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09MOSCOW20 9 January 2009 Confidencial Embassy Moscow

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 000020


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2018

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Eric S. Rubin. Reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

1. (C) Summary: On December 22, Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Sergey Ryabkov and Assistant Secretary for Western
Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon discussed ways in which the
U.S. and Russia could constructively engage on issues related
to Latin America. Both sides agreed on the need to cast off
the shadow of Cold War rivalry in developing relations with
the countries of the region. Ryabkov indicated that the
recent increase in Russian activities in Latin America
represented a long-term commitment to revitalize bilateral
relations in the region. Russia’s actions, he said, were
based on common interests rather than ideology. He sought
U.S. advice on how to develop an overall policy framework
toward Latin America, and exchanged views with A/S Shannon on
individual countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba,
Colombia, and Haiti. A/S Shannon told DFM Ryabkov the U.S.
did not feel threatened by recent Russian military maneuvers
in Latin America, and invited the Russian Navy to visit a
U.S. port the next time it sent ships to the region.
Additionally, A/S Shannon met with Vice President of Conoco
Philips Russia Stuart Snow, who told him that Russian energy
companies needed to recover from the financial crisis before
they could concentrate on investing in the Latin American
energy sector, despite GOR wishes to the contrary. The MFA
clearly welcomed this opportunity to consult. We believe
that finding additional opportunities to engage on Latin
America might help to blunt the instinct here to revive Cold
War symbolism. End Summary.

Encouraging The GOR To Engage Constructively...

2. (C) In the course of over three hours of discussions on
December 22, WHA Assistant Secretary Shannon told Deputy
Foreign Minister Ryabkov the USG would like to work
constructively with the GOR to address issues of common
interest affecting Latin America. Ryabkov welcomed the
consultations, noting that the USG and the GOR had not held
high-level discussions about Latin America since 2001. He
told A/S Shannon that the recent increase in Russian
activities in Latin America reflected Russia’s pragmatic
attitude toward the region and was part of a long-term effort
to improve relations there. The growth of the economies of
Russia and countries in Latin America had served as a
catalyst for re-establishing relationships that had been
neglected since the end of the Cold War, as well as forming
new ones. Ryabkov asserted that Russian and Latin American
interests and political views often converged, particularly
with regard to a commitment to multilateralism. He
highlighted coordination at the UN and cooperation on
resolving the global financial crisis as two areas of special

Casting Off The Shadow of Cold War Ideology

3. (C) Ryabkov told A/S Shannon that Latin America’s recent
tilt toward the political left had not been a motivating
factor in Russia’s re-engagement with the region. "Our
policies are not based on ideology," he argued, saying Russia
was happy to engage with countries of any political stripe.
He pointed out that Medvedev’s recent trip to Latin America
took him to a "balanced constellation of countries,"
including Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Cuba. The presidents
of Argentina and Nicaragua, as well as the foreign ministers
of Mexico and Venezuela, had visited Moscow recently.
Russian officials meet with their Latin American counterparts
on a regular basis on the margins of international fora, and
the GOR engages with regional organizations such as the Rio
Group and the Andean Union. Ryabkov also relayed that the
GOR had intensified its relationship with fellow BRIC country
Brazil, highlighting Finance Minister Kudrin’s recent visit
to Sao Paolo and praising Brazil for working actively with
the GOR on the
financial crisis.

4. (C) A/S Shannon in response said that U.S. policy in the
region was likewise not driven by ideology. "The U.S. does
not view the region through a Cold War prism anymore," he
stated. The U.S. would work with governments committed to

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democracy regardless of their left, right, or center

5. (C) Commenting that the GOR currently did not have a
comprehensive framework on Latin America and was not likely
to have one in the near future, Ryabkov sought an explanation
of the overarching U.S. strategy toward the region. A/S
Shannon briefed Ryabkov on the basic pillars of U.S. policy:
promoting democracy, fostering economic growth, investing in
people to develop their society, and protecting the security
of democratic states. He also elaborated on the "Pathways to
Prosperity" initiative. He undertook to provide Ryabkov a
packet of material that would outline U.S. policies and
achievements in the region.

An Invitation to Joint Exercises

6. (C) In response to A/S Shannon’s statement that U.S.
policy towards security in the region had moved beyond
preventing external aggression and war to include
counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics cooperation, Ryabkov
indicated that cooperation on new threats and challenges had
also become a focus in Russia’s bilateral relations with the
Latin American countries. Drug trafficking from the region,
in particular, had become an increasing concern. Quoting the
Secretary’s statement that "a few ships will not change the
balance of power in the region," he assured us that the
recent Russian ship visits were not meant as a challenge to
the United States, but the reintroduction of training
exercises that had been put on hold for a while. A/S Shannon
reiterated that the USG did not view the Russian military
maneuvers in Latin America as a threat, and stressed the need
to avoid reviving old images of Cold War rivalry. He invited
the Russian navy to conduct a visit to a U.S. port or
participate in joint exercises with U.S., British, and Dutch
ships in the Caribbean the next time the GOR sent vessels to
the region.

The U.S. Fourth Fleet

7. (C) When asked about U.S. plans to reestablish the Fourth
Fleet, A/S Shannon noted that U.S. good intentions had been
misunderstood. Reestablishing the Fourth Fleet provided the
U.S. Southern Command with a better organizational structure
to manage a range of humanitarian and transnational issues
that might arise in Latin America. The Fourth Fleet would
not have carrier battle groups or large cruisers, but would
use smaller craft and hospital ships to assist the U.S. Coast
Guard and regional partners to combat drug smuggling and
trafficking, as well as render humanitarian assistance.

...While Warning Them About Problematic States


8. (C) Drawing on past U.S. experience for examples, A/S
Shannon warned DFM Ryabkov of some of the pitfalls the GOR
might face as it engaged with more problematic regimes in
Latin America.

Venezuela and the FARC

9. (C) A/S Shannon told Ryabkov that the USG did not have a
problem with Russian engagement with Venezuela, but had
concerns about Venezuelan policies. As Colombia continued
making headway against the FARC, the FARC was moving more of
its operations to Venezuela. In addition to providing
political space, Chavez protected at least two of FARC’s
Secretariat members and facilitated arms transfers in the
gray and black markets. With Russia supplying the Venezuelan
military with new weapons, the U.S. was concerned that the
decommissioned weapons, as well as rifles and bullets
produced under Russian-granted license, could find their way
to the FARC and the black market. Warning Ryabkov that
Venezuela was an unreliable end-user of arms, A/S Shannon
detailed its violation of U.S. export controls for F-16
engines. While it may not be Venezuelan policy to transfer
arms to the FARC, there was a history of Venezuelan forces
and government actors selling weapons to the
terrorist-designated organization.

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10. (C) DFM Ryabkov claimed to be surprised by the scale of
Chavez’s links to the FARC. He reiterated that all Russian
arms sales to Venezuela were in accordance with international
law and domestic regulations, stressing that the GOR had a
robust system of export controls. While it would not be in
Russia’s interest for the FARC to obtain Russian-origin
weapons, Ryabkov said that it was "hard to judge allegations"
involving the FARC. He speculated that as it declined as a
political force, the FARC’s criminality would increase.

11. (C) A/S Shannon assessed that Chavez’s criticisms of the
United States had failed to carve out a leadership role for
the Venezuelan President in the region. As the price of oil
continued to drop, Chavez was likely to face additional
domestic problems. DFM Ryabkov agreed, pointing out that
recent local elections were "almost a landslide victory" for
the opposition. A/S Shannon noted that the U.S. had a robust
energy relationship with Venezuela and would welcome
improvements in the overall bilateral relationship. However,
Chavez’s concern that any rapprochement with the U.S. would
threaten his support base had impeded such efforts. Ryabkov
noted DPM Sechin’s energy talks with Venezuela, and said a
consortium of Russian companies sought to participate in
projects in Venezuela, especially off-shore drilling. He
noted Russia had sought U.S. companies’ help in establishing
gas-drilling platforms in Venezuela.

12. (C) DFM Ryabkov told A/S Shannon that the GOR had a
framework agreement for civil nuclear cooperation with
Venezuela, part of a broader package of deals signed during
President Medvedev’s November visit to Caracas. The GOR,
however, was far from making the deal operational; if and
when circumstances in the future became conducive to actual
projects, they would be strictly in accordance with the GOR’s
IAEA and NPT commitments. Ryabkov praised the efforts of
RosAtom Head Nikolay Spasskiy to negotiate the deal, arguing
that any deal he signed had "no room for ambiguity," which
was not necessarily the case with regard to the nuclear
cooperation agreement signed by Argentina and Brazil. While
Ryabkov was quick to state that neither country represented a
proliferation threat, he expressed concern that this type of
bilateral arrangement could set a bad precedent and be seized
upon by less well-intentioned countries as a substitute for
the stricter standards set by the IAEA. Ryabkov and A/S
Shannon agreed that our two governments should have more
discussions and seek to coordinate messages on this issue.


13. (C) A/S Shannon noted that Bolivia was a major concern,
particularly in the wake of the expulsion of the U.S.
ambassador and DEA. As Colombia became more successful in
inhibiting cartel activity, drug lords were shifting to
Venezuela, were in to making inroads into Bolivia. Morales’
political calculation to halt cooperation with the U.S. was
contrary to Russian interests, A/S Shannon noted, since most
of Bolivia’s cocaine was destined for European markets.
Explaining that the U.S. had been compelled to decertify
Bolivia as a counter-narcotics partner, he urged the GOR to
encourage Bolivia to work with the U.S. to combat the
narcotics trade and to curb the expanding role of the drug
cartels. Arguing that this was in everyone’s interests, A/S
Shannon stressed that "Bolivia cannot solve its drug problem
by itself."

14. (C) DFM Ryabkov agreed that the drug cartels had the
potential to disrupt security in the region, stating that
this was an issue of growing concern, as Russia increasingly
became a lucrative new market for the cartels. However, he
noted that Russia had not engaged Bolivia at senior levels
recently. Ryabkov also expressed concern about the Bolivian
cartels’ cross-border cooperation with cartels in Paraguay,
and indicated that, while Chavez told Medvedev that the
situation was under control, the GOR was concerned Bolivia’s
domestic problems could become international in scope.


15. (C) DFM Ryabkov posited that Cuba had become more open
since Raul Castro took over the reigns of power, and Russia

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was "comfortable" with his strategy of improving standards of
living while keeping a grip on power. Cuban Communists, he
argued, were trying to emulate the "China model" of allowing
limited economic freedom, and Russia welcomed the growing
momentum within the EU to lift economic sanctions against
Cuba. Commenting that Medvedev’s visit to Cuba was the
"start of a process" of restoring relations, Ryabkov hinted
at further senior-level visits, noting that "some documents"
were being prepared for signature, but that it was premature
to reveal their contents. In addition, Russia had already
provided significant humanitarian assistance in the wake of
Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and was reconstituting educational
and training programs for Cuban students and specialists.
"Something real is happening in Cuba," Ryabkov enthused,
stressing that "visually" the growth in small and medium
businesses was striking. He conceded, however, that the
Cuban leadership continued to see "everything" through the
prism of U.S. politics, in an "overly politicized" way.

16. (C) A/S Shannon took issue with Ryabkov’s optimistic
assessment, noting that many of Fidel’s allies remained in
positions of power, with Raul’s reforms limited. Allowing
Cubans to own cell phones and stay in hotels previously
designated for foreigners were significant reforms only when
contrasted to Fidel Castro’s rigidity; the Raul Castro regime
remained conservative and oppressive. The U.S. had made
significant gestures, such as offering Cuba USD 11 million in
disaster relief, but Cuba had rejected the offer due to the
continuing U.S. embargo. A/S Shannon noted that the U.S.
would work with the EU as it reexamined its Cuba policy. He
stressed that freeing political prisoners would help the
Cuban regime set the right tone with the incoming Obama

Other Issues in the Region


17. (C) Commending Foreign Minister Lavrov for visiting
Bogota, A/S Shannon urged the GOR to engage more with
Colombia, a country whose success story would likely change
the face of Latin America. It had helped fight insurgencies
in the region, had made good progress against the FARC, and
its relationship with Central America, the Caribbean region,
and Asia made it an important "connector" country in a way
that Venezuela was not.


18. (C) In response to Ryabkov’s request for a status report
on Haiti, A/S Shannon acknowledged the situation was
complicated, but stressed that Haiti represented a success
story for regional peacekeeping initiatives. For the first
time since 1965, Latin American countries, along with the UN,
took the lead in the peacekeeping operation, with A/S Shannon
singling out Brazil’s leadership role. The UN, he argued,
now had both the opportunity and the challenge to work with
the Haitian authorities on rebuilding state institutions and
curbing gang violence. Stability was possible, if the
international community could help the elected Haitian
government to become self-sufficient in the near future. A
continued inability of the Haitian leadership to assume
effective governing roles risked alienating a Haitian public
that opposed prolonged outside intervention.


19. (C) DFM Ryabkov noted U.S. and Russian overlapping
interests on immigration issues, with both countries hosting
large — mostly illegal — immigrant populations from
neighboring countries. A/S Shannon expressed a willingness
to consult, suggesting that countries in Latin America should
become involved, as many of them also host migrants from
neighboring countries. Both A/S Shannon and DFM Ryabkov
agreed that the way to solve the problem was to improve
economic conditions in their neighboring countries.

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Meeting With Conoco Philips Russia

20. (SBU) A/S Shannon also met with Vice President of Conoco
Philips Russia Stuart Snow December 22 to discuss Russia’s
economic intentions in Latin America, a conversation that
provided more context to the earlier discussion with Ryabkov.
Snow told A/S Shannon that Conoco Philips primarily dealt
with Lukoil, the largest privately-owned Russian oil company.
He said the GOR was encouraging Lukoil to invest in
Venezuela and he assumed that was true for other Russian
"majors." Times were hard for Lukoil and other oil and gas
firms, however, and they were therefore likely to "sit on the
sidelines" with respect to Latin America, despite GOR

21. (SBU) Snow said the one Russian oil firm that might
respond to the GOR on Latin America was Rosneft, primarily
because of its ties to DPM Sechin, who was also Rosneft’s
chair. Snow noted that Sechin has led several of Russia’s
diplomatic and commercial missions to the region and appears
to be the GOR’s energy point person for the region. In
Snow’s view, Sechin might use his influence with the company
to help realize GOR intentions in the region.


22. (C) The MFA clearly welcomed and appreciated the
opportunity to consult on Latin American issues. As Ryabkov
noted at the end of the meeting, he found the exchange to be
extremely useful and personally took over ten pages of notes.
As Russia continues to explore ways to reestablish old
relationships and form new ones around the world,
consultations such as this may prove to be a useful way to
establish common interests and encourage responsible Russian

23. (U) A/S Shannon cleared this cable.