Daily Archives: June 6, 2008

08MOSCOW1626, RUSSIA WILL ATTEND JUNE 23 VIENNA CONFERENCE ON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1626 2008-06-06 12:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #1626 1581246
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061246Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8474
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0146

UNCLAS MOSCOW 001626 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAID PGOV PREL PHUM LE RS UNRWA
SUBJECT: RUSSIA WILL ATTEND JUNE 23 VIENNA CONFERENCE ON 
RECONSTRUCTION OF LEBANON'S NAHR AL-BARID REFUGEE CAMP 
 
REF: 60216 
 
(SBU) MFA Counselor for Lebanon Oleg Levine told us on June 6 
that the Russian Ambassador to Austria would represent the 
GOR at the June 23 Vienna conference on the reconstruction of 
Lebanon's Nahr Al-Barid refugee camp.  Levine could not say 
what level of support Russia might pledge during the 
conference. 
RUSSELL

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08MOSCOW1625, RUSSIA WILL ATTEND FRIENDS OF IRAQ CONFERENCE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1625 2008-06-06 12:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3125
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHMO #1625 1581246
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061246Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8473
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MOSCOW 001625 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: MARR MOPS OTRA PREL IZ RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA WILL ATTEND FRIENDS OF IRAQ CONFERENCE 
 
REF: STATE 60393 
 
(SBU) MFA Iraq Desk Officer Elbrus Kutrashev told us on June 
6 that Russia will attend the June 17-19 Friends of Iraq 
conference in Abu Dhabi.  Russia will be represented by 
either MFA Director for the Middle East Sergey Vershinin or 
the Russian Ambassador to the UAE. 
RUSSELL

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08MOSCOW1624, ANNUAL OECD/NEA MULTILATERAL NUCLEAR ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1624 2008-06-06 12:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #1624/01 1581246
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061246Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8471
INFO RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1905
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0523

UNCLAS MOSCOW 001624 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
PARIS FOR OECD 
STATE FOR EUR/ERA 
STATE FOR ISN/NESS 
STATE FOR L/NP 
 
E.O. 12958: NA 
TAGS: ENRG OTRA TRGY TECH FR RS
SUBJECT:  ANNUAL OECD/NEA MULTILATERAL NUCLEAR ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM 
IN RUSSIA (MNEPR) COMMITTEE MEETING 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (SBU) The annual OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Multilateral 
Nuclear Environment Program in Russia (MNEPR) Committee Meeting took 
place May 13 in Moscow.  Russian officials reviewed the status of 
the new Rosatom State Corporation.  Participants also reviewed the 
Strategic Master Plan for Northwest Russia and the status of MNEPR 
projects.  Italy accepted the invitation for membership.  As 
projects in Northwest Russia near completion, the focus of MNEPR may 
shift to the Russian Far East.  End Summary. 
 
Donors Pre-Meeting 
------------------ 
 
2. (SBU) The annual OECD NEA MNEPR Committee Meeting was held at the 
President Hotel in Moscow on 13 May.  A donors pre-meeting was held 
the evening before at the Swedish Embassy, hosted by the donors' 
Co-Chairperson, Anders Nystrom.  Donors noted no major problems with 
the Russian side; in previous meetings, donors had raised issues 
related to access to sites and documents.  Julia Schwartz, Head of 
NEA Legal Affairs, noted that the MNEPR Secretariat was running out 
of funding.  Norway had provided most of the funding for the 
Secretariat during MNEPR's decade in existence, and the Norwegians 
had recently notified the Secretariat that they were no longer in 
the position of being able to do so.  MNEPR members were asked to 
respond; and Russia would also be requested to donate during the 
Committee Meeting. 
 
3. (SBU) The tenth annual MNEPR Committee meeting opened with the 
election of the Co-Chairpersons for the coming year.  Elected was 
Nystrom of Sweden for the donors and Evgeniy Evstratov, Rosatom 
Deputy General Director, for the Russian side. 
 
Status of Rosatom State Corporation 
----------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) Evstratov provided a status report on the reorganization of 
Rosatom, the former Russian Atomic Energy Agency which is being 
transformed into Rosatom State Corporation.  A Presidential Decree 
had established Rosatom State Corporation, but the Agency Rosatom 
will not entirely stand down until the end of 2008.  Former head of 
Agency Rosatom Kiriyenko had moved over to Rosatom State 
Corporation, as had many of the senior leadership.  The remainder of 
the organization would move over through the coming year, although 
not all Rosatom employees would be guaranteed a position in the new 
State Corporation. 
 
5. (SBU) The legal status of the new State Corporation is still 
evolving, according to Evstratov.  President Putin had signed a law 
in December 2007 converting Rosatom from a federal agency to a State 
corporation, but there is still  considerable work to be 
accomplished in the restructuring.  In particular, the EU 
representative and legal counsel were concerned regarding the 
transition, as they were expecting to finalize three assistance 
agreements in the near future. 
 
International Agreements 
------------------------ 
 
6.  (SBU) Evstratov noted that the Russian Government was conducting 
a review of all international agreements before the diplomatic notes 
regarding Rosatom civil international agreements could be issued by 
the MFA.  He stated that it was expected that all international 
civil nuclear agreements now in place with the Agency Rosatom would 
remain in place with Rosatom State Corporation.  He provided further 
details on the reorganization - not only would Rosatom State 
Corporation take over the duties of the federal agency, but it would 
also take over the Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet.  He offered 
that the new entity would be composed of three main categories: 
nuclear fuel cycle and electricity generation; the nuclear weapons 
complex; and nuclear radiation safety. 
 
7.  (SBU)  Evstratov stated that the Russian nuclear regulatory 
agency, Rostechnadzor, would remain separate from the new Rosatom 
State Corporation.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have the 
same responsibilities in regard to the MNEPR Agreement as it did in 
the past. 
 
Relations among Nuclear Risk Programs in Russia 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
8.  (SBU) Simon Evans, the UK Representative, provided an analysis 
of the relationship among nuclear risk programs in the Russian 
 
Federation.  He characterized the G8 Global Partnership as being the 
"political framework" for nuclear safety, security and 
non-proliferation.  MNEPR is the "legal framework" and while it 
applies to nuclear safety, it could be expanded to security.  It 
sets a sound standard, and is limited to the Russian Federation. 
The IAEA Contact Expert Group (CEG) was characterized as being the 
"technical framework" that promotes co-operation in Northwest Russia 
and the Far East regions.  The CEG facilitates co-operation and 
helps avoid duplication of tasks.
He noted that the role in 
Northwest Russia was becoming "mature" and that the CEG was not 
limited to that region but to the entire Russian Federation.  The G8 
Global Partnership, MNEPR and the CEG are interrelated to some 
degree and share similar goals. 
 
Nuclear Submarine Decommissioning 
--------------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) Ashot Sarkisov (Russian Institute for Nuclear Energy 
Safety) provided a review of the "Strategic Master Plan (SMP) for 
Decommissioning the Retired Russian Nuclear Submarine Fleet and 
Environmental Rehabilitation of its Supporting Infrastructure in 
Northwest Russia."  This is the guideline, funded by the EBRD, for 
the Russian Federation to follow in decommissioning its submarines 
and reducing the radiation hazard posed by the retired facilities 
and waste.  The SMP development was a step toward the implementation 
of the Global Partnership Program approved at the Kananaskis Summit 
in 2002.  He indicated that a similar, but different SMP would be 
required for the Far East.  (Note: At a CEG Meeting in June 2007 in 
Vladivostok, Sarkisov and other Russian officials had opined that 
the Northwest Russia SMP would be employed as a basis for a SMP for 
the Far East.  It now appears that the Russians will develop an 
entirely separate SMP for the Far East.) 
 
Membership 
---------- 
 
10. (SBU) The MNEPR Secretariat reviewed the status of potential 
membership.  Italy and Canada had been invited to join as full 
members and Australia, Japan and South Korea had been invited to 
observer status.  Italy had accepted the invitation, and a member of 
the Italian Embassy in Moscow attended the meeting.  Canada had 
declined to join, citing its present extensive bilateral agreements 
in the field with Russia.  Nothing had yet been heard from 
Australia, though it was noted that its CEG assistance to Russia has 
been provided through Japan.  South Korea also had yet to respond 
and Japan had declined, also citing its own mechanisms.  However, it 
was revealed during the meeting that Japan had indicated through 
channels that it would become a member of the CEG (it had been an 
observer until this point). 
 
Shift to Russian Far East 
------------------------- 
 
11. (U) A tour de table on assistance projects revealed that the UK, 
France, Germany, Norway and the EU still had ongoing projects in 
Northwest Russia.  The Netherlands, Italy, Denmark had no further 
ongoing projects and Sweden had a few small projects related to 
nuclear waste.  Alain Mathiot, the CEG Representative noted that by 
the 2010/2012 period, CEG-sponsored projects in Northwest Russia 
would be completed.  This would lead to a renewed focus on the 
Russian Far East; he also emphasized that there was no geographical 
limit within Russia for CEG projects.  For both MNEPR and the CEG, 
it appeared that projects for Northwest Russia were gradually 
winding down to completion, with relatively fewer new start-ups, and 
that the focus of international co-operation in the area of spent 
nuclear fuel and radioactive waste management would be shifting to 
the Russian Far East. 
 
12. (U) The United States noted the pending (21 May 2008) deposit of 
its instrument of ratification to the Convention on Supplementary 
Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC).  While the U.S. has not been 
able to sign the MNEPR Protocol on Claims, Legal Proceedings and 
Indemnification, the ratification of the CSC was a significant step 
regarding liability.  Russia was encouraged to follow the U.S. in 
ratifying the CSC. 
 
13. (U) The meeting adjourned with the note that the next MNEPR 
Committee Meeting would be held in Paris during the April/May 
period. 
 
RUSSELL

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08MOSCOW1623, RUSSIA CLOSE TO U.S. POSITION ON THE FUTURE OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1623 2008-06-06 12:45 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #1623 1581245
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 061245Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8470
INFO RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0099
RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 0030

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001623 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/06/2018 
TAGS: PREL UNSC KPKO PBTS ET ER RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA CLOSE TO U.S. POSITION ON THE FUTURE OF 
UNMEE 
 
REF: STATE 58446 
 
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells for reasons 1.4 (b/d). 
 
1. (C) MFA First Secretary for International Organizations 
Sergey Zhdanov told us on June 6 that Russia agreed that 
UNMEE cannot play an effective role in the region and should 
either be terminated or its mandate not renewed when it ends 
on July 31.  He explained that before the UNSC took action on 
this issue, the GOR preferred to wait until Eritrea and 
Ethiopia made their positions known by responding to the 
letter the UNSC President recently sent these governments. 
Russia could support a follow-on presence, even if it was 
located only on Ethiopian territory. 
 
2. (C) Zhdanov said that the GOR understood a "legalistic" 
reading of the 2000 Algiers Agreement meant that the 
withdrawal of UNMEE would signify that the terms of the 
Agreement had been fulfilled, suggesting that the 
Eritrean-Ethiopian border demarcation determined since the 
end of hostilities would be considered final.  This fact 
could help explain the behavior of Eritrea, which may want 
UNMEE withdrawn as a means to gain international acceptance 
of the current border. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1616, RUSSIA’S INFLATION AND THE STAGES OF GRIEF:

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1616 2008-06-06 06:18 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #1616/01 1580618
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 060618Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8453
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001616 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/RUS, EEB/IFD 
TREASURY FOR TORGERSON 
DOC FOR 4231/MAC/EUR/JBROUGHER 
NSC FOR WARLICK 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/04/2018 
TAGS: EFIN ECON RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA'S INFLATION AND THE STAGES OF GRIEF: 
ACCEPTANCE 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 997 
 
     B. MOSCOW 937 
     C. MOSCOW 709 
     D. MOSCOW 866 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Daniel A. Russell, Reasons 1.4 (b/d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  (C) The World Bank and the IMF, echoing much of Russia's 
business community and economic elite, cite Russia's 
spiraling inflation, which reached an annual rate of 15 
percent in May, as the Achilles heel of the country's 
economy.  However, senior Russian officials dismiss these 
concerns and appear determined to increase government 
spending to address infrastructure and other needs despite 
the likelihood of further accelerating inflation.  Moreover, 
the government is not tightening monetary policy, an explicit 
acceptance of high inflation and an implicit acknowledgment 
that the monetary tools available to them are ineffectual. 
The apparent ascendancy of the "pro-growth" economic policy 
camp risks embedding inflation in the economy and may signal 
a loss of influence of the GOR's longtime inflation hawk, 
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. 
End Summary. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
World Bank, IMF Express Inflation Concerns 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2.  (U) World Bank and IMF reports this week concluded that 
Russia has so far weathered most of the adverse effects of 
the global financial crisis and, thanks to its Reserve Fund, 
faces little short-term risk from an external shock, such as 
an oil price drop.  However, both reports warn that internal 
factors, namely rising inflation, pose the greatest threat to 
the country's continued economic growth.  The annual 
inflation rate exceeded 15 percent last month and is poised 
to go higher. 
 
3.  (SBU) The reports concede that the government is correct 
that world food and commodity price growth have affected 
domestic price levels.  They also note, however, that 
Russia's inflation has significantly outpaced both.  Rather 
than external factors, the reports cite increased budget 
expenditures as the primary cause of inflation, with salary 
increases in excess of productivity gains as well as 
infrastructure bottlenecks and higher real estate prices also 
contributing. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Government Dismisses Concerns, Spending to Increase 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
4  (U) Government officials have dismissed the warnings. 
Presidential Aide and G8 Sherpa Arkadiy Dvorkovich said the 
World Bank and IMF "got it wrong" about Russia's inflation, 
which made the rest of their reports "meaningless."  Economic 
Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina was quoted in business 
daily Vedomosti as saying that the 40-percent increase in 
budget expenditures last year "have not been inflationary but 
an essential part of the economic growth the country needs." 
Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach told 
reporters that "infrastructure and social services are 
under-invested sectors, so it is incorrect to say that the 
whole economy is overheating." 
 
5.  (U) Prime Minister Putin's first Cabinet meeting on May 
14 approved the Ministry of Economic Development's 2009-2011 
growth strategy.  The document outlines spending increases 
for infrastructure projects, health care, and education.  The 
strategy identifies the government as the source of 75 
percent of the spending on infrastructure and health and 
education improvements, with the private sector contributing 
the remainder.  In addition, a subsequent Presidium meeting 
of the so-called core Cabinet members proposed moving the 
planned 2009 expenditures on the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the 
2012 APEC Summit and a number of road and bridge construction 
projects to this year. 
 
----------------------------------- 
Monetary Policy Ineffective Counter 
----------------------------------- 
 
 
6.  (C) Faced with rising inflation last year, the government 
took proactive steps, including administrative price controls 
on food items, to check inflation.  The very different 
response this year suggests that the government attaches 
greater importance to the country's ubiquitous infrastructure 
needs and is determined to address them now, despite the 
effects on inflation.  The effect of looser fiscal policy 
will be to accelerate rising inflation further, with the risk 
that it may become embedded in the economy. 
 
7.  (C) Moreover, the GOR is not moving aggressively to 
contain inflation with monetary policy, an implicit 
recognition that its monetary tools are inadequate to the 
task.  Central Bank (CBR) officials acknowledge as much.  The 
CBR's Research Department Deputy Director Lyudmila Starikova 
describes the CBR's changes in interest rates as "monetary 
policy by signal."  Raising key interest rates, as the CBR 
ha
d recently done, is more a tool to convey CBR's assessment 
of economic overheating than a means to rein in price growth. 
 Starikova explained that the financial sector was not 
sufficiently developed for interest rate changes to encourage 
or discourage borrowing or saving the way changes to the Fed 
Funds Rate or Discount Rate do in the U.S. 
 
8.  (C) Many investment houses in Moscow are betting that the 
government will choose instead to appreciate the ruble in an 
attempt to counteract inflation.  Several of our contacts 
have told us privately that the ruble may be as much as 20 
percent undervalued -- a result of the GOR,s currency market 
interventions.  A stronger ruble would lower the cost of 
imported goods, reducing inflation, but would hurt many 
domestic producers, especially in the inefficient but 
politically sensitive agricultural sector.  Moreover, a 
stronger ruble could also attract short-term foreign capital, 
causing the monetary supply to increase and, with it, 
inflation. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Putin Supports "Pro-Growth" Camp 
-------------------------------- 
 
9.  (C) Another implication of Putin's apparent support for 
the "progressive" or "pro-growth" economic policy camp led by 
Nabiullina and Dvorkovich (reftels A and B) is that 
"conservative" Deputy Prime Minister Kudrin's influence on 
this issue seems to be waning.  This could generate concern 
in the financial sector.  Kudrin, who championed the 
three-year budget concept, has a record of consistently 
reining in budget spending as a means of controlling 
inflation to avoid hindering economic growth. 
 
10.  (C) Kudrin's recent acceptance of the proposed 
expenditure increases stands in stark contrast to the very 
public campaign he led earlier this year against a reduction 
in the value-added tax (VAT).  Kudrin argued then that such a 
measure would have detrimental effects on inflation as well 
as the budget.  Prior to Medvedev's inauguration, many of our 
contacts observed that keeping Kudrin in the Finance Ministry 
would be the GOR's best guarantee for fighting inflation 
while sustaining Russia's economic growth (reftels C and D). 
However, the emphasis has now shifted decisively toward 
growth. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
11.  (C) The GOR appears to be in the resignation phase of 
coping with inflation.  It is prepared to remedy the 
country's crumbling infrastructure, a constraint on economic 
growth, while acknowledging that monetary policy can do 
precious little to mitigate the effects.  However, the risk 
is that the resulting inflation may get out of hand, 
generating unrest among pensioners and others struggling 
against the increasingly high cost of living.  The GOR is 
considering side payments to address this potential unrest 
(septel). 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1610, UNITED RUSSIA’S CONFERENCE RAISES MORE QUESTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1610 2008-06-06 05:42 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #1610/01 1580542
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 060542Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8444
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001610 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI RS
SUBJECT: UNITED RUSSIA'S CONFERENCE RAISES MORE QUESTIONS 
THAN ANSWERS 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 01345 
     B. ST PETERSBURG 00106 
 
Classified By: CDA Daniel A. Russell.  Reason:  1.4 (d). 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Sound bites from top Kremlin and government 
leaders over the past week about United Russia gave mixed 
signals to an already confused elite about the party's 
significance in the emerging "tandem" system.  At the May 29 
United Russia conference, PA Head Sergey Naryshkin and his 
Deputy, Vladislav Surkov, joined Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov 
in calling a re-assessment of United Russia's election focus 
to an emphasis on administration and implementation. It is 
unclear how a party driven by the members' self-interest and 
opportunism can make the vision a reality or, if successful, 
who would be the beneficiary in the Medvedev-Putin tandem. 
Conventional wisdom gives Putin the greater influence today - 
evidenced by his comments touting his position at United 
Russia's helm as more significant than his appointment as 
Premier.  Yet, some viewed Medvedev's June 2 letter against 
changing the media law as a signal that the new President 
will also assert his authority vis-a-vis the party-dominated 
legislature.  As with so much in Russia today, we are 
unlikely to have a clear understanding of United Russia's 
role in the new constellation until at least the fall, when 
Medvedev's ideas are turned into legislation proposals.  End 
summary. 
 
A Party In Search of a Purpose 
------------------------------ 
 
2. (SBU) On May 29, representatives from United Russia's 
regional branches joined with the Moscow leadership at the 
Presidential Administration to discuss the party's further 
development.  After the requisite backslapping for the 
"electoral successes" in the parliamentary and presidential 
races, the party leaders took turns in explaining coming 
challenges for the country in general and the party 
specifically.  PA head Naryshkin's speech focused primarily 
on the economic agenda, outlining four tasks for the party 
over the coming years: the transition to an "innovation" 
economy; institutional modernization; development of law 
enforcement and judicial systems; and the improvement of 
economic institutions by creating a competitive environment 
and overcoming monopolistic trends.  None of this broke new 
ground for the conference delegates, since the ideas of 
economic liberalism inherent in Naryshkin's speech devolve 
from the administration's Strategy to 2020 -- Putin's 
blueprint for economic development that Medvedev has adopted 
as the centerpiece of his administration.  But, Naryshkin 
drove home the point that the party had to adapt to the new 
circumstances and play a central role in implementing the 
government's agenda. 
 
3. (SBU) Gryzlov's speech on re-organizing and re-shaping 
United Russia followed a similar line as Naryshkin, but his 
comments may have been more troubling to the attendees, since 
he proposed changes potentially threatening not only the rank 
and file, but also the regional leadership.  Gryzlov 
challenged the party to make the transition from election 
victory to success in administration and management.  He 
highlighted the "debate" among the party's various clubs, 
praising the unifying position of Putin as party head as 
providing sufficient gravity to allow a diversity of views 
within the membership.  Moreover, he called for the 
development of a personnel reserve, identifying a thousand 
potential candidates to fill mayoral and gubernatorial posts 
in the coming 5-10 years -- presaging more personnel turnover 
and cadre rotations, primarily from the party ranks. 
Following Putin's criticism last fall, when the then 
President a

Wikileaks

08MOSCOW1608, POLLING IN RUSSIA: UNDERSTANDING THE INFORMATION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1608 2008-06-06 03:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #1608/01 1580344
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P 060344Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8439
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001608 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/05/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI RS
SUBJECT: POLLING IN RUSSIA: UNDERSTANDING THE INFORMATION 
 
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells.  Reason:  1.4 (d). 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary: Russia has three home-grown stalwarts in 
the field of public opinion polling with another trying hard 
to break into the exclusive club.  These three all share a 
history leading back to the godfather of public opinion 
surveys in Russia, Yuriy Levada.  They, along with new-entry 
Bashkirova and Partners, produce important analyses on the 
political and social opinions of Russians.  They have in 
common very similar methods for conducting the surveys, 
methods that reflect the peculiarities of Russia.  This 
methodology includes complex sampling schemes and the use of 
quota sampling.  Despite the difficulties of extracting 
conclusions from such methodologies, polling results should 
not be discarded, but rather taken with a grain of salt.  End 
Summary. 
 
Public Opinion Polling in Russia 
-------------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) Three national organizations dominate the field of 
public opinion polling in Russia with another at the margins 
attempting to be recognized as a player.  The three most 
prominent organizations are the Levada Center, The All-Russia 
Center for Public Opinion (VTsIOM), and the Foundation for 
Public Opinion (FOM). These organizations routinely publish 
analyses of data each collects from regular omnibus national 
surveys whose topics run the gamut from politics to 
entertainment to religion.  Bashkirova and Partners (B&P) 
also releases public use survey results from time to time, 
but does not maintain the constant output of the "big" three. 
 
 
3.  (SBU) Although set up by Yuriy Levada (founder of the 
Levada Center), VTsIOM has always been a wholly-owned 
government enterprise, which has led to claims of political 
influence in its analysis and results.  FOM has similarly 
come under fire because of its apparent close relationships 
with the government agencies that fund its national surveys. 
FOM and VTsIOM have developed a broad government client base, 
while B&P and the Levada Center rely mainly on private 
commercial entities and other non-government clients.  B&P 
has worked extensively with the International Republican 
Institute (IRI) and Levada Center has worked on a corruption 
project with Information Science for Democracy (INDEM), an 
NGO that focuses on rule of law and corruption issues. B&P 
also maintains a considerable level of independence from the 
GOR by receiving the lion's share of its revenues from 
private sources.  Independent analysts give greater weight to 
Levada Center data because they consider its surveys less 
influenced by the Kremlin. 
 
4.  (SBU) All four polling organizations told us that they 
use orders for marketing surveys and orders from government 
agencies to subsidize the costs of their regular general use 
surveys.  When compiling each survey, additional political 
monitoring or topical questions can be added as the costs of 
the survey are borne by other paying customers.  These 
routine national surveys cover a broad range of topics and 
have a sample size of 1,500 to 3,000.  VTsIOM, FOM and the 
Levada Center conduct a survey every week while B&P conducts 
at least two surveys a month.  Each survey includes standard 
questions that the polling organizations use to track the 
popularity of political figures (i.e., Putin and Medvedev). 
The surveys also cover topics the particular organization 
thought interesting although at times the questions are 
driven by popular topics rather than sociological questions. 
For example the Levada Center and VTsIOM asked questions 
about the Champions League Soccer match recently held in 
Moscow.  As with any company, they hoped to garner some free 
publicity if news outlets used their polling results in their 
stories. 
 
The Inverse of the Probability of Selection 
------------------------------------------- 
 
5.  (SBU) These four polling organizations described for us 
remarkably similar methods for conducting national opinion 
polls.  While in the United States pollsters use telephone 
numbers to draw a random sample and conduct the survey, in 
Russia, a large number of households do not have telephones, 
requiring significantly different sampling and data 
collection methods.  Pollsters here use a complicated mix of 
multi-stage random sampling and quota sampling to delineate a 
geographic block of housing units.  Survey takers must cover 
the territory on foot to administer the surveys.  The 
multi-stage sample design used by all four firms groups the 
entire Russian population into larger and larger groups and 
then randomly samples at each grouping level starting with 
the largest.  In Russia, the polling agencies first sample 
the main subdivisions of the Russian Federation (the oblasts 
and republics) usually selecting 15 to 20 of the 85 regions. 
From each oblast, they then select a sample of villages, 
towns, and cities.  The next stage selects smaller geographic 
areas that include housing units (apartments or houses).  In 
each of these population centers they then select apartments 
or houses based on predetermined criteria (e.g., second 
building
on the right, third floor, second apartment). 
 
6.  (SBU) At each level, however, the sample is complicated 
by certain requirements.  For example, at the national level, 
oblasts are selected to assure sufficient coverage of urban 
and rural areas.  At the oblast level, population centers are 
selected to assure, for example, sufficient coverage of small 
agricultural settlements and large urban areas.  At the 
lowest sampling level, the individual living unit or 
apartment, the sampling moves to quota sampling.  Once a 
household has been selected, the survey taker selects from 
that household individuals that meet certain criteria usually 
by age and gender.  Should the sample not result in enough 
respondents of a certain category, e.g. males under 25, the 
survey taker goes from apartment to apartment until the quota 
for each age and sex category has been met. 
 
Understanding the Data 
---------------------- 
 
7.  (SBU) The complex sampling methods make creating national 
estimates difficult.  Because of varying population sizes in 
each grouping from oblast to apartment level, any person in 
the national population has a different probability of being 
selected for the survey.  (Note: In the national telephone 
surveys in the US, each person has an almost equal chance to 
be selected.)  Because of the different probabilities of 
selection, each respondent's answers must be given different 
weights.  More specifically, the sampling designs result in a 
larger proportion of respondents from less populated regions 
than actually is present in the national population.  These 
responses ought to be given less weight than respondents from 
large cities that make up a smaller proportion in the sample 
than in the national population. 
 
8.  (SBU) No polling organization told us of any weighting 
procedures used to devise national estimates or for 
estimating confidence intervals (i.e., the plus/minus) of 
each proportion calculated.  Even among statisticians, 
calculating such intervals for complex sample designs has 
proven an obstinate problem.  Bashkirova complained of 
another vexing theoretical statistical problem, namely quota 
sampling.  She pointed out that the math that produces the 
confidence intervals for an estimate only works with random 
sampling.  Quota sampling makes the assumptions of the math 
invalid. 
 
9.  (C) Georgiy Satarov of INDEM gave us his sociologist's 
views on some public opinion polling data, views that could 
help understanding what the data actually say.  He examined 
FOM's report on everyday corruption published March 20 on the 
internet.  FOM's data showed that about half of all Russians 
feel corruption is endemic and cannot be successfully 
combated.  The survey also explored which government agencies 
respondents felt were most corrupt and how these perceptions 
changed over the past ten years.  While he dismissed the data 
as mere propaganda, he described in detail some of the 
drawbacks of asking only a few questions in a large survey. 
When FOM asked about corruption, for example, the survey 
taker did not provide a definition of corruption.  Because 
corruption covers a world of sins, end users of the data 
cannot be sure that their conception of corruption (bribery, 
kick-backs, etc.) corresponds to the respondents' conception. 
 
10.  (C) Satarov also pointed out that the time frame for 
FOM's questions was not fully explained to the respondents or 
in the data, meaning different respondents might consider 
events from two or three years ago while others would think 
back no further than six months.  Finally, Satarov complained 
that for many personal, illegal or socially sanctioned events 
(such as paying a bribe), respondents are generally hesitant 
to answer a stranger's questions.  Satarov lead an INDEM 
research project examining the incidence of corruption.  He 
found that respondents needed specific cues and preparation 
questions before he would trust their answers.  Because FOM 
did not include such cues in its data collection, Satarov 
dismissed the results as useless. 
 
Predicting Elections: Two Case Studies 
-------------------------------------- 
 
11.  (SBU) The Duma elections of December 2007 and the 
Presidential elections of March 2008 provide a worthwhile 
test of the four polling organizations.  By comparing how 
these organizations predictions square with actual results, a 
clearer picture emerges of how well each firm does in 
estimating public opinion.  Contacts in political parties 
indicated that they understand the utility of polling data 
for crafting a popular message or for maintaining realistic 
assessments of a campaign's success.  Representatives from 
Just Russia and Civic Force told us during the Duma elections 
that they were handicapped because they could not afford 
polling.  Smaller, non-Duma parties such as Yabloko or Union 
of Right Forces (SPS) did not have their own polling units 
and routinely predicted wildly optimistic election results 
(often predicting their party would get upwards of 15 percent 
of official returns).  In the end, these parties actually 
garnered proportions of the vote very close to what the four 
polling agencies had predicted for them. 
 
12.  (SBU) The table below provides the estimates for the 
four organizations in the week just prior to the Duma 
elections.  The bottom line provides the actual results. 
Each pre-election estimate had a plus or minus three 
percentage point margin of error. 
 
              United                 Just 
              Russia   KPRF  LDPR  Russia  Other 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
VTsIOM            62     12     8       7     11 
Levada Center     66     12     8       6      8 
FOM               62     12     9       7     10 
Bashkirova        57     13    10       9     11 
 
Election 
Results           64     12     8       8      8 
 
Given the margin of error the pre-election poll numbers for 
these four firms did not show any statistical differences. 
The actual result also fell with the margin of error in each 
case (with the possible exception of B&P which appears to 
have predicted a lower showing for United Russia than in fact 
it received.) 
 
13.  (SBU) The various pre-elections polls from the 
presidential campaign did not show much unanimity.  The table 
below indicates the predicted returns for the presidential 
elections in the week preceding the March 2 elections. 
Again, the estimates came with a standard plus or minus three 
percentage point margin of error, and the bottom line 
indicates the final results as reported by the Central 
Election Commission. 
 
              Medvedev  Zyuganov  Zhirinovskiy Bogdanov 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
VTsIOM             78        12             9         1 
Levada Center      80        11             9         1 
FOM                72        13
            13         1 
Bashkirova         76        13             9         2 
 
Election 
Results            70        18             9         1 
 
Only FOM's estimate included the actual returns for Medvedev 
while all four agencies underestimated Zyuganov's support. 
 
14.  (C) Andrey Mukhin, director of the Center for Political 
Technology, many times dismissed the results of national 
polling, saying that the 1,500 respondents in the sample 
could not portray all the people of Russia.  He even claimed 
that Kremlin officials had a direct hand in assuring that 
Levada Center, VTsIOM and FOM published the "right" data 
(i.e., showing large wins for United Russia).  On the other 
hand, he claimed that the Kremlin had its own semi-secret 
polling that only select members of Putin's Presidential 
Administration could view.  He mentioned to us that Putin 
decided to lead the United Russia list for the Duma elections 
after one of these polls indicated a significant decline in 
public support for United Russia.  (Although Mukhin 
discounted the published results of opinion polls, the idea 
that even Putin tracked public opinion and made a momentous 
decision based on it indicates the level of political 
importance he now attached to polling, if not the actual 
published results.) 
 
Polling Data -- User Beware 
--------------------------- 
 
15.  (C) Russian public opinion polling firms and their 
staffs exhibited a thorough knowledge of current survey 
methods, and the staff we spoke with demonstrated high 
standards of professionalism.  Presnyakova felt that, all 
other issues aside, the well educated analysts working at the 
four organizations maintained a high level of professional 
ethics. She said they would not "massage" data to achieve a 
particular result.  Nothing we found contradicted this 
sentiment.  However, perceptions matter and the common 
knowledge that VTsIOM and FOM rely heavily on Kremlin 
contracts for work colors many commentators' perceptions. 
The opposition news magazine The New Times recently 
highlighted some cases of leading questions in some VTsIOM 
surveys.  While such questions are cardinal sins among survey 
methodologists, VTsIOM published the exact wording of its 
questions along with the results.  As with any scientific 
venture, the truth lies in reproducibility, and the polling 
results before the Duma elections from all four polling 
agencies indicate strong correlations of results.  On the 
other hand, the results from the pre-presidential election 
polling show wide convergence. 
 
16.  (C) Skepticism, then, ought to be the key word in using 
data from any of the polling firms in Russia.  The sampling 
methods, the lack of statistical weights and the fact that 
only 1,500 to 3,000 Russians are surveyed mean that precision 
is at best illusory.  Even the plus or minus three percentage 
point margin of error cannot be take at face value.  The 
presidential election results showed that all polls missed 
the mark on Zyuganov's election returns.  As Satarov further 
explained, for fairly complex concepts such as corruption, 
the data only go so far.  For his purposes, the particular 
FOM data may not suit him; however, for giving broad 
indications of opinions and experiences, they data may indeed 
suffice.  While there is a danger in reading too much into 
the data, such a danger exists in any survey (including 
INDEM's in which the sample size was 3,000 -- not much larger 
than the opinion polls). 
 
17.  (C) Satarov, The New Times, and countless other 
interlocutors have raised concerns about pro-Kremlin bias on 
the part of VTsIOM and FOM.  Satarov even said that he only 
needs to know who paid for a particular data collection to 
know how the data are biased.  On the other hand, the fact 
that the Levada Center was "more wrong" in favor of Medvedev 
than VTsIOM in the final presidential election polls, raises 
questions about the extent of such bias.  While some opinion 
polls may serve a broader political interest (a serious 
problem in all developed countries as well), it appears at 
least that Russia has its own home-grown band of skeptics 
ready to critically analyze questionable conclusions. 
RUSSELL

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