
terminology.  The best way for Serbia to address issues
related to Kosovo is by working with the European Union Rule
of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).  "At the end of the day,
though," he reiterated, "Serbia must recognize Kosovo if it
wants to join the EU."

------------------------------
PESSIMISTIC ABOUT THE CAUCASUS
------------------------------

12.  (C/NF) The Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations appear to be at
a "dead end," Galharague averred, adding that "Minsk (The
Minsk Group) is going nowhere fast."  He noted that the
French government is not in a position to push the Armenians
at the moment because French citizens of Armenian origin
"represent about 500,000 votes" and French regional elections
will take place in March.  Other factors may soon impact the
Caucasus region, he warned, such as instability in Iran.
Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkmenistan all have important
trade and energy ties with Iran and they could be immediately
affected by the Iran sanctions bill currently making its way
through the U.S. Congress.  At the same time, the effort to
impose harsher U.N. sanctions may offer us an opportunity to
further engage with those three countries about their
approach to Iran.

--------------------------------------------- ----
FUTURE USG-EU FLASHPOINTS: BOSNIA AND AFGHANISTAN
--------------------------------------------- ----

13.  (C/NF) When assessing potential issue areas where the
USG and EU may differ during 2010, Galharague focused first
on Bosnia.  He said the French are disappointed that the USG
appears to have put all plans and actions on hold pending the
elections in October.  Indeed, he implied that U.S. and EU
officials have differing assessments of the need for
continual engagement with the conflicting parties in Bosnia.
Bosnian parties will not make progress without unity between
the U.S. and the EU.  When the Americans disengage, even
temporarily, Galharague claimed the Bosnians perceive it
immediately and react accordingly: "The Americans are giving
up, so why should we do this (make compromises)?"  The USG,
the Spanish EU presidency, and High Representative Ashton
should lead the charge in engaging this year -- "we need U.S.
backing now," he urged.  As a lever to press the Bosnians
forward on constitutional issues, the EU may be able to use
the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which
declared that the Bosnian Constitution does not conform with
European human rights standards.

14.  (C/NF) Galharague described Afghanistan as the second
potential trans-Atlantic flashpoint in 2010: "There is an
emerging feeling the war is not jointly owned and managed."
President Obama waited eight months to make a decision and,
during that period, at no point did European opinion factor
into his deliberations, according to Galharague.  DAS Boyer
firmly disagreed, citing USG consultations and discussions
with French officials in Paris and in Washington, DC.
Galharague acknowledged these discussions took place, but
claimed the question Americans posed to their European NATO
allies was not "What do you think?" but "How many troops can
you put on the ground?"  More recently, he said, the USG has
begun contemplating engagement with elements of the Taliban
without consulting European NATO allies.  The French would
like to know, for instance, what this engagement might mean
for our future relations with Pakistan and India.

15.  (C/NF) In purely political terms, Galharague explained
that Afghanistan has developed into a difficult issue,
especially in France.  With the French death toll in
Afghanistan having reached 40, he noted, local politicians
have found themselves increasingly faced with grieving
families, to whom they must explain the purpose of the war.

PARIS 00000207  004.2 OF 004

"The perception is that we're there because the Americans are
there," he said.  "We're not sure where we're going and we're
not being asked or consulted."  Initially, the majority of
Europeans supported the war in Afghanistan, invoking Article
Five of the NATO Charter and committing a "fairly high"
amount of troops and resources.  But now "no one knows the
purpose" of the war.  "Perhaps the French government should
have made a better show of the consultations" that did take
place, Galharague admitted, "but to display them you have to
have them."

16.  (C/NF) EMBASSY COMMENT: Galharague is not ultimately
responsible for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, which is
handled by a separate cell within the MFA, so his comments
may not reflect the views of those who regularly engage with
the USG on this issue.  Notably, when discussing public and
official perceptions of the war in Afghanistan, he made no
mention of SRAP Holbrooke's two visits to Paris in the last
three months, or post's constant exchanges about Afghanistan
with French officials at the senior and working levels.
Galharague focused on a perception of minimal consultation,
which he admitted could persist regardless of reality.  END
COMMENT.

17.  (U) ASD Vershbow and DAS Boyer have cleared this cable.
RIVKIN