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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 USNATO 000383
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2019
Classified By: Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder for reasons 1.4 (b/d).

1. (U) This is an action request. See paragraph 4.

2. (C) Summary: NATO Secretary General Rasmussen may be planning to take improved NATO-Russia relations to a new level by proposing that NATO engage with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The SecGen recently indicated that he has an „open mind“ to such a course of action, has been in contact with the head of the CSTO, and plans to make a speech on NATO-Russia relations that would go beyond most Allies comfort zones. Engaging with an organization initiated by Moscow to counter NATO and U.S. influence would be counterproductive at a time when we should focus on enhancing relations with Russia bilaterally and as an alliance. NATO-CSTO engagement would likely lead to the same bloc-on-bloc dynamic that manifested during the Cold War, and further increase Moscows influence over our Central Asian partners, countries we should actively court through NATOs Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). End summary.

3. (C) NATO Secretary General Rasmussen may encourage NATO engagement with the Russian-led CSTO in order to advance his priority to improve NATO-Russia relations. We believe that the SecGen will soon broach this topic, possibly at a September 15 PermReps meeting devoted to Russia and/or during a speech on NATO-Russia relations the SecGen intends to give in the near future. Our supposition is based upon the following developments:
— The SecGen told the press on August 31 that he had an „open mind“ toward „all ideas“ intended to improve relations with Russia in response to a question about Zbigniew Brzezinskis recent proposal that NATO reach a security cooperation agreement with the CSTO as a means to draw Russia closer into the Euro-Atlantic community. In the same interview, Rasmussen urged NATO to form a „strategic partnership“ with Russia in order to address common security threats.
— The SecGen sent CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Borduyzha an August 24 letter thanking him for an earlier message in which Borduyzha offered Rasmussen congratulations on his appointment as NATO SecGen. We understand that Rasmussen had his letter delivered to Borduyzha through Russian Ambassador to NATO Rogozin. Rasmussens brief message (a copy of which was provided by a member of the NATO International Staff (strictly protect)) thanked the CSTO chief for his „kind letter“ of August 1, noted that he had taken over NATO at a time when the „organization is faced with a wide range of challenges,“ and concluded that „NATO is well placed and well equipped to meet these challenges.“ We have not seen Borduyzhas initial letter to Rasmussen.
— Rogozin encouraged NATO-CSTO engagement in the non-paper delivered to the SecGen during their August 11 meeting, during which the often pugnacious Rogozin appears to have charmed Rasmussen (reftel). The SecGen intends to discuss the response to the Russian non-paper at a September 15 PermReps lunch devoted to NATO-Russia issues, and could propose following through on Rogozins NATO-CSTO initiative.
— Rasmussen intends to address the topic of improving NATO relations with Russia, one of his stated priorities as SecGen, in an upcoming speech that a member of the NATO International Staff told us would probably „go further than many Allies, including the United States, will be comfortable with.“ We do not have details on the speech, which is one of several thematic addresses the SecGen intends to give laying out his vision for NATO. (Note: Rasmussen is scheduled to give a speech on Russia at the Carnegie Center Brussels on September 18. End note.)

4. (C) Should the SecGen propose NATO-CSTO engagement, this action will significantly up the ante on Rasmussens initiative to improve NATO-Russia relations. Understanding that arguments could be made for NATO to engage on some level with the CSTO, we believe that such a proposal, which would face significant resistance from some Allies, should be initiated through a consensus of NATO members rather than the SecGen. We request Departments guidance in order to respond to any proposals the SecGen may make for NATO-CSTO engagement.

5. (C) Comment: We maintain that while NATO strives to enhance its engagement with Russia, including cooperation that could lead to practical results such as greater Russian assistance to Afghanistan, it would be counterproductive for NATO to engage with the CSTO, an organization initiated by Moscow to counter potential NATO and U.S. influence in the former Soviet space. To date, the CSTO has proven ineffective in most areas of activity and has been politically divided. NATO engagement with the CSTO could enhance the legitimacy of what may be a waning organization, contributing to a bloc-on-bloc dynamic reminiscent of the Cold War. Instead, we should focus our efforts on improving the U.S. relationship with Russia bilaterally and through NATO.

6. (C) Comment continued: In addition, validation of the CSTO could further strengthen Moscows influence over our Central Asian and other partners in NATOs EAPC. All the members of the CSTO are in the EAPC, which we believe is the proper venue in which to engage them.