06MOSCOW10309, RUSSIAN MFA UNCLEAR ON TRANSNISTRIAN REFERENDUM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW10309 2006-09-15 09:02 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO4124
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHLA RUEHMRE RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #0309/01 2580902
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 150902Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2350
INFO RUCNOSC/OSCE POST COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 010309 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/14/2016 
TAGS: PREL OSCE PBTS MD RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN MFA UNCLEAR ON TRANSNISTRIAN REFERENDUM 
IMPLICATIONS 
 
REF: A. STATE 115371 
 
     B. CHISINAU 381 
     C. MOSCOW 7769 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Alice G. Wells. 
Reasons: 1.4(B/D). 
 
1. (C) Summary:  In a meeting with Embassy three days before 
Transnistria's September 17 referendum, MFA Transnistrian 
negotiator Valeriy Nesterushkin provided no clarity on how 
Russia will treat the referendum result.  While acknowledging 
that whatever the result, Transnistria would not be 
recognized by the international community, Nesterushkin 
contended that the referendum should at minimum be accepted 
as an expression of the will of the entity's population.  He 
saw no direct link between the referendum and the negotiation 
process, but thought that negotiators, especially those 
representing Transnistria, will behave differently after the 
referendum and that change of attitude, in turn, will affect 
the course of further discussions. Nesterushkin advised that 
all parties of the 5 Plus 2 should study the post-referendum 
situation carefully and avoid imposing a one-sided 
resolution.   End summary, 
 
Smirnov not Saddam Hussein 
------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  Nesterushkin began his September 14 conversation with 
Poloff with a "simple example."  An internationally 
recognized state -- Iraq-- was "destroyed" by another country 
because of the alleged existence of WMD, without the 
international community's approval.  A referendum then was 
carried out by the newly-created government so that "the 
people of Iraq" could decide their future.  Smirnov, 
Nesterushkin said, is not Saddam Hussein, and the planned 
referendum is an acceptable way to collect information about 
Transnistrians' opinions and should be taken as such. 
Nesterushkin argued that Transnistrian authorities felt 
compelled to hold a referendum after Ukraine introduced a new 
customs regime in March (reftels). A more constructive U.S. 
role, Nesterushkin said, would have been to help formulate 
the wording of the two choices instead of belatedly 
criticizing it.  He denied that Russia was directly involved 
in the wording of the referendum, repeatedly saying that "It 
was their work."  Transnistria, isolated and in a dire 
economic condition, appealed to Russia and Moscow provided 
humanitarian aid and financial support (not to help Smirnov, 
he added).  Nesterushkin repeatedly insisted that the 
referendum was not Russia's idea and Russia would have 
preferred the status quo. 
 
Terrible Mess, Terrible Divorce 
------------------------------- 
 
3. (C)  Nesterushkin characterized the Transnistrian dispute 
as a terrible mess.  His "partners (i.e., the 5 Plus 2 
negotiators)" tend to oversimplify the situation and impose 
their own ideas of an acceptable settlement.  He stressed 
that although Transnistria was part of Moldova under the 
Soviet Union, Transnistria declared its independence in 1990 
before the republic of Moldova was established in 1991.  One 
cannot call Transnistrians "separatists" when they were never 
part of Moldova.  Nesterushkin said the EU, the U.S. and the 
OSCE all fail to understand the complicated history and 
dynamics and simply continue to pressure Transnistria with 
their own solution.  He considered this too confrontational. 
According to him, the situation is like a broken marriage. 
The couple went through a bloody divorce in 1992.  All sides 
including Russia, however, keep telling them that they should 
live under the same roof.  As the couple keeps fighting, we 
must present a new marriage contract that is attractive to 
both parties. 
 
What Next? 
---------- 
 
4. (C)  Despite prodding, Nesterushkin would not speculate on 
what role Russia ascribed to the referendum.  He insisted 
that he could not be concrete because he did not know but 
thought the future negotiations would be tough.  Despite the 
wording of the questionnaire, he saw no likelihood of the 
immediate annexation of Transnistria to Russia.  It may join 
Russia's economic sphere with the same currency at some point 
but beyond that, he did not want to hypothesize. 
Nesterushkin said that he was puzzled why he was not invited 
to a meeting among DAS Kramer, OSCE Moldovan HOM O'Neil and 
the EU representative last week.  He was willing to listen if 
they have a new workable solution. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
 
MOSCOW 00010309  002 OF 002 
 
 
5.  (C)  This was vintage Nesterushkin.  While Duma Chairman 
of International Relations Committee Kosachev told the 
Ambassador on August 31 that the GOR would not endorse the 
referendum results, Nesterushkin's comments reflect the 
ambivalence Russia has shown about the referendum -- by turns 
supportive of the Transnistrians while recognizing that the 
referendum is unlikely to affect the course of the 
negotiations.  Moscow has been comfortable with the status 
quo and the referendum will do nothing to change that.  We 
will be seeking GOR reaction
 next week after the referendum 
results are announced. 
 
 
 
 
 
, 
 
 
 
 
 
BURNS

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