Daily Archives: February 18, 2008


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW445 2008-02-18 14:20 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #0445/01 0491420
O 181420Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000445 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/18/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns: 1.4 (b, d). 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Russia responded quickly and negatively 
to Kosovo's declaration of independence, with the Kremlin 
and MFA labeling it illegal, illegitimate, and 
destabilizing.  While the joint Duma/Federation Council 
statement is not expected until later today, both chairs of 
the international relations committees preemptively argued 
that the U.S. was intent on flouting international norms 
and had created a dangerous precedent.  Russian officials, 
while maintaining some level of ambiguity, have sent 
signals that they will increase diplomatic and economic 
support for the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but 
that Russia will not "ape" Western actions by recognizing 
the independence of the breakaway territories.  However, a 
press conference by the "presidents" and the joint 
parliamentary statement can be expected to raise tensions. 
The Ambassador alerted Deputy Foreign Minister Titov on the 
Secretary's intent to call FM Lavrov and U.S. plans for 
recognition.  Our European colleagues are waiting to engage 
the Russians after GAERC.  Kosovo's UDI also triggered 
airing of a documentary/screed on U.S. efforts to 
destabilize and overthrow governments through the promotion 
of democracy.  End Summary 
Official Reaction: Quick, Predictable 
2.  (SBU)  Russia responded quickly and along 
predictable lines to Kosovo's February 17 
declaration of independence: 
-- Minutes after the UDI, the MFA issued a 
statement, in which it maintained that Kosovo's 
declaration was a violation of Serbian 
sovereignty, called upon the UN and NATO to 
annul the decision and to take strong 
administrative measures in response, demanded 
an immediate session of the UN Security Council 
to take "decisive action" to return to a 
political settlement along the lines of UNSCR 
1244, and concluded that Kosovo's actions had 
increased the potential for conflict in the 
Balkans and threatened to diminish the 
authority of the UN.  The statement reiterated 
Russia's complete support for the Serbian 
reaction to the announcement and demand for 
respect of its territorial integrity. 
--  Kremlin deputy spokesman Dmitriy Peskov 
quickly followed suit.  Appearing on national 
television, he called the UDI an "illegitimate 
act," which was "contrary to the norms of 
international law."  Peskov reiterated that 
Russia completely understood the response of 
Serbia, pointing to Belgrade's non-recognition 
of the EU mission to Kosovo.  Peskov expressed 
respect for Belgrade's restraint and the 
constructive nature of its response; in 
particular, its decision not to implement an 
economic blockade or sanctions.  When asked on 
next Russian steps, Peskov was careful to cede 
the initiative to Serbia, noting that Russia 
would support its Balkan partner. 
--  Russian television carried Russian NATO 
Ambassador Dmitriy Rogozin's characterization 
of the UDI as "the beginning of the destruction 
of the basic principles of international law by 
NATO and the EU," and his warning that a 
Pandora's box had been opened, which could lead 
to a domino effect and "a transition towards 
absolute chaos."  Rogozin accused the 
international community of "blatantly 
humiliating the Serbian nation." 
--  While the Duma and Federation Council will 
issue a joint statement at the end of the day, 
February 18, (with the statement pre-drafted by 
the MFA), the chairs of the international 
relations committees laid down preemptive 
markers.  Duma Chair Konstantin Kosachev 
stressed that the aim of the U.S. and EU was to 
reaffirm a de facto practice of operating 
outside international law and in defiance of 
the international community.  Federation 
Council Chair Mikhail Margelov argued that a 
dangerous precedent was being established that 
could redraw the political map of the Middle 
East, provoking a scenario "which Europe and 
the America could not even think about in their 
MOSCOW 00000445  002 OF 003 
worst nightmare." 
--  A discordant note in the storm of Russian 
protest was the Russian Mufti's endorsement of 
Kosovo's independence.  Co-chair of the Council 
of Muftis Nafigulla Ashirov was reported in the 
press as underscoring that Kosovo had the right 
to independence given the conflict's deep roots 
and number of victims claimed in the crisis. 
The Mufti took issue with efforts to "scare the 
whole world with the idea that now there will 
be Islamic extremism in Kosovo."  Predictably, 
the Russian Orthodox Church condemned the UDI 
and warned that Kosovar Albanians could "not 
build a peaceful and successful life at 
somebody else's expense." 
--  Russia's flagship NGO, Memorial, argued 
that Kosovo's recognition created a dangerous 
precedent that would have "irreversible 
consequences," while Chair of the Moscow 
Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseeva commented 
that by "rescuing Albanians," U.S. actions 
would cause Ser
bs to suffer. 
Stirring Pot, Stopping Short of Recognition of 
Frozen Conflicts 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
3.  (SBU)  While prominent politicians 
immediately drew comparisons between Kosovo and 
other separatist movements, Russian senior 
officials have walked a careful line in their 
statements over the implications of Kosovo's 
independence for the frozen conflicts, 
particularly with respect to Abkhazia and South 
--  In a Friday, February 15 statement 
following FM Lavrov's meeting with the 
"presidents" of the two breakaway territories, 
the MFA noted that Russia would be "forced to 
consider" Kosovo's application to Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia.  However, the statement then 
went on to underscore Russia's "unaltered 
efforts" to contribute to the peaceful 
resolution of both conflicts "in the framework 
of existing formats," reiterating a second time 
the GOR support for settlements "within the 
framework of international recognized formats." 
--  In his annual press conference, also on 
Friday, Putin said that Russia would not "ape" 
Western actions.  If someone took a "stupid and 
illegal decision," he noted, that was not 
reason for Russia to do the same.  Then, adding 
his customary note of ambiguity, Putin said 
that Russia would react to Western behavior by 
securing its national interests.  "If they 
consider themselves right in protecting their 
interests in such a fashion, why shouldn't we? 
But, I repeat, we will not imitate them" or, he 
added, be forced to mirror-image them.  "We are 
prepared for this (i.e. UDI), and we know what 
we will do."  In a separate question, Putin 
went through the standard Russian talking 
points, taking issue with Kosovo's "unique" 
--  Appearing on the national news in the wake 
of the UDI announcement, former PM Primakov -- 
Russia's foremost Kosovo warrior and a 
bellwether, perhaps co-architect, of Kremlin 
policy -- argued that the U.S. and its allies 
sought to justify the 1999 NATO bombing 
campaign through their recognition of Kosovo. 
Primakov also warned of a "new model" of 
flaunting the UN, which was a continuation of 
the U.S. policy towards Iraq.  However, on the 
frozen conflicts, Primakov struck a cautionary 
tone, echoing Putin's position that there was 
no need to mirror image the Western actions, 
although Russia should take steps to increase 
economic ties and otherwise support the leaders 
of the frozen conflicts. 
4.  (SBU)  Based on their public comments, we 
expect that during their press conference in 
Moscow today, "presidents" Kokoity and Bagapsh 
will call upon the UN, CIS and Russian Duma to 
recognize the independence of Abkhazia and 
MOSCOW 00000445  003 OF 003 
South Ossetia -- with one Duma member telling 
us that a "formal request" from Abkhazia was 
received far in advance of the UDI. While Duma 
members have not tipped their hand with respect 
to the draft joint declaration, both the Duma 
and the Federation Council have served as 
stalking horses in the past on the frozen 
conflicts.  However, given the line established 
by Putin and reinforced by Primakov, it is 
likely that official Russian reaction will fall 
short of formal recognition and will be limited 
to increased diplomatic and economic support. 
The incremental improvements in Russian- 
Georgian relations, with the press reporting 
the First Deputy Transport Minister in town to 
discuss the lifting of the air embargo, 
together with Georgia's statement that it will 
not recognize Kosovo, may help to reinforce 
relative Russian restraint. 
Engaging the GOR 
5.  (C)  In the morning of February 18, the 
Ambassador spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister 
Titov and explained that the Secretary would 
attempt to contact FM Lavrov later in the day 
to preview the U.S. intent to recognize 
Kosovo's independence. 
6.  (C)  Other European missions tell us that 
they have no plans to engage the Russians 
directly, at least not in Moscow.  The Germans 
are under instructions to hold off until after 
the GAERC concludes and are focused on security 
issues, given their proximity to the Serbian 
Embassy where 50 demonstrators burned an 
Albanian flag last night; the French are 
focusing their engagement in New York; and the 
British (whose relations with the GOR are still 
under the cloud of the Litvinenko and British 
Council blows) have no plans to reach out at a 
senior level.  The EU and Slovenian missions 
told us they will meet with the MFA tomorrow, 
following receipt of their GAERC mandate. 
Flogging the "Empire of Good" 
7.  (SBU)  Also in the wake of Kosovo's announcement, 
Russian television aired a one-hour documentary on the 
"Empire of Good," detailing the U.S. commitment to use the 
promotion of democracy to undermine and overthrow 
governments, while extending its hegemonic reach.  The 
program, which was closely modeled on and borrowed from a 
previous documentary, "Velvet Revolution," featured mostly 
Western sources for its attack on neo-conservatism, 
American militarism, and U.S. indifference to international