09TBILISI171, GEORGIA: GOVT AGREES TO LIMIT OFFENSIVE CAPABILITY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI171 2009-01-30 14:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9346
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0171/01 0301447
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301447Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE IMMEDIATE 2250
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0869
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0175
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4773
RUEHUNV/UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3989

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000171 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS KBTS RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: GOVT AGREES TO LIMIT OFFENSIVE CAPABILITY 
NEAR TERRITORIES 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 82 
     B. STATE 5642 
     C. USOSCE 13 
     D. 08 TBILISI 2271 
     E. 08 TBILISI 2495 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  In a briefing for diplomats, EU 
Monitoring Mission (EUMM) staff provided information about 
the January 26 agreement between the EUMM and the Georgian 
Ministry of Defense (MOD).  The EUMM military advisor judged 
that the limitations the Georgians voluntarily imposed upon 
themselves with this agreement significantly limited their 
ability to conduct offensive capabilities against Abkhazia 
and South Ossetia.  EUMM Head Hansjorg Haber had hoped for 
more extensive limitations, but he saw this agreement as the 
beginning of a process; UK Ambassador Keefe noted the details 
were less important than the fact of the agreement.  The EUMM 
signed a similar agreement with the Ministry of Internal 
Affairs in October; Haber expressed some concerns about 
"creeping militarization" among MOIA forces, but the EUMM 
maintains an ongoing dialogue with the MOIA on these 
concerns.  Haber said the next step was to encourage Russia 
to sign a similar agreement, but expressed little hope for 
success.  French Ambassador Fournier noted the agreement 
provides a robust answer to criticism in Vienna of Georgia's 
refusal to permit a Russian military inspection under the 
OSCE Vienna Document process.  Although the Georgians have 
room to improve, they have made a good effort to do their 
part to show their commitment to avoiding military escalation 
along the boundaries.  End summary and comment. 
 
THE MOD MOU 
 
2. (SBU) On January 26, Haber and Georgian Defense Minister 
Sikharulidze signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 
called the "Provisional Arrangement for the Exchange of 
Information between the Ministry of Defence of Georgia and 
the European Union Monitoring Mission" (text emailed to 
EUR/CARC).  The key elements remain the same as those 
reported in ref A, with the final compromises being Georgian 
willingness to sign one agreement covering both Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia, and EUMM acceptance of a 15-km zone, versus 
20-km, outside Abkhazia.  The MOD had sought U.S. input on 
the agreement (ref A), which EmbOff and Deputy DATT provided 
to MOD Analytical Department Director David Nardaia on 
January 23 per ref B.  According to the text, the agreement 
will be available in "the public domain"; Haber explained 
that it will probably not be posted on a website, but will be 
provided to anyone who asks for it, and has already been 
passed to Russia. 
 
3. (C) At the EUMM's weekly briefing for the diplomatic 
community on January 29, the EUMM's military advisor, Clive 
Trout (from the UK), went through the key elements of the 
agreement and offered the overall assessment that its 
limitations made it difficult for Georgia to mount offensive 
operations against either Abkhazia or South Ossetia.  He 
added that, because Georgia agreed to inform the EUMM of any 
major military movements, and the EUMM had the ability to 
inspect Georgian military installations within a day's 
notice, it would be very difficult for Georgia to take any 
steps to prepare for an offensive without the EUMM's 
knowledge.  Head of Mission Haber said the EUMM had sought 
more extensive limitations on the Georgian military, such as 
Qmore extensive limitations on the Georgian military, such as 
a 20-km zone outside Abkhazia and a larger zone outside South 
Ossetia that would have included parts of the east-west 
highway, but decided that this initial agreement was 
worthwhile and would begin a process of cooperation between 
the EUMM and MOD.  The agreement calls for fortnightly 
meetings between the EUMM and MOD.  UK Ambassador Denis Keefe 
noted that in any case the fact of the agreement was more 
important than the details of the text. 
 
4. (C) French Ambassador Eric Fournier expressed considerable 
indignation at the criticism levied against Georgia in Vienna 
in the context of Georgia's refusal to accede to Russia's 
request to conduct OSCE Vienna Document inspections (ref C). 
He pointed out that the MOU provided much more transparency 
on Georgia's military than OSCE commitments provided, because 
it allowed an international body present in Georgia virtually 
unrestricted access to installations and movements. 
 
THE MOIA MOU 
 
TBILISI 00000171  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
5. (C) The MOU complements a similar agreement signed between 
the EUMM and the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) 
on October 10, 2008.  Haber reported that the EUMM is 
concerned b
y recent MOIA moves that have caused a "creeping 
militarization" of the adjacent areas.  In one case, the EUMM 
undertook surprise inspections on January 27 of four MOIA 
posts near the boundaries, at Rukhi outside Abkhazia and 
Jria, Ergneti and Odzisi outside South Ossetia.  The MOIA 
allowed immediate inspections in three of the posts, and the 
EUMM found the MOIA to be in full compliance with its MOU 
(e.g., no specialized or heavy weaponry).  The MOIA did not 
allow an immediate inspection at Odzisi, however; after 
several phone calls, the EUMM was finally allowed in, but was 
not given access to one building.  Minister of Internal 
Affairs Merabishvili later admitted to Haber that the refusal 
to allow an immediate and complete inspection was a violation 
of the MOU.  He explained that the one restricted building 
was a highly sensitive surveillance station collecting 
signals intelligence from Russian and South Ossetian posts in 
Akhmaji and the Akhalgori Valley, adding that its cover had 
now been revealed to the Russians and the site would have to 
be relocated. 
 
6. (C) The EUMM has also observed some equipment held by the 
MOIA that Haber described as showing a certain "lack of 
discipline" in its commitments to avoid militarizing the 
adjacent areas, which he will raise with the MOIA.  EUMM 
monitors have observed rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), 
sniper rifles, and around January 18 at Koshka (just outside 
the South Ossetian administrative boundry, east of 
Tskhinvali), a tripod for an RPG launcher.  The EUMM 
continues to question the MOIA's use of armored COBRA 
vehicles as well (refs D and E), although Haber admitted they 
did not violate the MOIA's agreement with the EUMM.  (Embassy 
note.  Minister Merabishvili has argued to the Ambassador 
that it is unfair of the EUMM to insist that their monitors 
needed armored vehicles to be safe along the administrative 
boundaries of the separatist territories, while objecting to 
the Georgian desire to ensure that their police personnel 
were equally safe.  We and many of our European colleagues 
think that Merabishvili has a point.  End note.)  Haber noted 
that the EUMM has observed several flights by Russian 
helicopters over areas adjacent to South Ossetia in recent 
days (west of Perevi January 27; above Perevi and Jria 
January 24; above Sakorintlo January 24 and 21; and above 
Jria January 20) and speculated that the Russians were trying 
to keep their eye on Georgian movements, including those in 
particular by COBRAs and other vehicles. 
 
RUSSIA'S TURN 
 
7. (C) Haber said the next step was to approach the Russians 
and seek a similar agreement, and in fact the EUMM has 
already begun this process by sharing the text of the MOU 
with Russia.  Haber had been hoping for a "soft landing" with 
the Russians, and he was pleased that their initial response 
to the MOU was no response at all; he had feared some kind of 
negative statement.  Haber reported that Russian Ambassador 
to the EU Chizhov in Brussels had remarked privately to him 
that the MOU does not go as far as the fourth point of the 
six-point cease-fire agreement (Haber commented to the 
Qsix-point cease-fire agreement (Haber commented to the 
assembled diplomats that the Russians still have some work to 
do on the fifth point).  Haber said he had little expectation 
of immediate or substantive steps toward such an agreement 
with Russia, and he thought the international community might 
need to use other fora, such as bilateral engagement or the 
Geneva process, to make any progress.  Nevertheless he 
thought approaching the Russians would still be useful in 
putting the diplomatic ball in their court. 
 
COMMENT: THE GEORGIANS ARE TRYING HARD 
 
8. (C) Although the EUMM wanted to sign the MOU earlier, the 
Georgian government's caution in making these voluntary 
commitments is understandable.  Its willingness to do so 
shows a sincere interest in being both cooperative and 
transparent with the international community.  Even though 
the EUMM did not get as restrictive an agreement as it 
wanted, it is satisfied that Georgia's ability to mount 
offensive operations is significantly impaired.  As the EUMM 
points out, the government's good will now deserves the 
reward of a serious expectation from the international 
community that Russia will reciprocate.  Russia may counter 
that Georgia continues to militarize the adjacent areas -- 
 
TBILISI 00000171  003 OF 003 
 
 
but such allegations must be kept in context.  Although the 
MOIA's record of compliance with its MOU is apparently not 
100%, it has maintained a regular dialogue with the EUMM. 
Merabishvili's admission of a violation, not to mention the 
rather remarkable revelation about sensitive intelligence 
operations, demonstrates an openness about internal 
operations that few sovereign nations would suffer on their 
own soil.  The MOD MOU also establishes regular 
consultations, and we expect the MOD and EUMM will remain 
similar engaged.  Furthermore, no international monitors have 
reported suspicions of active Georgian attacks against 
Russian, Abkhaz or South Ossetian forces.  Instead monitors 
have continued to file regular reports about attacks against 
Georgian forces, as well as the installation of heavy 
equipment along the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides of the 
administrative boundaries. 
TEFFT

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