06MOSCOW12666, RUSSIA’S APPROACH TO POST-ORANGE UKRAINE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12666 2006-11-28 16:30 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0381
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2666/01 3321630
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281630Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5486
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 012666 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV UP RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA'S APPROACH TO POST-ORANGE UKRAINE 
 
REF: MOSCOW 9018 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (b, d). 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  Russia has reinvigorated its engagement 
with Ukraine, focusing on practical cooperation.  Last 
month's Fradkov-Yanukovich meeting, which yielded a gas deal, 
set the stage for the December 23 Putin-Yushchenko Summit. 
Russian attitudes, however, still seem to lack an 
appreciation for Ukraine's continuing interest in European 
integration and of its developing national identity.  End 
Summary. 
 
A Turn for the Better 
--------------------- 
 
2.  (C) From Moscow's perspective, while transitory political 
changes in Kyiv have clearly affected its interests, there 
are deeper, underlying factors that drive Russia to seek 
close ties with its most important neighbor.  In an early 
November conversation, MFA Director of the Second CIS 
Department (Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova) Viktor Sorokin 
insisted that a stable, unified Ukraine was important for 
Russia, particularly for the "survival" of the Russian 
economy.  Sorokin listed three critical factors: 
 
-- over 10 million ethnic Russians live in Ukraine, and more 
than 50 percent of the population considers Russian its 
native language; 
 
-- the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based in Ukraine; 
 
-- energy security, in particular Ukraine's dependence on 
Russian energy and Russia's dependence on Ukraine's transit 
routes (eighty percent of Russian gas and fifty percent of 
Russian oil transit Ukraine on its way to Europe). 
 
These and other reasons have helped Russia and Ukraine 
"de-link" politics and economics, Sorokin added. 
 
3.  (C) Moscow Carnegie Center's Nikolay Petrov agreed that 
both countries are now putting business before politics.  Now 
that "Orange" emotions have subsided and a 
mutually-acceptable price for gas has been reached, the 
relationship was less political, and both countries are 
focused on pragmatic cooperation.  Petrov termed Ukraine the 
most important partner for Russia among its neighbors. 
Andrey Ryabov, a scholar at the Institute for World Economy 
and International Relations (IMEMO), claimed that Ukraine's 
most important asset was its location on the European Union's 
frontier.  Ukraine's strategic position made it impossible 
for Russia to ignore Ukraine's drift to Europe.  The 
Ukrainian Embassy's Political Counselor Myroslava Scherbatyuk 
noted that with that realization, unhelpful rhetoric had 
abated, and both parties were eager to put the relationship 
back on track. 
 
After a Busy Round of Meetings, Putin to Kyiv 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) Scherbatyuk noted that the uncertainty over the 
formation of the Ukrainian government had slowed bilateral 
contacts to a crawl.  However, since the August meetings in 
Sochi between Putin and Yanukovich, the tempo had picked up. 
All but two sub-commissions of the Putin-Yushchenko 
Commission have now met.  The October meeting between Prime 
Ministers Fradkov and Yanukovich produced a Russian agreement 
to sell gas to Ukraine for USD 130 per 1,000 cubic meters, 
which Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin 
termed a "gift."  Black Sea Fleet talks took place on October 
27-28 in Sevastopol.  The November 7-8 meeting between 
Foreign Ministers Lavrov and Tarasyuk was considered by 
Moscow observers as the real launch of a renewed political 
dialogue. 
 
5.  (C) Two remaining sub-commissions -- humanitarian issues 
(chaired by Education Ministers Fursenko and Nikolayenko) and 
security issues (chaired by Defense Ministers Ivanov and 
Hrytsenko) -- will meet in early December.  At the conclusion 
of the Security Council sub-commission in November between 
Igor Ivanov and Vitaliy Hayduk, the two parties announced 
that Putin would visit Kyiv on December 23 for the 
long-awaited Putin-Yushchenko Commission Summit. 
 
NATO/EU 
------- 
 
6.  (C) While there are solid reasons to believe that a focus 
on practical cooperation could propel the relationship 
forward, experts we spoke to underlined that Ukraine's 
potential membership in NATO remained a potential flash 
point.  The MFA's Sorokin succinctly described the Russian 
 
MOSCOW 00012666  002 OF 003 
 
 
position on Ukraine and NATO as: "Cooperation yes, entry no." 
 Ukraine's entry into NATO would indicate to Russia that 
Ukraine felt threatened and Moscow wanted Kyiv to spell out 
what specific threats were posed to Ukrainian security.  NATO 
for Russia, Sorokin said, was a "destabilizing" force. 
Ukrainian Embassy Political Counselor Scherbatyuk said that 
NATO membership was an inevitable geopolitical choice for 
Ukraine; a necessary part of its effort to move out of the 
Russian orbit and establish a balance of forces in the 
region.  However, Scherbatyuk acknowledged the low level of 
support NATO enjoyed in Ukraine, and that Russia was using 
this factor to argue against Ukraine's entry. 
 
7.  (C) Ukraine's continued interest in pursuing integration &#x000
A;into Euro-Atlantic institutions produced a sense of 
bewilderment among some of our Russian interlocutors. 
Aleksandr Fadeyev of the CIS Institute characterized 
Ukrainian leaders as "naive" and "provincial," prone to 
corruption and clan politics.  He added contemptuously that 
Ukraine entertained aspirations for the EU that were not 
reciprocated.  IMEMO's Alexey Bogaturov described many in the 
Russian elite as almost indifferent to Ukraine's European 
aspirations. "If Ukraine wanted to be with Europe, then let 
Europe pay for it," Bogaturov concluded dismissively.  Yet, 
some experts expressed envy for Ukraine's thriving media and 
freer political movements. 
 
Ukraine:  Handle with Care? 
--------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) When the conflict between Tbilisi and Moscow was at 
its sharpest this past fall, several of our contacts 
predicted that the "Ukrainians would be next."  However, in 
the aftermath of the dispute, IMEMO's Ryabov suggested that 
Georgia had unexpectedly helped Ukraine.  Embarrassed by the 
negative reaction to its handling of Georgia, he thought 
Russia might be trying harder to avoid a conflict with its 
western neighbor.  All interlocutors agreed that the ties 
between the two countries were too strong to allow efforts to 
create artificial barriers to succeed.  Still, old 
stereotypes abound.  Sorokin advised that special care be 
used in dealing with the "young" government in Kyiv because 
it was bound to exhibit contradictory behavior. 
 
Language and Religion:  Ties that Bind 
-------------------------------------- 
 
9.  (C) Experts we talked to flagged the use of the Russian 
language and the shared heritage of the Orthodox Church as 
cross-cutting issues that would gain prominence in bilateral 
relations.  Scherbatyuk saw Moscow's relentless efforts to 
have Russian become the second official language of Ukraine 
as "ominous."  She noted that the issue was again raised at 
the November 7 Lavrov-Tarasyuk meeting.  IMEMO's Ryabov 
suggested that there were many regional-level projects to 
promote "Russification" -- particularly in the Donetsk region 
and Crimea -- where the government in Kyiv had failed to 
"Ukranianize" populations.  He claimed that the Ukrainian 
government lacked the political will to fight Russian efforts 
at "integration."  The BBC's Konstantin Eggert told us that 
in the future, Moscow could create trouble for a weakened 
Ukrainian government in these regions; only money and 
organization were needed to stir up pre-existing separatist 
tendencies.  However, while most observers agreed that there 
were fault lines in Ukraine that the GOR could readily 
exploit, no one believed there was strong support for a move 
in this direction from top decision-makers.  For now, Russia 
seems to be pleased with the turn in relations since 
Yanukovich's return and has no reason to pressure him in this 
manner. 
 
10.  (C)  Religion poses other challenges.  Informed 
observers we talked to, including Scherbatyuk, said Moscow 
was strongly resisting Yushchenko's plan -- endorsed by the 
Constantinople Patriarchate -- to unify Orthodox Ukrainians 
in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate).  Russia 
backs the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) of the Ukrainian Orthodox 
Church, which has special ties to religious communities in 
Kharkiv, Poltava, Chernihiv and Odesa. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
11.  (C)  Now that the Yanukovich government is in place, 
Russia is focused on resuming active engagement.  The energy 
deal has put one of the most contentious issues in the 
relationship on hold for another year.  Difficult issues lie 
ahead, however, with Ukraine's continued interest in NATO 
membership.  While no one seems to think the relationship can 
return to its cozy, pre-Orange Revolution days, the improved 
tone and a focus on practical issues should help lay the 
groundwork for a productive Putin-Yushchenko Summit. 
 
MOSCOW 00012666  003 OF 003 
 
 
BURNS

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