06MOSCOW12924, RUSSIA-GEORGIA: TREADING WATER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12924 2006-12-14 10:19 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO4920
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2924/01 3481019
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141019Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5845
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 02 MOSCOW 012924 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2017 
TAGS: PREL ETRD GG RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA-GEORGIA:  TREADING WATER 
 
Classified By: PolMilCouns Alice G. Wells.  Reason:  1.4 (b, d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  Russian-Georgian relations are treading 
water until after both countries recover from their break for 
New Years and Orthodox Christmas, around mid-January. 
Georgia has taken pains to tone down the rhetoric, and Putin 
has noticed.  Georgia is dismantling some of the restrictions 
former DefMin Okruashvili placed on the Russian military. 
Russia will not export electricity to Georgia this winter, 
and the GOG will not buy Russian gas.  Deportations are 
slowing, with 30 Georgians currently in detention.  Georgian 
Ambassador Chubinishvili believes that in February Russia may 
ease some of its economic measures, such as the ban on direct 
flights, but that most will take more time to fade out.  End 
Summary. 
 
2. (C) Georgian Ambassador Chubinishvili told us December 13 
that he believes Georgian-Russian relations are treading 
water, neither sinking nor getting closer to dry land.  If 
nothing else, the November 30 meeting between Saakashvili and 
Putin had stopped the slide in relations.  Chubinishvili 
believed that -- barring another provocation from one side or 
the other -- little will happen until after New Year and 
Orthodox Christmas, which virtually shut Russia down until 
mid-January. 
 
3. (C) Chubinishvili noted with satisfaction that Georgian 
rhetoric has toned down.  One exception was a set of remarks 
Georgian Minister for European Integration Gia Baramidze made 
in Brussels on November 14 comparing Russian deportations of 
Georgians with Nazi deportations of Jews.  Putin, under the 
impression that Georgian FM Bezhuashvili had made the 
statement, attacked the latter roundly at the November 30 CIS 
Summit in Minsk.  Informed by FM Lavrov of his mistake, Putin 
approached Bezhuashvili and apologized.  Georgia sent a 
letter to the GOR disowning Baramidze's statements. 
 
4. (C) Under former DefMin Okruashvili Georgia had imposed a 
requirement on Russia to translate into Georgian all transit 
documents for personnel, cargoes, and overflights of Russian 
military planes enroute to their base at Gyumri, Armenia. 
Chubinishvili phoned Pres. Saakashvili to get these measures 
rescinded.  The remedy was supposed to have been in effect by 
December 9.  When it did not take effect, the Russian MFA 
issued a statement complaining about "yet another violation 
by the Georgian side" of the transit agreement reached in 
March to facilitate withdrawal of Russian military bases. 
The issue had not been resolved by December 13, but 
Chubinishvili was hopeful. 
 
5. (C) Chubinishvili noted that Georgia would be purchasing 
no energy from Russia this winter, eliminating a possible 
source of crisis.  RAO UES had sent a letter warning that 
shortages in Russia would make it impossible to export energy 
over the Kavkasioni line until March (by which time the 
season for hydro power will begin and Georgia will no longer 
need to import).  The GOG will not import gas, though 
individual large consumers such as Kazakh-owned Tbilgazi (the 
residential supplier) and Azoti chemicals may import from 
Russia on their own. 
 
6. (C) Chubinishvili said Georgian detainees subject to 
deportation are down to 30.  He predicted some problems 
before the New Year at the Russian-Azerbaijani border near 
Derbent.  The Georgians whose papers and economic situation 
are shakiest head for that border by bus and train, and 
Russian customs officials sometimes cause them problems.  In 
general, the large-scale detentions have ended; during the 
anti-Georgian campaign, Russian police were forced to arrest 
Georgians rather than take bribes to look the other way when 
papers were out of order.  Now the old system prevails again, 
though "the price has gone up," Chubinishvili said. 
 
7. (C)  Little is happening on Georgia's frozen conflicts. 
Though South Ossetian "President" Kokoity is in Moscow, 
Russia's negotiator for that conflict, Yuriy Popov, is on 
leave.  The Russians had protested when Georgian Minister for 
Conflict Resolution Antadze attended the inauguration of 
South Ossetian alternative "President" Sanakoyev. 
Chubinishvili claimed Antadze did so only after the Russians 
had violated a gentlemen's agreement with Georgia and sent 
Popov to Kokoity's inauguration.  "Kommersant" published an 
article December 12 suggesting that Russia would follow in 
Georgia what it (inaccurately) described as the Ahtisaari 
plan for Kosovo.  Kommersant said Kosovo would be part of a 
confederation and the EU would have powers transcending those 
of both Kosovo and Serbia, the implication being that Russia 
would assume that EU role with regard to Georgia. 
Chubinishvili dismissed the article as pure speculation. 
 
8. (C) Chubinishvili hoped that a quiet period can help put 
relations back on a "civilized" basis starting after Russia 
 
MOSCOW 00012924  002 OF 002 
 
 
gets back to work in mid-January.  He hoped that as a start 
direct flights could begin again between Russia and Georgia
. 
When he had last seen DFM Karasin, Chubinishvili had pressed 
for this and had been told to "be patient."  He noted that 
even the Moldovans, who have reached agreement for Russia 
once again to accept their wine, do not expect exports to 
re-start until February.  Chubinishvili had little hope that 
wine, water and other bans would be lifted. 
 
9. (SBU) Despite the bans, it is clear that the Russian 
people would welcome Georgian products if they entered the 
market again.  We have seen two brands of mineral water on 
the market here whose labels are direct rip-offs of Borjomi, 
one even calling itself "Russkiy Borzhom" -- an indicator 
that brand recognition and brand loyalty to Borjomi are still 
very high.  Chubinishvili noted that GG&MW, which produces 
the real Borjomi, is suing the imitations for trademark 
infringement. 
BURNS

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