Viewing cable 08RIGA2

08RIGA22008-01-02 05:27:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Riga
DE RUEHRA #0002/01 0020527
P 020527Z JAN 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RIGA 000002 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/28/2017 
Classified By: Charge d'affaires a.i. Stuart M. Seldowitz.  Reasons: 1. 
4 (b and d) 
¶1. (C) Summary: Russian FM Lavrov's December 18 visit to Riga 
was most notable in that it occurred at all.  After months of 
work, his visit marked the first ever visit by a Russian or 
Soviet FM to an independent Latvia.  The highlight was the 
exchange of instruments of ratification on the Latvia-Russia 
border treaty, but agreements were also signed on pension 
issues and protection of grave sights.  The visit with 
without vitriol and the Latvians were pleased as the 
business-like nature of the visit.  Lavrov also brought an 
invitation for President Zatlers to visit Moscow, but the 
Latvians want some substance behind it before they will agree 
to the visit.  Notably missing from the dialogue was any 
significant discussion of energy issues.  End summary. 
¶2. (C) Russian FM Lavrov visited Riga December 18, the first 
FM visit from Moscow to an independent Latvia (either before 
or after the Soviet occupation).  We received readouts from 
Peteris Ustibs, foeign policy advisor to then PM Kalvitis, 
Edgars Skuja, MFA U/S for bilateral issues, Ilgvars Klava, 
MFA political director, and Valentin Ovsyannikov, DCM of the 
Russian Embassy in Riga.  All described the tone of the visit 
as positive and Ustubs noted that Lavrov and Latvian FM 
Riekstins seemed to develop a good personal rapport, 
including during an extended one on one meeting. 
Bilateral Issues 
¶3. (C) The highlight of the visit was the exchange of 
instruments of ratification of the Latvia-Russia border 
treaty.  The treaty provides for establishment of a final 
border between the two countries that recognizes changes made 
during the Soviet occupation of Latvia.  Skuja said that next 
step would be to create a commission to formally demarcate 
the border and he hoped this would happen in early 2008. 
Skuja and Ustubs expressed appreciation for the Department's 
statement in support of the treaty. 
¶4. (C) A major topic of discussion during the visit was the 
opening of an additional border crossing point and how to 
ease the back log of trucks at the existing crossing points. 
The two sides agreed to open a new crossing point at 
Opuli/Mogili in 2008, with the Intergovernmental Commission 
working on modalities.  According to the Latvians, Lavrov 
assailed the European Commission for various delays to 
instituting an electronic "pre-declaration" system at 
Russian's EU borders and said that commission bureaucracy was 
to blame for the long truck lines. 
¶5. (C) The two sides also signed agreements on pension issues 
and protection of burial sites.  Both had been under 
discussion for some time.  According to Ovsyannikov, the 
pension agreement provides credit for work done in one 
country for people who receive their pension from the other. 
The burial site agreement will obligate both sides to locate, 
mark and ensure protection of grave sites.  Ovsyannikov 
implied that this is actually more work for Russia, as many 
sites in Latvia are already known and marked but Latvian 
graves in Russia, especially from WWI and the Russian 
Revolution, are not as well identified and maintained.  Skuja 
said that the Latvian side expressed hope that a number of 
other pending agreements, including on investment protection 
and double taxation, could be signed in the near future. 
¶6. (C) Lavrov brought an invitation from Putin for President 
Zatlers to visit Moscow in 2008, but Skuja termed it 
"unofficial."  Both Skuja and Ovsyannikov said that there 
would need to be substance for the trip to proceed, with both 
suggesting signing of some of the outstanding agreements as 
an example.  Lavrov also confirmed that the Russian PM would 
attend the summit meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea states 
in Riga in June 2008 and joked that the Latvians could begin 
putting Putin's name on the official documents for the event. 
 Both Ustubs and Skuja said that Latvia would attempt to get 
a bilateral portion to that visit as well, should it indeed 
¶7. (C) The Latvians were pleased that Lavrov's tone on 
historical issues and the status of the ethnic Russian 
community in Latvia was "forward leaning and constructive." 
Ovsyannikov said Lavrov suggested that the sides put 
historical differences aside and concentrate on practical 
steps to improve relations.  In his meetings, Lavrov was 
factual and specifically suggested steps to ease 
naturalization requirements for children of non-citizens born 
in Latvia and those over 55, and allowing non-citizens to 
vote in local elections.  According to Ustubs, Lavrov took 
careful notes when Kalvitis explained that there was a 
simplified procedure for the children of non-citizens born in 
Latvia to acquire Latvian citizenship.  The one difference 
between the sides we heard was on research into historical 
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issues.  The Latvians say that they asked for greater access 
for Latvian researchers to Russian archives for scholarly 
work on the inter-war period and the Soviet occupation.  They 
claim that the Russians countered by proposing a join 
historical commission to write a definitive history of those 
periods, but the Latvians refused, saying they could not cede 
an issue of national identity to such a commission. 
Ovsyannikov, in contrast, told us that the commission was 
agreed and said he viewed it as a positive step. 
International Issues 
¶8. (C) Discussion on international issues followed expected 
patterns.  The Latvians were a bit surprised by the strident 
tone Lavrov took on EU issues, though.  After raising 
concerns on the commission and border crossings, he expressed 
frustration that many member states take their bilateral 
issues with Russia and import them to the EU.  He cited the 
PCA and Polish meat and British demands for the extraction of 
Lugovoi as examples.  He said that the PCA should not become 
a "Christmas tree" of bilateral issues and added that Russia 
saw "no need to rush" on getting a new partnership agreement 
with the EU.  On the WTO, all Latvian sources said that 
Lavrov said that Russia was not interested in membership "at 
any cost" and that they would negotiate for one more year. 
If agreement was not reached in that time, Russia would 
"dismantle" the agreements made to date to facilitate its WTO 
¶9. (C) On Kosovo, according to Ustubs, Lavrov said that 
Russia was not worried about the precedent for places like 
South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but rather for internal locations 
in Russia.  He also asked why there should be a hurry to 
resolve its status and asserted that 1244 would lapse if 
Kosovo declared independence.  The Latvians say they pushed 
back on that point. 
¶10. (C) On Iran, Lavrov said that the shipment of nuclear 
fuel from Russia gave it some leverage over the program. 
Ovsyannikov claimed that Russian law mandated that the fuel 
shipments stop if the program is discovered to be military 
rather than civilian in nature or if the IAEA is denied 
access to Iranian nuclear facilities.  Skuja reported that 
Lavrov argued that Iranian support for terrorism and 
development of a nuclear program should be examined and 
addressed separately, which the surprised the Latvians. 
¶11. (C) Regarding CFE, the Latvians said that Lavrov, as he 
had done in a July meeting with then-FM Pabriks, assured them 
that while Baltic accession to the CFE regime was an issue, 
Russia did not view it as a bilateral issue and it would 
remain in multilateral fora for discussion.  The Latvians 
raised the OSCE and the need for Russia to invite a full 
ODIHR team for Presidential elections.  According to 
Ovsyannikov, Lavrov responded that Russia was being held to a 
higher standard and that the US, for example, had no plan for 
full observation of elections in its country.  He also 
explained that Russia would not except observers from 
organizations of which it is not a member (i.e., the EU). 
¶12. (C) Comment:  That the visit happened at all was its most 
important feature and allowed the Kalvitis government, which 
placed a particular emphasis on normalizing relations with 
Moscow, to leave office on a high note.  That the discussions 
were substantive, productive and largely free of the 
contentious rhetoric that has marked previous discussions is 
an important signal that the two countries can use their 
improved relations to address substantive issues 
constructively.  The difference in understanding on the 
historical commission could cause some friction, but if that 
is the most contentious issue from the visit it is, in fact, 
another positive sign.  The Latvians are happy with the 
invitation for Zatlers but will want to make sure the visit 
makes sense.  We assess that their likely calculus is that it 
is better to have a substantive visit later, even after 2008, 
than rush to have a milquetoast visit by the end of January. 
The lack of any discussion of energy, though, is concerning. 
Combined with Latvia's rejection of the "gazprom clause" in 
recent EU energy debates, it is evidence that even with 
improved relations, the economic dependence on Russian energy 
will have a significant impact on Latvian policy.