Cablegate: Nato Ambassador Burns' Visit to Helsinki

Published: Thu 16 Dec 2004 12:12 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2014
Classified By: Ambassador Earle I. Mack for reasons 1.4(B) and (D)
1. (U) U.S. Ambassador to NATO R. Nicholas Burns visited
Helsinki November 29-30. Following remarks given to the
Atlantic Council of Finland at a seminar on NATO and small
nations, Ambassador Burns participated in meetings with
Minister of Defense Seppo Kaariainen and MFA Under Secretary
for Political Affairs Jaakko Laajava. He also addressed NATO
Ambassadors at the Estonian Embassy and participated in press
interviews. End Summary.
Atlantic Council Seminar
2. (U) Ambassador Burns spoke in Helsinki on November 29 in a
seminar organized by the Atlantic Council of Finland, to an
audience of 170 leading foreign policy experts and
commentators. His audience also included a sizable group of
students from the National Defense College. The title of the
seminar was "Small States and NATO." Ambassador Burns also
gave an interview to Finland's leading daily, independent
Helsingin Sanomat (circulation 440,000) which was published
on November 30. The Finnish Broadcasting Company's senior
diplomatic correspondent also taped an interview with
Ambassador Burns to air as part of an upcoming Sunday morning
talk show. In his speech and in the newspaper interview,
Ambassador Burns stressed Finland's contributions to NATO-led
operations as a PfP country, praising Finland's (and
Sweden's) conceptual leadership role in the PfP program. He
noted that NATO membership is an issue for Finns to decide,
suggested that some Finns' and Swedes' Cold War conception of
NATO is outdated, and described the new NATO as a democratic,
stronger, and more flexible alliance. In the newspaper
interview, Ambassador Burns discussed the possibility of
non-allies participating in NATO's Response Force (NRF) and
praised Finland's participation in peacekeeping in Kosovo,
Afghanistan and elsewhere.
MFA Meeting
3. (U) At the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Burns met with
Jaakko Laajava, Under Secretary for Political Affairs (and
Ambassador-designate to the UK); Pilvi-Sisko
Vierros-Villeneuve, Director of the Arms Control Unit (and
Political Director-Designate); and Elina Kalkku, Director of
the Security Policy Unit. Ambassador Burns was accompanied
by Ambassador Mack, POL Chief Hall, and Executive Assistant
4. (U) Ambassador Burns began by thanking Finland for what it
is doing in NATO, particularly in the Balkans and
Afghanistan. All non-member nations who contribute troops to
NATO-led operations now are present at meetings related to
those operations, which is as it should be.
5. (SBU) Ambassador Burns emphasized that President Bush sees
NATO as "absolutely vital", and is a strong believer in
giving the Partnership for Peace a greater say in decision
making. Burns called Laajava's attention to the President's
November 19, 2003 Whitehall address, an important speech in
which the President acknowledged America's commitment to NATO
and other multilateral institutions. He also noted that NATO
SYG de Hoop Scheffer was the first foreign visitor to the
Oval Office after President Bush won re-election -- another
sign of U.S. commitment to NATO. Moreover, the President's
first official trip abroad after the State of the Union
Address will be to Brussels for a NATO summit in early
February; NATO-EU meetings will also take place.
6. (U) Burns said that some in Europe assume NATO is a Cold
War institution. That characterization is no longer
accurate. The transformation of NATO, from an American
perspective, has been strongly due to the course of events
after September 11, 2001, and to the evolution in military
technology, which is far advanced from the Cold War.
President Bush's multilateral vision for NATO that he laid
out at the NATO Summit in Istanbul this past June includes
integrating the two military missions, OEF and ISAF, in
Afghanistan; collective training conducted by NATO in Iraq;
and NATO's Istanbul Cooperation Initiative for outreach to
the Arab world.
7. (U) Burns explained that there is strong bipartisan
support for NATO in the U.S. While nations still believe the
U.S. is using NATO as a "tool box," the U.S. has been the
prime proponent of NATO reform and for greater NATO roles in
Iraq and Afghanistan. As the Alliance focuses on its 2005
agenda, we want to put Trans-Atlantic differences behind us
and move forward.
8. (C) Asked by Under Secretary Laajava whether the U.S. is
pleased with the condition of the Alliance, Ambassador Burns
said that on the political side the right decisions are being
made -- new members are being taken in and NATO is reforming
its relations with Russia. But on the military side the gap
is wide, particularly in the area of capabilities. The U.S.
defense budget is more than twice that of the other Allies
put together. NATO members' defense spending should be
around two percent of GDP, yet many countries (Canada, Spain,
Germany, the Netherlands, and others) are below this level.
Eleven members spend more than 60 percent of their defense
budgets on personnel costs alone. And Lord Robertson
estimated that of the 2.4 million men and women in uniform in
Europe, only three-five percent can be deployed beyond their
borders. As a result, more and more of the burden is borne
by the U.S., UK, France, Norway, and others. With the U.S.
deeply committed to Iraq, other nations have had to take up
more of the burden in Afghanistan -- where the European
allies have been slow to deploy. Laajava agreed, recalling
the difficulty in finding the helicopters to deploy Finnish
troops to the PRT in Meymaneh, Afghanistan.
9. (SBU) Ambassador Mack raised the point of the current
legislation under consideration in the Finnish Parliament to
amend the peacekeeping law to permit troop deployment based
on an EU mandate. Political Director-designate
Vierros-Villeneuve said Parliament seems to favor changing
the legislation in regards to an EU mandate. Burns said we
applaud the formation of EU battlegroups, if they allow
Europe to be more proficient. But if they begin to undercut
the NATO Response Force -- the largest NATO reform in recent
years -- then there will be problems. Security Policy
Director Kalkku said it will be necessary to ensure that the
same unit does not serve standby duty for a battlegroup and
for the NRF consecutively.
10. (C) In discussing the NATO-EU relationship, Ambassador
Burns described it as a symbiotic relationship in some ways,
where 19 of the 25 EU nations are also NATO members. He said
the U.S. strongly supports EU giving ESDP greater identity,
"and if it leads to greater capabilities, we'll be
delighted." Problems arise when some in Europe, such as
French President Chirac, would like to turn the EU into a
strategic counterweight to the U.S. These attempts to make
the EU and NATO competitive make the relationship difficult
and would be resisted by Europeans like Denmark, Norway, the
UK, and Italy.
11. (C) Laajava remarked that he had encountered "quite
strong sentiments" in Congress on this issue when he was
Ambassador to the U.S. He affirmed that it is important to
shift attention to focus on the world's real problems instead
of criticizing institutions. Burns said that NATO has to
remain the pre-eminent Trans-Atlantic security institution,
which will lead it to even greater capabilities. Laajava was
supportive to say that Finland's way is to generate and
gather positive identification with the EU. During the Cold
War, identification was close to home for Finland. Now,
Finland finds that identification and political capital are
with the EU.
12. (C) Afghanistan: Burns said he did not think the NATO
mission has deployed as fast and strong as we had hoped. NATO
has not succeeded in raising troops for an expansion to
western Afghanistan. Its shortfalls make clear that without
a U.S. lead ISAF has been severely hampered. But he hoped to
see improvements in 2005. The upcoming NATO Defense
Ministers' meeting in Nice in February will be a forum where
these issues will begin to be addressed, with the goal of
unifying the OEF and ISAF operations under a single NATO
command by the summer. Kalkku asked about operational
procedures for combining the operations. Burns said one
option was to create two task forces under one mission. This
will make matters easier for Germany. "And for us," said
13. (C) Burns reassured Laajava that NATO will have a full
set of options by the Nice meeting, and encouraged the Finns
to get involved in the debate. It will be important for
contributing countries such as Finland, Sweden, New Zealand,
and Japan to be at the table in the larger troop-contributing
country meetings as we discuss this in 2005. Laajava thanked
Burns and underscored the importance that public perception
be shaped the right way.
14. (C) Kosovo: In answer to a question from Kalkku, Burns
highlighted the U.S. commitment to KFOR. The upcoming spring
periodic mission review will decide whether to break down the
four quadrants. The allies do not want to see significant
troop reductions, although some support personnel could be
moved over the horizon to improve KFOR's tooth-to-tail ratio.
Burns said the Allied commanders had been very disappointed
in the way some nations' troops had performed in March, and
this has led to a focus on national caveats. But the
commanders had also praised the Finnish, Swedish, U.S., and
Norwegian troops, who did not hesitate to act.
15. (C) Iraq: Ambassador Burns said the U.S. is "absolutely
determined" to stay the course. The President is committed
and there is strong public support for the war against
terrorism. Ambassador Burns asked Laajava what the
benchmarks would be for Finland to make additional
contributions to Iraq -- either humanitarian, financial, or
military assistance. Laajava hesitated to respond and said
that they will wait to see what Iraqi elections delivered.
Ambassador Mack recalled that Finland had been one of the
first countries to contribute to the UN Protection Force,
pledging one million euros this past September. Kalkku said
the EU is considering a civilian mission, and the GoF might
contribute civilian rule-of-law experts to that.
16. (C) The U.S. is committed to a NATO role in Iraq. NATO
has begun training Iraqi officers in Baghdad, said Burns.
After elections in Iraq, the U.S. hopes more countries will
join this effort to train senior Iraqi officers. Partnership
for Peace countries are welcome to participate.
17. (U) Partnership for Peace (PfP): Ambassador Burns
stressed that the future of PfP is promising, with countries
like Finland and Sweden as the intellectual driving force,
and he thanked Laajava for the joint paper on PfP options
that the two countries had contributed. NATO is looking to
Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East as new areas
for an expanded partnership. This conceptual, intellectual
leadership of Finland is instrumental to developing PfP
18. (U) NATO-Russia: Ambassador Burns said the U.S. is
convinced that we must keep working with Russia, including
within NATO at the NATO-Russian Council. The NATO-Russia
agenda has focused so far on Russia's Istanbul Commitments in
Georgia and Moldova, and lately on Ukraine. There is ongoing
cooperation on issues of common concern such as theater
missile defense and protecting civilian populations against
chemical attack.
MoD Meeting
19. (SBU) At the Ministry of Defense, Ambassador Burns first
participated in a roundtable discussion with senior MoD
officials, then met with the Minister. Finnish participants
in the roundtable included:
Lt. General (ret.) Matti Ahola, MoD Permanent Secretary;
Pauli Jarvenpaa, Director General for Policy; Jyrkki Iivonen,
MoD Public Affairs Director; Colonel Sakari Honkamaa, Finnish
Defense Staff; Colonel Arto Raty, Director of the National
Defense Course; and Karolina Honkanen, MoD Researcher and
author of a study on small states in NATO.
20. (C) The Finns began the roundtable by asking Ambassador
Burns how the second Bush Administration would approach NATO,
and in general what would be the Administration's posture
toward Europe. The Ambassador replied by first thanking the
Finns for their contributions to NATO in Bosnia, Kosovo, and
Afghanistan. He said that it was important to think about
how PfP countries could be "at the table" more to inform NATO
decision-making. Burns said that the past two years had been
rocky ones for NATO and for Trans-Atlantic relations.
However, he believed that the debate was turning away from
one about the action in Iraq to one over how best to
stabilize the situation there and help the Iraqi people. The
Administration was interested in moving forward, not dwelling
on the past two years, and the Ambassador opined that 2005
should be a much better year and renew the close
Trans-Atlantic ties that were valued by all. Pointing to the
President's trip to Brussels in February, he said that the
President was serious about reaching out to friends and
allies, and that the U.S. was not interested in "going it
alone." Dr. Jarvenpaa replied that these were "encouraging
21. (C) Iivonen asked the Ambassador for his assessment of
the Russia-NATO and Russia-U.S. relationship. The Ambassador
said that the U.S. had a realistic view of Russia and was
watching recent developments closely. However, he said that
the West had to maintain a strategic relationship with Russia
and that it would be dangerous to ignore or isolate Moscow.
Burns cited several examples of NATO-Russian cooperation,
including the theater-missile defense system project,
counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, civil emergency
coordination, and maritime search and rescue cooperation.
However, the Ambassador said that neither the U.S. nor NATO
was uncritical of the situations in Chechnya, Georgia,
Moldova or Ukraine; what was important was to engage the
Russians on these issues rather than isolate them.
22. (C) During the roundtable, Dr. Jarvenpaa noted that the
capabilities of the EU battlegroups are not very challenging
-- he called them "light groups, with simple capability." He
said Finland wants close cooperation between the battlegroups
and the NRF. The Finns indicated some frustration with the
negotiations on the battlegroups, suggesting that the EU's
limited military capability meant that the debate over the
battlegroups was more over process than designing a system
with real military value. Ambassador Burns said that the
U.S. supported the concept of EU battlegroups as long as they
were consistent with the Berlin Plus agreements and not in
conflict with NATO resource needs. The Ambassador cited the
abortive EU military headquarters planning cell proposal in
April 2003 as unhelpful. He said that it should be possible
to deconflict NATO and EU defense policies, but that it
wouldn't happen without the two institutions talking about
problems areas, and that as regards battlegroups, NATO
couldn't even get the issue on the agenda with the EU because
of Cypriot objections.
23. (SBU) Ahola referred to a statement the previous week by
the Finnish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee which
recommended that the government should call NATO membership a
"real option", rather than just a "possibility." He also
said that a new official poll had found support by the
Finnish population for NATO membership had grown to 34
percent. He saw this as very good news, noting that the
all-time low had been 11 percent.
24. (C) After the Roundtable, Ambassador Burns had an office
call with Minister of Defense Seppo Kaariainen. The Minister
spoke warmly about his visit to the U.S. in April 2004, and
noted that he found particularly interesting the briefings on
transformation he got at the Joint Forces Command and
Pentagon. He said he took to heart a quote, "It is not
enough to make things better, we must make better things."
Kaariainen said Parliament's review of the Security and
Defense Policy White Paper will be completed by the third
week of December. It is his impression that the White Paper
is "very European", emphasizing that Finland will participate
fully in the ESDP. The EU has made very fast progress on
many defense issues, including battlegroups, headline goals,
and Operation ALTHEA. Finland's aim is to "participate
fully, without conditions."
25. (C) Kaariainen also emphasized the importance Finland
puts on the Trans-Atlantic link and relations with the U.S.
-- through NATO, through the EU, and bilaterally. He said,
"In some areas, we are natural competitors, but we need to
work together on crisis management." He noted that the White
Paper lists NATO "as an option in the future" and that for
now Finland has a very practical relationship with NATO,
particularly with cooperation in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
Kaariainen noted that Finland has good relations with
Russia, especially in the area of trade. He noted the
particular economic importance of the St. Petersburg area to
Finland. He added there is a need for "clear rules" for Air
Policing, for example air traffic control procedures, and
that NATO's new relationship in the Baltics has "stabilized"
the Baltic Sea region.
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