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Reference ID 07BAKU722 (original text)
SubjectMISSILE DEFENSE: BACKGROUNDER ON THE GABALA RADAR
OriginEmbassy Baku
ClassificationSECRET
ReleasedAug 30, 2011 01:44
CreatedJun 8, 2007 12:20
VZCZCXRO9799
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKB #0722/01 1591220
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 081220Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3212
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 0681
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BAKU 000722 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR EUR/CARC AND NEA/IR 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/06/2017 
TAGS:            
SUBJECT: MISSILE DEFENSE: BACKGROUNDER ON THE GABALA RADAR 
STATION 
 
REF: A. BAKU 00219 
 
      B. BAKU 00154 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Donald Lu per 1.4 (b, d). 
 
Background on the Radar 
------------------------ 
 
 1.  (C) The Gabala radar station (also known as the Lyaki 
large phased-array radar) was originally part of the USSR's 
broader ballistic missile defense architecture; specifically, 
it was one of nine major radar stations erected on Soviet 
territory to detect and track the launch of ballistic 
missiles.  Construction of the 87-meter tall facility began 
in 1978 and was finished in 1984.  According to open sources, 
the site was designed to track missiles emanating from the 
southern hemisphere, including the Middle East and Indian 
Ocean.  The site was designed to relay acquired information 
to two more sophisticated radars positioned outside Moscow, 
where ballistic information was processed.  According to open 
source literature, there are currently 923 Russia military 
service members and 234 Russian civilian personnel working at 
the radar site. 
 
 2.  (S) A U.S. military assessment confirms that the radar's 
primary mission is to detect ballistic missiles from the 
Middle East and Indian Ocean region, as well as conducting 
space surveillance.  The same study argues that Russia's 
ballistic missile early warning system would have a 
significant coverage gap without the radar.  However, Moscow 
is currently constructing a new Voronezh radar in southern 
Russia, which may be completed in 2008 or 2009.  According to 
this assessment, Russia's need for the Gabala radar will 
significantly decrease after this new radar becomes 
operational, and Moscow will be unlikely to renew its lease 
agreement with Baku.  This assessment also notes 
that Moscow provides $22 million annually for radar data  and 
operations and maintenance expenses, including $7 
million for leasing the site, $5 million for power, and $10 
million for communications, water, and other costs.  (Note: 
The assessment can be found on siprnet at 
http://www.dia.smil.mil/intel/ 
europe/russia/dar/S-47-158-07-RAO3.html) 
 
Azerbaijani-Russian Negotiations over Gabala 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
 3.  (C) The existence of the Gabala facility on Azerbaijani 
territory has been a long-standing point of contention 
between Azerbaijan and Russia.  Whereas the former sought to 
limit Russian military facilities on Azerbaijani soil after 
independence in 1991, Moscow fought to preserve the 
components of its Soviet-era missile defense architecture. 
The failure of Azerbaijan and Russia to come to terms over 
the status of the facility was exacerbated by the political 
chaos in Azerbaijan surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh war and 
the personal animosity between former Presidents Heydar 
Aliyev and Boris Yeltsin. 
 
 4.  (C) The two sides began negotiations over the status of 
the Gabala radar station in 1997.  The negotiations appeared 
to have been significantly boosted by warmer personal 
relations between former President Heydar Aliyev and 
President Putin.  In January 2002, during President Heydar 
Aliyev's visit to Russia, Heydar Aliyev and Putin reached an 
agreement on the status of the Gabala facility.  Later in 
2002, both countries' parliaments ratified an agreement for 
Russia to lease the facility for 10 years, paying Azerbaijan 
the $7 million leasing fee. 
 
 5.  (C) Periodically, Azerbaijani government officials 
publicly question whether the terms of the lease should be 
reexamined.  GOAJ officials appear to cite environmental or 
other red-herrings to remind Moscow that the lease terms 
could be reconsidered.  Local contacts widely report that the 
GOAJ sees the terms of the lease as a point of leverage with 
Russia.  This tactic also plays well with the Azerbaijani 
public, which enjoys seeing Azerbaijan in a position of 
strength vis-a-vis Russia. 
 
January Dispute over the Lease Terms 
------------------------------------ 
 
 6.  (C) The most recent example of Azerbaijan questioning the 
terms of the Gabala radar station lease was in the winter of 
2006-2007.  The immediate context of this incident was 
Azerbaijan's refusal to accede to Russia's increased price 
 
BAKU 00000722  002 OF 002 
 
 
for gas exports to Azerbaijan.  (Note:  The GOAJ took several 
unusually public swipes at Russia in this time period, 
including Presidential Administration political chief Ali 
Hasanov's public statement that Russia "did not act like a 
gentleman" in gas negotiations.  Reftel A.)  In early 
January, local press carried several stories that the GOAJ 
was considering increasing the rent, triggering the local 
political rumor mill into high gear that Azerbaijan was 
flexing its muscles against Russia because of Moscow's gas 
negotiating behavior.  In a public episode of the GOAJ's 
tactic, pro-government Parliamentary MP Zahid Oruc in January 
warned that the terms of the lease would be reviewed in the 
spring.  Oruc stated that while the reasons for reviewing the 
lease were purely economic, "Russia's energy policy makes it 
necessary to reconsider the agreement." 
 
 7.  (C) The GOAJ eventually sought to turn down the pressure. 
 Presidential Administration military aide Vahid Aliyev in 
late January publicly pledged that the GOAJ would stick to 
the terms of the lease through 2012 because "Azerbaijan 
always honors its agreements."  Presidential Foreign Policy 
Advisor Novruz Mammadov subsequently confirmed in a private 
conversation with the DCM that the GOAJ would not raise the 
lease on the Gabala station in the immediate future, but Baku 
might consider the lease's terms "in a year or so." (Reftel B) 
 
 8.  (C) Since January, there has only been limited public 
focus on Russia's leasing of the facility.  Despite MP Oruc's 
threat, the Parliament has not yet examined the terms of the 
lease. 
 
 9.  (C) Azerbaijan and Russia appear to have settled into a 
position of claiming that neither side is advocating changes 
to the lease.  In early May, Russian Ambassador Vasiliy 
Istratov stated that Russia has not received any new 
proposals from Azerbaijan regarding the status of the 
facility, while suggesting that Russia in the future may give 
up the facility and build a comparable radar on Russian 
territory.  Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Mammadyarov in late 
May said Russia has not sent any requested changes to the 
lease to the GOAJ.  Mammadyarov acknowledged, however, that 
he discussed the facility with Russian Foreign Minister 
Lavrov during Lavrov's May 21-22 visit to Baku.  Mammadyarov 
did not mention specific points of his discussion, only that 
Lavrov and himself discussed Gabala.  (Note:  While in Baku, 
Lavrov gave a speech at Baku State University in which he 
referred to the destabilizing effects of U.S. missile defense 
plans.) 
LU