C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RIGA 000850
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/14/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV CVIS MARR LG
SUBJECT: LATVIA: DAS GARBER DISCUSSES VISA WAIVER, CFE, AND
REF: A. RIGA 744
Â¶B. RIGA 629
Classified By: Ambassador Catherine Todd Bailey for Reason 1.4(d)
Â¶1. (C) Summary: EUR DAS Judith Garber visited Riga on
November 7 and 8 for meetings with GOL officials at the MFA
and DOD. All MFA officials stressed the Visa Waiver program
as priority number one in the bilateral relationship. The
Latvian MOD expressed strong support for U.S. efforts to
negotiate a Missile Defense (MD) agreement with the Czech's
and Poles, and reiterated GOL concerns on A/CFE. DAS Garber
concluded the visit with an interview with a Russian language
daily, touching upon transparency issues and the Visa Waiver
program. End Summary.
Visa Waiver Drumbeat
Â¶2. (C) At a dinner with MFA U/S Edgars Skuja and Latvian
Ambassador to the U.S. Andrejs Pildegovics, the Latvians
repeatedly asked for more details and timing on Visa Waiver.
DAS Garber sketched out the next steps on the U.S. side and
emphasized that the U.S. approach will treat program
participants on an equal footing and that any security
aspects of the program will operate on the principal of
Â¶3. (C) In a separate meeting, MFA Undersecretary of for
Consular Issues, Alda Vanaga, noted that the GOL is keen to
move forward with practical next steps on Visa Waiver,
including negotiating an MOU on security details and
requirements. DAS Garber noted that the Latvians eagerness
to move forward with visa waiver highlights the strong and
friendly relationship our countries share. However, she
urged patience, stressing that DHS, State and other U.S.
departments are still hammering out the legal details
necessary for any MOUs. MFA State Secretary Normans Penke
also stressed that the GOL's number one foreign policy
priority with respect to the United States is Visa Waiver.
Latvian Concerns on CFE
Â¶4. (C) In a meeting at the MOD, Latvian Deputy State
Secretary for Defense Planning, Janis Sarts described the
strong partnership between the U.S. and Latvia on defense and
security issues. He then stressed the GOL's determined views
regarding adapted CFE negotiations (reftels). Sarts pointed
out that the GOL is "concerned by the way Russia develops
now, politically and militarily." Russia's "change of
rhetoric and behavior affects our security . . . . CFE is
not a piece of paper; it is something that affects our
security." Sarts sketched out the GOL's thinking on the
matter. "We are not prepared to go into discussion with
Russia until this matter has been discussed at NATO." The
GOL wants NATO planning to underpin any eventual ceilings.
However, they are increasingly realizing that they may, in
practical terms, only get such planning from the US
bilaterally: "We are willing to look at this bilaterally;
still we have to have a common NATO position and agreed upon
numbers." Sarts also stated that, with both presidential and
parliamentary elections looming in Russia, he personally does
not believe Putin has much room to reverse course on CFE--and
therefore the GOR will indeed withdraw from the treaty.
Â¶5. (C) In a separate meeting, MFA State Secretary Normans
Penke also stressed Latvia's security concerns in light of
CFE: "Regardless of the decisions made on CFE, our defense
will be a main topic of discussion both bilaterally and in
NATO. These issues won't go away." Penke also mentioned
energy security (the need for a stable, diversified supply)
as a core strategic issue.
Â¶6. (C) DAS Garber assured both Sarts and Penke that,
regarding CFE, the USG will not negotiate with Russia on
matters affecting the Baltic nations without consulting the
Baltic states in the process. She also added that the U.S.
will not negotiate away basic principles.
Support for Missile Defense
Â¶7. (C) DAS Garber briefly summarized progress on missile
defense negotiations with the Czech Republic and Poland.
According to Sarts, though Latvia is not active in the debate
on missile defense, the GOL supports U.S. plans to negotiate
agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic. According to
Sarts, "this support is pragmatic; this is the cheapest way
for us to get protection from that threat as well." DAS
Garber thanked Sarts for GOL support on the issue and urged
Latvia's vocal support at NATO. She reiterated that the U.S.
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will not give Russia a veto over missile defense.
Â¶8. (C) With less than 24 hours on the ground in Riga, DAS
Garber was able to meet several of the key decision makers in
Latvia and receive substantial briefings from Embassy Riga's
country team. Though interest in the Visa Waiver program at
times crowded out discussion on many other potential topics
with GOL officials, all those who met with DAS Garber
stressed the lasting and deep relationship between the U.S.
and Latvia. These officials were of course delighted that
DAS Garber choose Latvia as the first Baltic state to visit.
Â¶9. (U) This cable was cleared by DAS Garber.