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06KIEV1062, UKRAINE/BELARUS/RUSSIA: GOU VIEWS ON RUSSIA

March 17, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1062 2006-03-17 15:23 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv
VZCZCXRO3302
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #1062/01 0761523
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171523Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY KIEV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8220
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

 

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KIEV 001062 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2016 
TAGS: PREL MARR KDEM PHUM PINR RS BO UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE/BELARUS/RUSSIA: GOU VIEWS ON RUSSIA 
DEFENSE RELATIONSHIP, BELARUS 

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i., for reasons 1.4 (b,d). 

1. (C) Summary:  During EUR DAS David Kramer's March 13 
meetings in Kiev, Deputy Defense Minister Polyakov said that 
while security issues in the Ukraine-Russia relationship were 
secondary to political and military aspects, his Ministry 
(MoD) tried to play a "good cop" role by reinforcing a 
productive defense relationship with its northeastern 
neighbor.  Russia, however, was having difficulty adjusting 
to a more independent Ukraine, such as in negotiations on 
arrangements for the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) presence 
in Crimea.  The Russian military was hesitating over a 
Ukrainian offer of joint training at Ukraine's Sevastopol 
Naval Institute and, for the first time, had canceled an 
annual bilateral naval exercise.  Ironically, at the same 
time Russia was working to keep Ukraine out of NATO, Russia 
was reinforcing its own relationship with the alliance, 
Polyakov observed.  On Belarus, MFA 2nd Territorial 
Department Director Anatoliy Ponomarenko said the GOU would 
assess the conduct of the Belarusan presidential election to 
determine whether to proceed with planning of a meeting 
between the two countries' presidents intended to mark the 
20th anniversary of the April 1986 Chornobyl accident.  If 
Ukraine did agree to a summit, it would extract a promise, 
inter alia, that the Belarusan government would not suppress 
the political opposition.  Kramer urged that Ukraine not hold 
the meeting if violence were used in the election and also 
asked Ponomarenko and Polyakov to pass a warning to Minsk not 
to use violence.  MFA was considering hosting a conference on 
democracy in Belarus.  End summary. 

The Northeastern Neighbor 
------------------------- 

2. (C) Deputy DefMin Polyakov told Kramer March 13 that 
military issues in the Ukrainian-Russian relationship were 
secondary to political and economic aspects; the Defense 
Ministry had no problems with the Russian military and was 
able to play the "good cop" role in fostering good relations. 
 Polyakov commented that Russia was facing the classic 
dilemma of adjusting from its former status as an empire and 
a superpower and seeking to find its place and the way 
forward.  Ukraine and Russia were like divorced spouses still 
sharing a communal apartment, Polyakov joked.  In the 
Kravchuk era (1991-94), Ukraine's formal policy toward Russia 
was tough and rigid, but unofficially it was weak, 
particularly on issues like the Black Sea Fleet (BSF).  In 
the Kuchma era (1995-2004), both official and unofficial 
approaches to Russia were marked by weakness.  Under 
Yushchenko, Ukraine was attempting to assert a strong 
position, defending Ukrainian interests. 

3. (C) Polyakov stressed that Ukrainian officials knew that 
it was in Ukraine's interest to have cooperation with Russia; 
it was equally important that the U.S. and NATO have fruitful 
relations with Russia, which could help break down 
stereotypes within Russia and Ukraine.  Ukraine had suggested 
that the Russian BSF consider training opportunities at 
Ukraine's Sevastopol Naval Institute, but "we see hesitation 
in the eyes of our partners, an unwillingness to engage on 
the details."  Russia had cancelled the annual bilateral 
naval exercise for 2006 for the first time since the 1997 BSF 
treaty had been signed.  At the same time it was reducing 
activities with Ukraine, Russia was trying to accelerate 
cooperation with NATO member countries.  Russia's presence at 
NATO dwarfed that of Ukraine 30 officers to 8, and its 
ability to contribute a cruiser and three support ships to 
Operation Active Endeavor outstripped Ukraine's modest 
aspiration to establish an information point and offer a 
frigate once it was seaworthy. 

4. (C) DAS Kramer stressed that the USG wished to see good 
relations between Ukraine and Russia, since no one benefited 
from tensions.  Washington did not make comparisons between 
the two countries' ability to contribute to operations, he 
stressed; the U.S. was grateful for Ukraine's many 
contributions to coalition operations, particularly in Iraq. 

Black Sea Fleet 
--------------- 

5. (C) Regarding January tensions over the BSF and 
lighthouses, Polyakov suggested Russia hoped that the March 
26 elections would change Ukrainian policy dynamics, if not 
in Ukraine overall, then at least in Crimea.  Polyakov 
praised the MFA's work in pushing for clarification on a 
number of BSF issues, because in the previous environment of 
a lack of clarity that had existed since the 1997 treaty was 
signed, Russia had achieved much at Ukraine's expense.  The 
first Ukrainian-Russian BSF meeting in February, chaired by 
DFMs Ohryzko on the Ukrainian side and Karazin on the 

KIEV 00001062  002 OF 003 

Russian, had revealed Russia's psychological difficulty in 
accepting clear and logical GOU positions, without
 invented 
facts, in support of a request to Russia to fulfill the terms 
of the 1997 agreement.  One of the underlying Ukrainian 
points had been:  since you (Moscow) raised the issue of 
market-based pricing approaches replacing brotherly terms in 
gas contracts, there is no reason why the same rationale and 
terms should not now apply to BSF basing terms as well. 

6. (C) Polyakov stressed that clarifying the terms of the BSF 
presence in Ukraine was important to Ukraine's aspiration to 
join NATO.  As the Ukrainian delegation had told the 
Russians:  if you pledge to respect our laws, please respect 
them; if you pledge to transfer control of certain objects, 
please transfer control; if you pledge to coordinate BSF 
movements, please coordinate. 

Belarus:  Deteriorating Bilateral Relations 
------------------------------------------- 

7. (C) MFA department director Ponomarenko said MFA had just 
released a statement protesting the previous day's (March 12) 
arrest in Minsk of eight Ukrainians and detention of two 
Fifth Channel journalists.  The Belarusan authorities had 
inadvertently made even clearer the government's oppressive 
nature, since the television broadcast had continued as the 
police led away the crying female announcer.  MFA had also 
prepared a diplomatic note critical of the Belarusan police 
action.  Since the new Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus was 
due to present his credentials March 13, Ponomarenko joked 
that the ambassador could deliver the note directly to 
Lukashenka.  Turning more serious, he said delivery of 
diplomatic note would occur after the credentials ceremony 
and an appointment with an appropriately high-ranking 
Belarusan MFA official.  FM Tarasyuk was attempting to speak 
by telephone with his Belarusan counterpart, Sergei Martynov, 
but the latter had so far been unavailable. 

Future Policy 
------------- 

8. (C) Ponomarenko noted the Ukrainian approach to Belarus 
differed from the USG's in that the GOU did not believe 
Belarusan isolation was productive.  In her meeting with 
Tarasyuk, the Secretary had expressed dissatisfaction with 
the Ukrainian position, telling Tarasyuk that Lukashenka 
needed "to clean up his act."  For the future, the Ukrainian 
MFA was pursuing two options, still continuing to explore the 
possibility of holding a meeting between the two countries' 
presidents and also to hold a conference somewhere in Ukraine 
on support for democracy in Belarus.  Ponomarenko said the 
GOU had not yet taken a final decision on a presidential 
summit meeting, which, if it took place, would occur in the 
context of the 20th anniversary of the April 1986 Chornobyl 
disaster.  The GOU decision would factor in the conduct and 
possible use of violence during the March 19 Belarusan 
presidential election. 

9. (C) Any meeting of the two presidents would take place at 
the end of April, either in Chornobyl or Slavutych both in 
Ukraine and near the Ukraine-Belarus border, Ponomarenko 
continued.  The Ukrainian government was considering setting 
two preconditions to the meeting.  First, the Belarusan 
government would have to commit to not suppressing the 
Belarusan opposition.  Second, the Belarusan government would 
have to commit in writing that it would sign an agreement to 
simplify the transfer of people and goods across a narrow 
sliver of Belarus separating Slavutych (where many workers on 
the Chornobyl facility and their families live) and Chornobyl 
Nuclear Power Station.  A possible third precondition might 
be Belarusan agreement to the opening of a Ukrainian 
information and cultural center in Minsk.  The MFA would also 
arm President Yushchenko with further "political signals" to 
convey to Lukashenka.  MFA officials were consulting closely 
with the EU as they considered whether to hold the meeting 
and would also be careful to consult with the USG. 

10. (C) Ponomarenko said there was no doubt that the vote 
tally would show that Lukashenka had won the election. 
Ukraine, the U.S., the EU, EU member states, and perhaps even 
Russia, were not happy with Lukashenka, but Russia was having 
difficulty finding an acceptable and viable replacement to 
him.  In the meantime, Russia continued to prop up Lukashenka 
by providing cheap natural gas to Belarus.  With no oligarchs 
in Belarus, a significant share of Belarusan enterprises' 
profits was being channeled into the Presidential 
Administration fund, which Lukashenka was using to boost the 
average Belarusan salary to USD 300 per month, higher than 
the Ukrainian average. 

11. (C) DAS Kramer said he understood the difficulties that 

KIEV 00001062  003 OF 003 

countries that border Belarus have in dealing with the 
country.  Nevertheless, on March 9, he had provided testimony 
on Belarus to the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and A/S Fried had 
spoken recently at CSIS on the markedly contrasting Ukrainian 
and Belarusan elections.  Both he and Fried had spoken 
forcefully and bluntly about Belarusan corruption and 
electoral abuses.  The U.S. was pleased with its close 
cooperation with the EU on Belarus and appreciated the 
Ukrainian MFA's statements supportive of EU positions.  The 
recent detentions of Ukrainian citizens demonstrated the need 
to speak out and deplore the situation in Belarus.  Kramer 
urged caution on holding meetings at the highest level, 
saying that a meeting of presidents should not take place if 
violence were used during the election and would appreciate a 
warning to Minsk from Ukraine against the use of violence. 
Kramer stressed the importance of not inadvertently sending 
any mixed messages to Minsk. 

The Defense Ministry Approach 
----------------------------- 

12. (C) On Belarus, Deputy DefMin Polyakov noted that the 
Ukrainian military again played the "good cop," cultivating 
relationships with the Belarusan military for the long-term 
that mirrored NATO engagement of Belarus under Partnership 
for Peace.  Defense Minister Hrytsenko had visited twice in 
2005, once on a counterpart visit and once accompanying PM 
Yekhanurov.  The Belarus Defense Minister had visited Ukraine 
in late 2005 to mark Belarus' purchase of Ukrainian trainer 
jets.  Ukraine was also paying for Belarus personnel to 
participate in the Rapid Trident exercise, Polyakov added. 
Kramer noted U.S. concerns were not with the Belarusan 
military but with the security services; we were worried 
about the potential for use of force/violence around the 
March 19 presidential elections.  Kramer said he had passed a 
clear message while visiting Minsk in February that, were 
violence to occur, there would be consequences.  Kramer asked 
if Polyakov and the Ukrainian military could also pass this 
message through their channels.  The more the Belarusans 
heard this coordinated message from neighbors, the better. 

13. (U) DAS Kramer did not have a chance to clear this 
message. 

14. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Gwaltney

 

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