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10TBILISI203, GEORGIA: SCENESETTER FOR SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10TBILISI203 2010-02-18 05:28 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tbilisi
Appears in these articles:
http://rusrep.ru/article/2010/12/07/saakashvili/

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FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2884
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE 0082
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE 0046
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 000203 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/17/2020 
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS MARR OTRA OVIP AF RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SCENESETTER FOR SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE 
HOLBROOKE'S VISIT 
 
Classified By: Ambass...

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 000203 NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/17/2020 TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS MARR OTRA OVIP AF RS GG
1. (S) Summary. Georgia is calmer and more stable than at any time since the war, but those improvements are far from durable. A palpable sense of insecurity still permeates society and politics. Miscalculations and provocations - domestically, in the territories or north across the mountains - could easily spark renewed crisis. With a more stable economy and no viable rival, President Saakashvili is stronger politically, but paradoxically more insecure, burdened by the fear history will judge him to have lost irrevocably the occupied territories. He is also concerned our measured approach to defense cooperation and engagement with Moscow presage a deeper reorientation of U.S. interests. These concerns are reinforced by a steady drumbeat of Russian accusations about the legitimacy and behavior of his government and comparative silence from the West about Moscow's consolidation of its position in the territries. In this hothouse environment, your visit is an important, visible manifestation of the depth of our partnership, and of the enduring commitment of the United States to support Georgia's aspirations to move west.
2. (S) Much of the government and society are still motivated by the lure of Euro-Atlantic integration. Fears that Georgia will remain in the West's waiting room in perpetuity have sparked a minority to begin discussing the viability of a deal with Moscow in order to reintegrate the territories. These trial balloons, and Moscow's ongoing efforts to de-legitimize the government and create more palatable alternatives, further polarize a political environment that encourages zero-sum thinking and hinders deeper democratic and economic reforms. Saakashvili continues to cast about for the "one big thing" that will secure Georgia's place in the west, recently adding an offer to NATO and the U.S. to provide a logistics hub for Afghanistan to his substantial troop commitment over the next two years. Our challenge is to convince President Saakashvili that he risks losing the enormous goodwill generated by Georgia's extraordinary contributions in Afghanistan if he fails to combine them with a new push to deepen Georgia's democratic development. Your visit gives us a chance to thank Georgia publicly for its contribution, providing reassurance of our support, and thereby creating space for Saakashvili to feel secure enough to do the right thing. End Summary.
3. (C) The upcoming deployment to Afghanistan is arguably the most visible example of President Saakashvili's continued determination to anchor Georgia firmly in the west. The two-year deployment commitment follows an extant deployment of a reinforced light infantry company (173 troops) under French command and anticipates a likely additional partnership with the UK. The Georgians did well in their mission-readiness exercise last month; U.S. evaluators determined that the Georgian troops are sufficiently trained "to conduct the full spectrum of combat operations in a counter-insurgency environment" with their parent Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The battalion is continuing its training program (which you will observe) for an expected deployment in April.
4. (C) Despite the substantial commitment Georgia has made to Q4. (C) Despite the substantial commitment Georgia has made to the effort in Afghanistan, public discussion of Georgia's involvement has been limited. President Saakashvili has made the case that the commitment is directly linked to Georgia's own security, arguing publicly that "as soon as the Afghan situation is resolved and the war is over in Iraq, Georgia will be more protected." He has also pointed out that serving in Afghanistan will give Georgian soldiers useful combat experience. Officials have avoided suggesting that the contribution will help Georgia get into NATO, saying instead that it will help Georgia demonstrate itself as a contributing partner, with the apparent implication that NATO allies will then take Georgia more seriously. Foreign Minister Vashadze, for example, described Georgia's efforts as "our contribution to the tasks the alliance is trying to resolve in Afghanistan . . . the fight against terrorism, the fight against drug trafficking." Opposition members have been mostly silent on the topic and offered little public criticism of the contribution, either on its own terms or as a strategy for moving toward NATO membership, although parliamentary opposition leader Giorgi Targamadze expres
sed support for the deployment to Deputy Secretary Steinberg during his February 5 visit to Tbilisi. Another opposition TBILISI 00000203 002 OF 004 leader, Irakli Alasania, even used language similar to the government's when he said, "We should not be only consumers of security, but we also should be contributors to international security." Overall, your visit provides an opportunity not only to raise the profile of Georgia's involvement, but to frame the discussion in a helpful context.
5. (C) The training program -- the Georgian Deployment Program-ISAF (GDP-ISAF) -- has been in progress since September 1, 2009. Training includes broad hands-on training, from marksmanship to identifying and safely disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). This hands-on training is supplemented by classroom seminars, ranging from cultural familiarization to medical officer training. Rather than remaining in a static position like in their current mission with the French, these Georgian troops will share "battlespace" with the U.S. Marines and be responsible for conducting the same combat mission as the U.S. Marines, without national caveats to the rules of engagement. The Georgians will also send two Georgian staff officers to ISAF under Turkish command, providing liaison to the Afghan MOD and National Defense Staff for one year.
6. (C) Whether they make the connection explicit or not, the Georgians see their contributions to Afghanistan as a down payment on their admission into NATO. Support for NATO remains high in Georgia. After the Alliance's declaration at Bucharest in April 2008 that Georgia would eventually be a member and after the war in August, NATO has been intensifying relations with Georgia under the aegis of the NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC). Through the NGC, Georgia and the Alliance have worked closely on an Annual National Program (ANP), which is designed to help Georgia advance reforms in areas key for membership, including political, economic, and defense reforms. Georgia continues to be a strong supporter of NATO operations and is a contributor to international security missions, including in particular ISAF in Afghanistan. The challenge is to express our appreciation for those efforts, but deliver the candid message that such contributions are a helpful, but insufficient step toward membership without the concomitant progress on the civilian side.
7. (C) It is hard to overestimate the extent to which an intense climate of insecurity permeates Georgian society and political culture. Russian forces, located as close as 25 miles outside of Tbilisi, are building permanent bases and Georgians hear a steady drip of Russian statements alleging Georgian aggression or announcing the latest step in incorporating Abkhazia into Russia's economy. Moscow's statements suggesting that Georgia is planning provocations in the North Caucasus have raised fears among Georgian officials that Russia is looking for another pretext. Tbilisi, in turn, is overly focused on weapons acquisition as an antidote to its jitters. It fears our approach to defense cooperation (heavily focused on developing the structures and processes to assess threats, develop appropriate responses and make informed decisions about use of force before moving to acquisition) is a trade-off to secure Russian cooperation on other issues, such as Iran. Your discussion of our Qon other issues, such as Iran. Your discussion of our broader efforts with Moscow will help reinforce with Saakashvili that we do not see this as a zero-sum equation - and that Georgia also benefits from Moscow's cooperation on the wider agenda.
8. (C) The immediate security environment has stabilized, with fewer incidents along the administrative boundaries. Shootings and explosions still occur, but much less frequently; in the age-old tradition of the Caucasus, detentions have become the major source of tension, especially around South Ossetia. The Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) established by the Geneva talks have helped increase communication and decrease the volatility of individual incidents, especially in Abkhazia; the South Ossetian de facto authorities have refused to participate in their IPRM since October 2009, pending the resolution of three missing persons cases. Overall the Abkhaz de facto authorities are more interested in engaging with partners other than Russia and are therefore more constructive in the IPRM and in Geneva; they continue to allow international partners to operate inside Abkhazia. The South Ossetians are steadfastly uncooperative, even when TBILISI 00000203 003 OF 004 proposals would benefit their own residents. Local residents still face limitations on movements and other human rights concerns in both regions.
9. (C) A maturing Georgian policy on the territories reflects growing recognition that there is no short-term - or military - path to reintegrate them into Georgia, but implementation may founder on Abkhaz or Russian insistence on first discussing the status of the two regions as a way to gain international acceptance of Russia's recognition of both. A key question is the extent to which the de factos control their own fate versus Russia orchestrating the immediate security ups and downs; the Georgians are convinced the Abkhaz/South Ossetian good cop-bad cop routine is played at the behest of the Russians. No one expects much constructive reaction to the strategy from South Ossetia, but a positive response from Abkhazia, even on relatively modest activities, could indicate sincere interest in moving away from Moscow's orbit and finding some accommodation with Tbilisi. We are currently developing ways the United States will support the strategy's objectives through our own activities.
10. (SBU) Even in Abkhazia, however, the underlying situation remains fundamentally unstable. Georgia and Russia disagree profoundly over the source of the instability and the direction the parties must take toward resolution of the conflict. This impasse has become more and more apparent in Geneva, where Georgia sees Russia as a party to the conflict and an existential threat, while Russia sees itself as a keeper of the peace analogous to the EUMM. The Geneva co-chairs have tried to square this circle by combining Russia's demand for a non-use of force agreement (between Georgia and the regions) with Georgia's demand for new international security arrangements, but Russia refuses to contemplate any new international presence. Even the Georgians agree that the talks provide a useful forum for engagement among the parties, but if we continue to see no progress on what should be simple issues, we will have to reconsider the usefulness of Geneva.
11. (SBU) The Saakashvili-led United National Movement (UNM) continues to hold a constitutional majority in Parliament, and its current poll numbers reflect broad popular support. The government's restrained handling of the months-long opposition protests in 2009 reinforced Saakashvili's and his party's popularity throughout the country and reduced support for opposition leaders. A rapidly shrinking economy, Saakashvili's sharpest challenge in 2009, seems to have stabilized beginning in late 2009. Although consumer indicators are improving, the economy remains a concern, as unemployment is up and investments and government revenues have fallen. International assistance, particularly the U.S. provision of USD one billion in aid following the August 2008 conflict, helped insulate Georgia from the worst of the global financial crisis and has provided a significant base for recovery. The EU, other donors and international financial institutions are providing an additional USD 3.5 billion in post-conflict assistance to Georgia.
12. (SBU) The government has made some tangible democratic progre
ss in a number of areas, including passing a new Qprogress in a number of areas, including passing a new electoral code on December 28, 2009, which will set rules for upcoming May 2010 municipal elections. The divergent positions and motives of the opposition (which ranges from "responsible" parties who sit in parliament to "irreconcilable" ones who insist on Saakashvili's early departure or removal before engaging in any dialogue) precluded the kind of grand bargain which could have turned the electoral code into an engine for new democratic reforms. In the current zero-sum environment, the government did not stretch itself, either. The revised election code has been sent to the Council of Europe's Venice Commission for legal comment on whether it meets international standards; the Georgians expect to receive a response by March. President Saakashvili agreed to allow for the direct election of the Tbilisi mayor, giving the opposition a chance to control this politically important post in Georgia's most opposition-minded city. However, substantial government influence, if not outright control, over broadcast and other media steepen the slope the opposition needs to climb. In addition, the government has formed a constitutional commission to review ideas for constitutional change to TBILISI 00000203 004 OF 004 lessen the power of the president.
13. (SBU) Opposition leaders, representing parties both inside and outside of Parliament, generally urge the United States and international community to do more to level the electoral playing field in Georgia by emphasizing the importance of U.S. support to strengthen civil society, improve the media climate, and foster increased political pluralism. Much of the public is still looking for the government to make good on its promises of a new wave of democratic reform as articulated by Saakashvili after the August 2008 conflict. The opposition argues that Saakashvili has consolidated power over the past seven years and is increasingly moving in an authoritarian direction. However, there is little agreement among opposition forces as to what needs to be done or what a good alternative political program would be.
14. (SBU) Georgian media at present reflect the polarized political environment in the country, largely divided into pro-government and pro-opposition operations. Nationwide television channels remain the main source of information for most people. Television content is limited, resulting in a majority of the population which is poorly informed about a variety of issues and everyday concerns. Limited news programming by the Georgian Public Broadcaster in Azeri, Armenian and Russian leaves members of ethnic minorities poorly informed about developments in Georgia; many receive news via satellite from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. There are no hard walls separating the editorial and management sides of media organizations. The media market is small, creating financial challenges. Journalists are low-paid and tend to practice self-censorship.
15. (SBU) While official relations between Russia and Georgia remain contentious, the two governments reached a preliminary agreement in December to reopen a border crossing for transit traffic to Armenia and limited access for Georgians, and the government has indicated that it could be willing to sign a protocol as early as March. Georgian Airways ran a few charter flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg in January -- the first direct commercial flights since a brief period in 2008 -- and is negotiating for permission for more regular flights.
16. (C) Georgia is also concerned by a significant increase in military supplies from Russia to Armenia planned for 2010 primarily via overflights between Russia and Armenia. Although Georgia has continued to allow the flights to maintain a good relationship with Armenia, it does not believe Armenia has the capacity to use these shipments itself and fears that such armaments as large-caliber ammunition for aircraft could be intended for Russian forces in Armenia, instead of the Armenian military. Not only could such shipments disrupt the balance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but they could potentially be used to squeeze Georgia from the south as well should there be a future conflict with Russia.
17. (S) Georgia is also trying to manage its relationship with Iran. Georgia agrees with many of our concerns about Iran's policies, and has been willing to raise those concerns directly with the Iranians. Georgia still faces lingering Qdirectly with the Iranians. Georgia still faces lingering anger from Tehran for extraditing an Iranian arms smuggler to the United States several years ago. At the same time, it cannot afford to alienate a powerful regional neighbor and major commercial partner -- especially as it seeks to prevent any further recognitions of the breakaway regions.
BASS

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10TBILISI148, GEORGIA: SCENESETTER FOR DEPUTY SECRETARY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10TBILISI148 2010-02-02 15:29 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tbilisi

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FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2806
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RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 000148 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2020 
TAGS: PREL PGOV OTRA OVIP RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SCENESETTER FOR DEPUTY SECRETARY 
STEINBERG'S VISIT 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John R. Bass for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (S)  Georgia is calmer and more stable than it was when 
you visited last summer, but those improvements are far from 
durable and a palpable sense of insecurity still permeates 
society and politics.  Miscalculations and provocations - 
domestically, in the territories or north across the 
mountains -  could easily spark renewed crisis.  With a 
stabilized economy and no viable rival, President Saakashvili 
is stronger politically but paradoxically more insecure, 
burdened by the fear history will judge him to have lost 
irrevocably the occupied territories and concerned our 
measured approach to defense cooperation and engagement with 
Moscow presage a deeper reorientation of U.S. interests. 
These concerns are reinforced by a steady drumbeat of Russian 
accusations about the legitimacy and behavior of his 
government and comparative silence from the West about 
Moscow's consolidation of its position in the territories. 
In this hothouse environment, your visit is an important, 
visible manifestation of our enduring commitment to support 
Georgia's aspirations to move west - and an opportunity to 
remind the president that realization of those aspirations 
ultimately depends on a renewed commitment to deeper 
democratic and economic reforms. 
 
2. (S)  Large swathes of the government, and society more 
broadly, are still motivated by the lure of Euro-Atlantic 
integration.  Fears that Georgia will remain in the West's 
waiting room in perpetuity have sparked a minority to begin 
discussing the viability of a deal with Moscow in order to 
reintegrate the territories.  These trial balloons, and 
Moscow's efforts to de-legitimize the government and create 
more palatable alternatives, further polarize a political 
environment that encourages zero-sum thinking and retards 
deeper democratic and economic reforms.  Saakashvili 
continues to cast about for the 'one big thing' that will 
secure Georgia's place in the west, adding an offer to 
provide a logistics hub for Afghanistan to his substantial 
troop commitment over the next two years.   Our challenge is 
to convince President Saakashvili that the 'one big thing' is 
a recommitment to Georgia's democratic development, 
symbolized by a competitive presidential succession in 2013, 
even while we work to prevent a slide back into conflict and 
instability. 
 
CONFLICT AND INSECURITY 
 
3.  (C)  It's hard to overestimate the extent to which an 
intense climate of insecurity permeates Georgian society and 
political culture.   Russian forces, located as close as 25 
miles from Tbilisi, are building permanent bases and 
Georgians confront a steady drip of Russian statements 
alleging Georgian aggression or announcing the latest step in 
incorporating Abkhazia into Russia's economy.  Moscow's 
statements suggesting that Georgia is planning provocations 
in the North Caucasus have raised fears among Georgian 
officials that Russia is looking for another pretext. 
Tbilisi, in turn, is overly focused on weapons acquisition as 
an antidote to its jitters. It fears our approach to defense 
cooperation (heavily focused on developing the structures and 
processes to assess threats, develop appropriate responses 
and make informed decisions about use of force before moving 
to acquisition) is a trade-off to secure Russian cooperation 
on other issues, such as Iran.  Your discussion of our 
Qon other issues, such as Iran.  Your discussion of our 
broader efforts with Moscow will help reinforce with 
Saakashvili that we do not see this as a zero-sum equation - 
and that Georgia also benefits from Moscow's cooperation on 
the wider agenda. 
 
4.  (C)  The immediate security environment has stabilized, 
with fewer incidents along the administrative boundaries. 
Shootings and explosions still occur, but much less 
frequently; in the age-old tradition of the Caucasus, 
detentions have become the major source of tension, 
especially around South Ossetia.  The Incident Prevention and 
Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) established by the Geneva talks 
have helped increase communication and decrease the 
volatility of individual incidents, especially in Abkhazia; 
the South Ossetian de facto authorities have refused to 
participate in their IPRM since October 2009, pending the 
resolution of three missing persons cases.  Overall the 
Abkhaz de facto authorities are more interested in engaging 
with partners other than Russia and are therefore more 
constructive in the IPRM and in Geneva; they continue to 
allow international partners to operate inside Abkhazia.  The 
South Ossetians are steadfastly uncooperative, even when 
proposals would benefit their own residents.  Local residents 
still face limitations on movements and other human rights 
 
TBILISI 00000148  002 OF 004 
 
 
concerns in both regions. 
 
5.  (C)  A more mature Georgian policy on the territories 
reflects growing recognition that there is no short-term - or 
military - way to reintegrate them into Georgia, but 
implementation may founder on Abkhaz, or Russian, insistence 
on first discussing the region's status.  A key question is 
the extent to which the de factos control their own fate 
versus Russia orchestrating the immediate security ups and 
downs; the Georgians are convinced the Abkhaz/South Ossetian 
good cop-bad cop routine is played at the behest of the 
Russians. No one expects much constructive reaction to the 
strategy from South Ossetia, but a positive response from 
Abkhazia, even on relatively modest activities, could 
indicate sincere interest in moving away from Moscow's orbit 
and finding some accommodation with Tbilisi.  We are 
currently developing ways the United States will support the 
strategy's objectives through its own activities. 
 
6.  (SBU) Even in Abkhazia, however, the underlying situation 
remains fundamentally unstable.  Georgia and Russia disagree 
profoundly over the source of the instability and the 
direction the parties must take toward resolution of the 
conflict.  Georgia insists Russia has not yet complied with 
its ceasefire commitments; Russia claims Georgia is preparing 
further aggression against the regions. The EUMM, with its 
extensive access to Georgian military and law enforcement 
installations, has found no evidence to support Russian 
claims. 
 
7.  (C)  This impasse has become more and more apparent in 
Geneva, where Georgia sees Russia as a party to the conflict 
and an existential threat, while Russia sees itself as a 
keeper of the peace analogous to the EUMM.  The Geneva 
co-chairs have tried to square this circle by combining 
Russia's demand for a non-use of force agreement (between 
Georgia and the regions) with Georgia's demand for new 
international security arrangements, but Russia refuses to 
contemplate any new international presence.  The Geneva 
process is having trouble addressing even practical issues; 
at the most recent round on January 28, the participants 
could not even agree to reconvene the South Ossetia IPRM. 
Even the Georgians agree the talks provide a useful forum for 
engagement among the parties, but if we continue to see no 
progress on what should be simple issues, we will have to 
reconsider the usefulness of Geneva. 
 
DOMESTIC CHALLENGES 
 
8. (SBU) The Saakashvili-led United National Movement (UNM) 
continues to hold a constitutional majority in Parliament, 
and its current poll numbers reflect broad popular support. 
The government's restrained handling of the months-long 
opposition protests in 2009 reinforced Saakashvili's and his 
party's popularity throughout the country and reduced support 
for opposition leaders.  A rapidly shrinking economy, 
Saakashvili's sharpest challenge in 2009, seems to have 
stabilized in late 2009. Although consumer indicators are 
improving, the economy remains a concern, as unemployment is 
up and investments and government revenues have fallen. 
International assistance, particularly the U.S. provision of 
1 billion USD in aid following the August 2008 conflict, 
helped insulate Georgia from the worst of the global 
financial crisis and has provided a significant base for 
recovery.  The EU, other donors and international financial 
institutions are providing an additional 3.5 billion USD in 
Qinstitutions are providing an additional 3.5 billion USD in 
assistance to Georgia. 
 
DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS 
 
9.  (SBU) The government has made some tangible democratic 
progress in a number of areas, including passing a new 
electoral code on December 28, 2009, that will set rules for 
upcoming May 2010 municipal elections. The divergent 
positions and motives of the opposition (which ranges from 
"responsible" parties who sit in parliament to 
"irreconcilable" ones who insist on Saakashvili's early 
departure or removal) precluded the kind of grand bargain 
which could have turned the electoral code into an engine for 
new democratic reforms.  In the current zero-sum environment, 
the government did not stretch itself, either.  The revised 
election code has been sent to the Venice Commission for 
comment, which the Georgians expect to receive by March. 
President Saakashvili agreed to allow for the direct election 
of the Tbilisi mayor, giving the opposition a chance to 
control this politically important post. Substantial 
government influence, if not outright control, over broadcast 
and other media steepen the slope the opposition needs to 
 
TBILISI 00000148  003 OF 004 
 
 
climb. In addition, the government has formed a 
constitutional commission to review ideas for constitutional 
change to lessen the power of the president. 
 
OPPOSITION CONCERNS 
 
10. (SBU) Your meeting with opposition leaders, representing 
parties both inside and outside of Parliament, will provide 
an opportunity to hear about the current state of democracy 
and reform in Georgia, and the leaders will likely urge the 
United States and international community to do more to level 
the electoral playing field in Georgia by emphasizing the 
importance of U.S. support to strengthen civil society, 
establish a more free media environment, and foster increased 
political pluralism.  Much of the public is still looking for 
the government to make good on its promises of a new wave of 
democratic reform as articulated by Saakashvili after the 
August 2008 conflict.  The opposition argues that Saakashvili 
has consolidated power over the past seven years and is 
increasingly moving in an authoritarian direction.  However, 
there is little agreement among opposition forces as to what 
needs to be done or what a good alternative political program 
would be. 
 
MEDIA ENVIRONMENT 
 
11. (SBU) Georgian media at present reflect the polarized 
Political environment in the country, largely divided into 
pro-government and pro-opposition operations.  Nationwide 
television channels remain the main source of information for 
most people.  Television content is limited, resulting in a 
majority of the population that is poorly informed about a 
variety of issues and everyday concerns.  Limited news 
programming by the Georgian Public Broadcaster in Azeri, 
Armenian and Russian leaves members of ethnic minorities 
Poorly informed about developments in Georgia; many receive 
news via satellite from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. 
Rustavi-2, to whom you will give an interview, is the most 
popular and widely-watched of the three national 
broadcasters, all of which are perceived to be 
pro-government.  There are no hard walls separating the 
editorial and management sides of media organizations.  The 
media market is small, creating financial challenges. 
Journalists are low-paid and practice self-censorship. 
 
STILL SEEKING NATO INTEGRATION 
 
12. (SBU) Support f
or NATO remains high in Georgia.  At the 
NATO Bucharest summit in April 2008, NATO Allies decided that 
Ukraine and Georgia's bid for membership action plans would 
have to be addressed later, yet at the same time declared 
that the two countries would become members of NATO.  Since 
the fall of 2008, NATO has been working with Georgia under 
the aegis of the NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC), and through 
the NGC, Georgia and the Alliance have work closely on an 
Annual National Program (ANP) which is designed to help 
Georgia advance reforms in areas key for membership, 
including political, economic, and defense reforms.  Georgia 
continues to be a strong supporter of NATO operations and is 
a contributor to international security missions.  Georgia 
currently has troops deployed with the French and Turks in 
Afghanistan, and is scheduled to deploy this spring a 
battalion to participate in the ISAF operations, alongside 
U.S. Marines in Helmand Province.  U.S. Marines have been on 
the ground in Georgia since September 2009 training about 700 
Georgian land force troops for their deployment alongside 
U.S. troops in March 2010. 
 
RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA 
QRELATIONS WITH RUSSIA 
 
13. (SBU) While official relations between Russia and Georgia 
remain contentious, the two governments reached a preliminary 
agreement in December to reopen a border crossing for transit 
traffic to Armenia and limited access for Georgians, and the 
government has indicated that it is willing to sign a 
protocol as early as March.  Georgian Airways ran a few 
charter flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg in January -- 
the first direct commercial flights since a brief period in 
2008 -- and is negotiating for permission for more regular 
flights. 
 
A TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD 
 
14. (C) Georgia is also concerned by a significant increase 
in military supplies from Russia to Armenia planned for 2010 
primarily via overflights between Russia and Armenia. 
Although Georgia has continued to allow the flights to 
maintain a good relationship with Armenia, it does not 
 
TBILISI 00000148  004 OF 004 
 
 
believe Armenia has the capacity to use these shipments 
itself and fears that such armaments as large-caliber 
ammunition for aircraft could be intended for Russian forces 
in Armenia, instead of the Armenian military.  Not only could 
such shipments disrupt the balance in the Nagorno-Karabakh 
conflict, but they could potentially be used to squeeze 
Georgia from the south as well. 
 
15. (S) Georgia is also trying to manage its relationship 
with Iran.  Georgia agrees with many of our concerns about 
Iran's policies, and has been willing to raise those concerns 
directly with the Iranians.  Georgia still faces lingering 
anger from Tehran for extraditing an Iranian arms smuggler to 
the United States several years ago.  At the same time, it 
cannot afford to alienate a powerful regional neighbor and 
major commercial partner -- especially as it seeks to prevent 
any further recognitions of the breakaway regions.  Although 
the government has assured us that a proposed hydro project 
does not involve Iranian banks, we continue to monitor the 
deal. 
BASS

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09TBILISI1123, IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUED MILITARY ENGAGEMENT WITH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1123 2009-06-18 12:01 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO2123
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1123/01 1691201
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 181201Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1755
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 0246
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 4866

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 001123

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR P, EUR
WHSR PLEASE PASS TO OVP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS PBTS RS GG
SUBJECT: IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUED MILITARY ENGAGEMENT WITH
GEORGIA

REF: MOSCOW 1591

Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. The June 22 kickoff of the U.S.-Georgia
Charter Commission will raise the question of the future of
our military cooperation. Embassy Moscow's recent cable
(reftel) has highlighted Russian views and the potential
impact on our attempt to reset our relations with Moscow.
There are, however, strong arguments in favor of providing
Georgia a modest, transparent defensive capability. We
provide our views in this cable. In our assessment, the
Russians are effectively using propaganda based in falsehoods
regarding the current state of the Georgian military to
ratchet up tensions, while simultaneously impressing upon the
U.S. that any efforts to provide military assistance to
Georgia will pose potential roadblocks to improving the
U.S.-Russia relationship. Accepting Russian objections,
however, contradicts stated U.S. policies such as rejecting
the notion of spheres of influence; refusing a third party
veto over NATO membership; and maintaining equal commitment
to relations with both Russia and Georgia. It gives Russian
disinformation an undeserved voice in U.S. policy formation.

2. (C) Summary, continued: Embassy Tbilisi believes that
increased transparent military cooperation could help
stabilize the situation in Georgia, as Georgia seeks to
develop its defensive capacity -- and even decrease the size
of its standing army. Retreating from our commitments would
send a profoundly mixed signal to our partners in the region
and in western Europe, especially to those who are
considering opening up their society, increasing
transparency, and seeking increased partnership with the
west. Russia will undoubtedly object to increased military
cooperation, but the answer is not to validate their concern,
but to set the record straight in an organized, aggressive
private and public diplomacy campaign with both Russia and
our broader partners. To do otherwise would be to reward
Russia's aggression in Georgia, as well as its violation of
international law and commitments; encourage a similar stance
in Ukraine; and deal a body blow to our credibility in
Georgia, other Eurasian states, our western partners -- and
ultimately Russia itself. End summary.

THE GEORGIAN ARMY HAS NOT RE-ARMED

3. (C) Russian claims that Georgia has more military
capability now than in August 2008,or that it has been
steadily re-arming its forces, are false. During the August
2008 conflict, Georgia lost extensive capabilities, including
30 percent of its armored vehicles, 40 percent of
U.S.-produced AR-15 rifles, and at least 60 percent of its
air defense capability. These have not been replaced. We
are aware of only two deliveries of lethal military equipment
since the war: Ejder armored personnel carriers from a
Turkish firm, based on a pre-war contract; and 16 armored
HMMWVs for the Special Forces Brigade under a program begun
in 2007. The latter were purchased using Coalition Support
Funds, the case was processed before the August war, and the
vehicles would be used in such coalition operations as those
in Afghanistan. The U.S. and other NATO partners have moved
cautiously since the war. Bilateral military-to-military
events between NATO partners and Georgia have been reduced,
Qevents between NATO partners and Georgia have been reduced,
suspended, even terminated. The U.S. in particular has yet
to renew a capacity-building program begun months ago, and we
have not executed a single kinetic event since August,
despite Georgian desires for more tactical training. The
NATO PfP Lancer/Longbow exercises, publicly used by Russia
against the Alliance and Georgia, were planned more than a
year in advance with full Russian knowledge and possibility
for participation.

JOINING THE AFGHANISTAN COALITION

4. (C) Secretary Gates' approach on security cooperation of
"brains before brawn" (B3) focuses on the intellectual
development of the Georgian armed forces and is non-kinetic
in nature. The U.S. has now told Georgia we accepted their
offer to deploy a battalion for two years in RC-South, one of
the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. While it is not yet
known how much training and equipping will be needed to bring
Georgia effectively into the coalition, it is in both U.S.
and Russian interests to widen the coalition in Afghanistan.
Some lethal training will undoubtedly be involved, and we
should not allow Russia to twist any such cooperation in

TBILISI 00001123 002 OF 004


Afghanistan, one of the Administration's top priorities, into
a phantom threat.

MINIMAL DEFENSIVE CAPABILITIES NEEDED FOR SURVIVAL

5. (C) Georgia also wants to rebuild its nati
ve defensive
capacity, which is currently insufficient to control its own
airspace or hinder an invasion from any of its neighbors.
Current Georgian operational thinking is that if they can
defend Tbilisi from occupation for 72 hours, then
international pressure will force the advance to pause. To
achieve this extremely limited goal, Georgia needs sufficient
anti-armor and air defense capability to stall a ground
advance, which it currently lacks. The development of this
capacity is not solely equipment-based, but it will require
the acquisition of new lethal defensive systems. If Georgia
does not procure the equipment from the U.S., it will almost
surely seek to procure it elsewhere, as it has done in the
past. U.S. involvement would help ensure the transparency of
the procurement process itself, as well as increase our
control over the amount, type and location of the equipment.

6. (C) In addition, Minister Sikharulidze recently approved
an intermediate force structure change that would reduce the
Georgian Armed Forces total personnel strength by 6,000
service members from the current 36,000. (Current actual
personnel is approximately 31,000.) Without prejudging the
ongoing Strategic Assessment process, the Minister has
confided to us that the final Georgian force structure will
be below 30,000. The Georgians have not publicized this
proposed downsizing because they fear that a smaller Georgian
Army could encourage Russian armed incursions. Furthermore,
a recently proposed further 7 percent reduction in the
defense budget will drop Georgia's total defense spending to
less than half of 2008 levels.

7. (C) Georgia's military plan is defensive in nature. As
EUR Assistant Secretary Gordon recently noted to Georgian
Defense Minister Sikharulidze, every country has the right to
defend itself - as described in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Russia may argue no weapon is only defensive in nature;
anti-tank and air defense systems, however, would not give
Georgia the capacity to launch an offensive attack. Russia
may argue that Georgia is acquiring other, more offensive
systems clandestinely at the same time. There is no evidence
to support this assertion, and we would have a much greater
degree of influence -- and be in a position to keep Russia
well informed -- if we were involved in defensive system
procurement. Finally, Russia will likely level allegations
of increased Georgian offensive capacity regardless of facts,
just as they have done in the Geneva process. Georgia,
however, provides far more transparency on its military
forces than virtually any country in the world, signing MOUs
between the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and its Ministries
of Defense and Internal Affairs that give the observers
unprecedented access to Georgian military and law enforcement
installations. The EUMM, along with the OSCE, has repeatedly
affirmed that Georgia has respected the limits established in
those MOUs and has no offensive capability near Abkhazia and
South Ossetia. Russia essentially ignores these statements
and continues to level the same allegations, but that bluster
Qand continues to level the same allegations, but that bluster
does not change the fact of Georgia's continued restraint.
As we seek to help Georgia develop its defensive capacity, we
could pursue smilar public and/or written commitments from
the Georgians on the exclusively defensive nature of the
program.

8. (C) We believe that providing Georgia with enhanced
defensive capabilities will stabilize the situation. While
Russia, as well as the de facto regimes in Abkhazia and South
Ossetia, may argue otherwise, it is Russia and its proxy
regimes that have dramatically increased the militarization
of Georgia over the past year. Russia has introduced at
least 3,700 troops into sovereign Georgian territory, as well
as heavy military equipment, such as tanks, artillery and
anti-aircraft systems, into the area immediately adjacent to
the administrative boundaries -- in direct violation of the
commitments President Medvedev made in the cease-fire
agreement. It is Georgia that has lost 14 police officers
since the war; kidnappings, cattle thefts, and detentions
continue along the boundary, mostly on the Abkhaz and South
Ossetian sides. Russian helicopters make regular flights
along the boundaries, sometimes crossing them, and Russian
forces move large numbers of troops and heavy equipment along
the boundaries at will. Meanwhile, the EUMM, OSCE and UNOMIG

TBILISI 00001123 003 OF 004


continue to confirm Georgia's cooperative and constructive
approach. There is little to deter Russia from taking
additional military action, except a legitimate defensive
force opposing it. At the same time, such a force would not
pose an offensive threat to the regions.

9. (C) Retreating from military cooperation would be a step
back from commitments we have made to Georgia and other
international partners. Not only will Georgia be
disappointed in our diminished support, and hesitant to trust
us again, but other partners will draw the same conclusions.
The Russia-Georgia war has already led some countries, such
as Azerbaijan and the Central Asian states, to question the
extent of our commitment, even though we never committed to
the direct military defense of Georgia. A step back from
commitments we have made would remove any doubt in our
unreliability and convince countries from Belarus to
Kyrgyzstan, even as they try to recalibrate their own
relationship with Russia, that the risks of continuing
partnership with Russia are less than those of moving toward
cooperation with the United States. One of our specific
commitments has been to NATO membership for Georgia,
politically at the Bucharest Summit, and at the operational
level, with the Georgia-NATO Commission and the Annual
National Plan. A key component of that process is the
development of Georgia's homeland defense capacity. Since
last August we have engaged with Georgia on elements of their
preparation for Euro-Atlantic integration, but the military
component cannot be deferred indefinitely. The longer we
defer action, the clearer the message will be to Georgia and
others that our commitment to membership has diminished.

10. (C) Beyond our specific commitment to Georgia, we have
made broader commitments not to allow Russia to impose its
flawed zero-sum vision on our own strategic view of the
world. The Secretary explicitly rejected Russia's notion of
spheres of influence during her May 7 meeting with Foreign
Minister Lavrov. The Vice President rejected the same notion
at the February Munich Security Conference. The President
himself told President Medvedev the same thing in London.
All three have likewise expressed unequivocal support for
Georgia's NATO aspirations and territorial integrity. Any
perceived or real retreat from these unambiguous statements
-- and our special relationship with Georgia makes it a test
case -- will raise questions about our leadership.

LOOKING AHEAD

11. (C) A difficult, but crucial, element
of our strategy for
continuing engagement with Georgia while maintaining a good
relationship with Russia will be an aggressive private, as
well as public diplomacy campaign that is well coordinated
with our western partners. Russia will try to spin any
military cooperation as negatively as possible, but we must
not allow Russian disinformation to go unchallenged. As
noted above, we have already taken the first step in our
engagement with the Georgian military: agreeing together on
the B3 approach. We are currently exploring the best fit for
a Georgian contribution to the effort in Afghanistan.
Neither of these areas could be considered threatening. A
further step, toward helping Georgia improve its defensive
capacity, would not be inherently threatening, and could help
Qcapacity, would not be inherently threatening, and could help
stabilize the situation. We must resist efforts to cast it
any other way. Russia will likely continue to portray NATO
engagement as threatening.

12. (C) More fundamentally, Russia continues to characterize
our differing agendas in the post-Soviet space as a zero-sum,
new "Great Game". Unlike in the 19th century, when two
empires vied to establish control over the intervening
territory in the exclusive pursuit of their own narrow
interests, U.S. policy seeks to enable independent countries
to make their own choices. However real the perception may
be among Russians that the United States is out to get them,
we must resist all efforts to confuse that perception with
our true intentions. Georgia is seeking to choose its own
partners, defend its own country, establish a market-based
economy free of corruption, and further develop its young
democracy -- and we are helping it do so. Georgia poses no
threat to Russia; it wants the political space to pursue its
own path. To step back from our mission because Russia
mitrusts our motives is to cede to Russia the terms of
development in Eurasia for the foreseeable future.

13. (C) There are two practical steps that we might consider

TBILISI 00001123 004 OF 004


pursuing to help both address the real danger of instability
and blunt Russia's momentum in the public diplomacy sphere.
First, we could encourage Georgia to make public and/or
written commitments about the exclusively defensive nature of
its new military programs. Second, we could encourage
Georgia to offer to sign a non-use of force agreement with
Russia. Russia has been pushing hard for such an agreement
between Georgia and its own regions, which Georgia has
understandably been unwilling to consider. If Georgia were
to call Russia's bluff and offer to sign such an agreement
with Russia itself, however, the burden would shift to Russia
to demonstrate the sincerity of its commitment to stability.
It is unlikely that Russia, which still maintains the fiction
that it is not a party to the conflict, would accept
Georgia's offer, but it would be left on the defensive.
Meanwhile Georgia could pursue its defensive development with
a ready answer to any Russian claims of belligerence or
provocation. (Note: Embassy Tbilisi has not explored either
of these steps with Georgia, so they are only ideas at this
point, but experience suggests Georgia would at least be
willing to consider them. The steps Georgia has already
taken to provide transparency on its military and law
enforcement activities suggest they would be willing to take
similar steps. In the months after the war, senior Georgian
officials expressed their willingness to pursue a non-use of
force agreement if Russia made certain concessions. End
note.)

COMMENT: BALANCING RISKS

14. (C) Embassy Tbilisi does not question the importance or
difficulty of managing our relationship with Russia,
especially if we proceed with further military cooperation
with Georgia. No matter how loudly we insist on the true
state of affairs, most Russians at this point will either not
believe us or ignore us, as Embassy Moscow pointed out.
There is indeed a risk that taking the next step with Georgia
will jeopardize the improvement of our relationship with
Russia. There is also a risk, however, that not taking that
step will both foster further instability in Georgia and
jeopardize our credibility in a much broader space.
Furthermore, as past experience has shown, there is yet
another risk: that improvements in relations with Russia,
even if bought with compromises on other U.S. interests, will
not pay off with any real dividends. Embassy Tbilisi would
argue that sacrificing a relationship with a dedicated
partner like Georgia is the greater risk, because it will
only embolden Russia in the future, both to push for more
concessions on our part and to reassert its perceived sphere
of influence further. Up to this point, Russia has paid no
concrete penalty whatsoever for invading and occupying a
neighboring country; unilaterally recognizing two of its
regions as independent states; violating CFE and cease-fire
commitments by vastly increasing its military presence in
those regions and not allowing humanitarian access;
corrupting the original concept of the Geneva process into a
forum to lend legitimacy to the regions; blocking a
status-neutral effort by the international community, through
the OSCE, to promote stability; and killing the UN Observer
Mission in Georgia. Allowing Russia to dictate the pace of
QMission in Georgia. Allowing Russia to dictate the pace of
military engagement with Georgia will be seen as rewarding
Russia for its behavior. It could only be a matter of time
before it takes similar actions in Ukraine or elsewhere.
TEFFT

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08TBILISI2212, GEORGIA: RECENT ARRESTS SHOW PROGRESS ON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2212 2008-11-26 14:05 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXYZ0007
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSI #2212 3311405
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 261405Z NOV 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0467
INFO RUEANFA/NRC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T TBILISI 002212 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2018 
TAGS: KNNP PARM PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: RECENT ARRESTS SHOW PROGRESS ON 
PREVENTING NUCLEAR SMUGGLING 
 
REF: STATE 117568 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d). 
 
1. (S/NF) Summary and Comment:  Joint cooperation between the 
USG and the Georgian government has improved Georgia's 
ability to prevent nuclear smuggling.  One area in which the 
government of Georgia continues to improve is the 
investigation of nuclear smuggling cases and the prosecution 
of traffickers.  The latest example, an October arrest and 
prosecution in Tbilisi of three Georgian radioactive 
materials traffickers, highlights this progress.  Despite 
substantial advancement of its anti-nuclear smuggling 
capabilities, the government's nonproliferation regime still 
has considerable gaps.  For example, it is not always able to 
respond to incidents where radiation is detected in a timely 
manner, due in large part to financial limitations.  The 
government continues to rely heavily on U.S. and 
international assistance in strengthening Georgia's resources 
to prevent nuclear smuggling.  End Summary and Comment. 
 
SUCCESS STORY 
 
2. (S/NF) The USG and the government of Georgia have a long 
history of close cooperation to secure radiological sources 
in Georgia and to improve Georgia's efforts to prevent 
nuclear smuggling.  On October 16 and November 19, U.S. and 
Georgian delegations met in Tbilisi to review the joint 
action plan to improve Georgia's anti-nuclear smuggling 
capabilities, which was signed on February 2, 2007 (see 
reftel and septel).  One area which was identified as a 
priority need in the joint action plan was maintaining 
Georgia's efforts to arrest and prosecute all identified 
nuclear smugglers.  The Georgians have had considerable 
success in this area, as indicated by the October 13 arrest 
of three Georgian radioactive materials traffickers, who were 
later sentenced to imprisonment (see TD/314-076336-08).  The 
traffickers were arrested in Tbilisi after a sting operation 
in which they attempted to sell cessium-137 to an informant. 
The traffickers initially attempted to market the material as 
uranium, but then acknowledged it was cessium, reportedly 
from Russia.  A fourth member of the group is still being 
sought.  Information regarding the arrests and prosecutions 
has not been released to the press, and reportedly not even 
to other government organizations, due to the sensitivity of 
the operation.  The investigation is ongoing, and in fact, 
the associates of the traffickers are not even aware of their 
arrest. 
 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT 
 
3. (S) The government struggles, however, to fully implement 
all of the requirements set in the joint action plan. 
Working level government officials attribute this primarily 
to financial restraints and a lack of high-level government 
support.  One example is their inability to consistently 
respond quickly to incidents of radiation detection.  This is 
due both to Georgia's geography and the absence of a western 
field office of the Nuclear Radiation Security Service 
(NRSS), the agency responsible for responding to incidents 
involving radioactive sources.  The only NRSS office is in 
Tbilisi.  However, while the Georgian government still has 
much work to do to further develop its capabilities to 
prevent nuclear smuggling, the ability to successfully 
investigate and prosecute nuclear trafficking cases speaks 
volumes for its efforts thus far. 
TEFFT

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06TBILISI2590, GEORGIA ARRESTS RUSSIANS FOR SPYING, PLANNING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TBILISI2590 2006-09-28 12:26 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3117
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV
DE RUEHSI #2590 2711226
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 281226Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4188
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

S E C R E T TBILISI 002590 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA, EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA ARRESTS RUSSIANS FOR SPYING, PLANNING 
PROVOCATION 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) & (d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (S/NF) The Georgian government announced the arrests of 
four Russians and eleven Georgians on September 27, in 
connection with an alleged espionage ring.  One Russian 
suspect remains inside a diplomatically protected Russian 
military building in Tbilisi.  The Georgians tell us the 
arrests are the result of a careful, long-term 
counterintelligence operation, with substantial filmed 
evidence of transactions and other proof.  They have accused 
one Russian suspect of involvement in a deadly 2005 bombing 
in Gori, and publicly suggested the group was planning 
another "serious provocation."  End Summary. 
 
Georgians Move In 
----------------- 
2. (C) The Georgian government gave the Embassy advance 
warning on the evening of September 27 that they were about 
to arrest individuals they allege are Russian military 
intelligence (GRU) agents involved in espionage in Georgia. 
Shortly thereafter, the press reported that Georgian police 
had surrounded a Russian building in Tbilisi -- the 
headquarters of the Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus 
(GRVZ) -- to apprehend one Russian suspect who had apparently 
taken refuge there.  Post was informed that four Russians and 
twelve Georgians were arrested in connection with the case, 
and the Georgians were attempting to negotiate the surrender 
of one Russian remaining in the building. 
 
3. (U) In a news conference late September 27, Minister of 
Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili publicly confirmed this 
information and provided additional detail.  He announced 
that four Russian GRU operatives had been taken into custody, 
GRU Colonel Aleksandr Sava and Dmitry Kazantsev, both 
arrested in Tbilisi, and Aleksandr Zavgorodny and Aleksandr 
Baranov, arrested in Batumi.  He said eleven Georgian 
citizens had also been arrested for cooperating with the GRU 
to conduct espionage, collecting information on such matters 
as Georgia's armed forces, NATO integration, energy security, 
opposition parties, and Georgian troops in the conflict 
zones.  Merabishvili said the arrests were prompted by 
information that the group was planning a "serious 
provocation."  He said the alleged ringleader of the group -- 
one Anatoly Sinitsin working from Yerevan -- was the 
mastermind of a bombing in Gori on February 1, 2005 that 
killed three Georgian police officers. 
 
4. (SBU) Merabishvili said another GRU officer, Konstantin 
Piguchin, was sought by the Georgians and believed to be 
inside the GRVZ building.  He said Georgian police could not 
enter the building because it was protected by diplomatic 
immunity, but they were demanding that Piguchin be turned 
over.  He said the Georgians were also looking for one 
additional Georgian suspect.  On the night of September 27, 
the Ambassador observed a police cordon around the GRVZ 
building, although the level of tension did not seem to be 
elevated.  Piguchin was believed to still be inside on the 
morning of September 28.  The Russian MFA issued a statement 
claiming that the four arrested Russians were in charge of 
the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Akhalkalaki and 
Batumi bases.  The statement called their arrest groundless 
and "one more outrageous attack" by Georgia. 
 
Product of a Long Investigation 
------------------------------- 
5. (S/NF) The Georgian government has informed us that it has 
film and recordings of the GRU officers meeting the Georgian 
agents and exchanging documents and money.  We understand the 
arrests were triggered by the unexpected decision of the 
senior GRU officer to depart Tbilisi; the Georgians feared 
that if allowed to depart he would not return.  The GOG has 
told us that there were no "big fish" among the Georgians 
arrested; some were retired MOD officials and others were 
employed at the bases.  The Georgians report that none of the 
arrested Russians have diplomatic immunity, and add that they 
have provided the Russian Embassy the required consular 
access. 
 
TEFFT

Wikileaks