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06KIEV2039, UKRAINE: DEFENSE MINISTER GETS AHEAD OF FOREIGN

May 26, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV2039 2006-05-26 08:45 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv
VZCZCXRO8787
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #2039/01 1460845
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 260845Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY KIEV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9517
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

 

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KIEV 002039 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

HQ EUCOM FOR J-5 AND FPA AMB MARY CARLIN YATES 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2016 
TAGS: PREL PBTS PHUM EAID NATO MARR PINR BO UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: DEFENSE MINISTER GETS AHEAD OF FOREIGN 
MINISTRY ON BELARUS 

REF: A. KIEV 1937 

     B. 05 KIEV 4699 

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

1. (C) Summary:  In a May 22 meeting with EUR DAS Kramer, 
Foreign Minister Tarasyuk said a meeting of the presidents of 
Ukraine and Belarus might be possible if Belarus were to make 
favorable decisions on issues of importance to Ukraine. 
Tarasyuk added that the Ukrainian government was preparing to 
accept into Ukrainian universities Belarusan students who had 
been expelled from university for political activities, and 
would host an informal meeting on Belarus in September.  In a 
May 23 meeting with Kramer and Vice Presidential Deputy 
National Security Adviser Joseph Wood, Defense Minister 
Hrytsenko defended his decision to proceed with a May 26 
meeting with Belarusan Defense Minister Maltsev.  He said it 
was too late to cancel the meeting, and the Belarusan 
Ministry of Defense had played no role in suppressing 
political opposition in Belarus.  Hrytsenko provided examples 
of the Ukrainian military's dependence on Belarus for 
critical supplies and maintenance.  Kramer said the USG would 
not speak out against the meeting, but urged Hrytsenko to 
ensure that the Belarusan government did not exploit the fact 
of the meeting to suggest a rift had occurred between the 
U.S. and Ukraine with respect to Belarus.  End summary. 

2. (U) EUR DAS David Kramer met Foreign Minister Borys 
Tarasyuk May 22 to discuss a range of topics (septels), 
including Belarus.  Second Territorial Department Director 
Anatoliy Ponomarenko and U.S.A.-Canada Desk Acting Chief 
Yuriy Nykytyuk sat in on the Ukrainian side.  DCM and PolOff 
accompanied Kramer.  On May 23, Kramer and Vice Presidential 
Deputy National Security Adviser Joseph Wood, accompanied by 
DATT and PolOff, discussed Belarus with Defense Minister 
Anatoliy Hrytsenko and his first assistant, Oleksiy Melnyk. 

Tarasyuk: A continuing balancing act 
------------------------------------ 

3. (C) When Kramer expressed appreciation for the decision 
not to have President Yushchenko meet with Belarusan 
President Lukashenka in connection with the 20th anniversary 
of the Chornobyl disaster, Tarasyuk said the Ukrainian 
government had taken into account the negative consequences 
of such a meeting but warned that a Ukraine-Belarus summit 
was not entirely off the agenda.  Ukraine had important 
bilateral issues with Belarus at stake, such as formal 
demarcation of the Ukraine-Belarus border and the facilitated 
passage of workers living in Slavutych across a strip of 
Belarusan territory to work at the decommissioned Chornobyl 
nuclear power station site.  Tarasyuk noted that resolution 
of the two issues would be impossible without Lukashenka's 
personal approval.  Tarasyuk also said Yushchenko's offer, 
made during the August 2005 Commonwealth of Independent 
States (CIS) summit in Kazan, Russia, to have Ukraine act as 
a conduit of communication between Belarus and the European 
Union was also still on the table.  Lukashenka had responded 
positively to the offer initially, but the Belarusans had not 
followed up. 

4. (C) Tarasyuk averred that the Ukrainian government's 
generally critical stance toward Belarus would remain 
unchanged, despite domestic opposition not only from the 
Communist Party but also more importantly from Party of 
Regions and some of its partners that had not entered 
Parliament.  Ukraine would continue its cooperation with the 
U.S. and EU, including by hosting the next informal meeting 
on Belarus in Kiev in September.  The Ukrainian government 
was also modifying its requirements so as to allow Belarusan 
students, expelled from university for their political 
activity, to study in Ukraine. 

5. (C) Tarasyuk and Ponomarenko were both surprised and 
concerned when DAS Kramer informed them about a press story 
that Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Hrytsenko would meet 
with his Belarusan counterpart May 26.  They later told us 
separately that they had confirmed the information and 
relayed their reservations about the planned meeting to the 
Ministry of Defense. 

Hrytsenko: Engagement, not isolation 
------------------------------------ 

KIEV 00002039  002 OF 003 

6. (C) On May 23, Kramer expressed concern to Hyrtsenko that 
the meeting would take place notably soon after the Belarusan 
government's poor handling of the country's presidential 
race.  The U.S. and EU continued with their strict policy of 
no engagement with senior Belarusan officials.  Outside of 
Russia, in fact, Hrytsenko migh
t be the first senior official 
of another country to meet with a Belarusan counterpart since 
the election.  While Kramer said he understood that special 
circumstances might require Hrytsenko to go through with the 
meeting, he urged Hrytsenko to ensure that the meeting take 
place with the lowest profile possible.  He suggested 
Hrytsenko request that his Belarusan counterpart, Colonel 
General Leonid Maltsev, provide assurances the Belarusan 
media would downplay the event and that Hrytsenko warn that 
the May 26 meeting would be the last between the two defense 
ministers if Maltsev did not honor his commitment. 

7. (C) Hrytsenko said the meeting had been scheduled since 
the fall of 2005 and that he preferred not to pull out at the 
last minute, especially since there was no evidence the 
Belarusan Ministry of Defense had played any part in 
suppression of the democratic opposition in Belarus.  (Note: 
Hrytsenko made this same argument during his May 18 meeting 
with Ambassador -- ref A.)  Hrytsenko added that he was 
personally grateful that Maltsev, after their November 2005 
meeting (ref B), had publicly stated that Ukraine's entry 
into NATO would not harm bilateral, military-to-military 
relations or technical cooperation between the two countries. 
 The Ukrainian Defense Ministry had used the statement to 
counter Russia's claims to the contrary.  The Belarusan 
statements were also an element of the Ukrainian government's 
public awareness campaign, which aimed to reassure the 
Ukrainian people that NATO membership would not negatively 
affect employment or the competitiveness of Ukraine's 
military-industrial complex. 

8. (C) Hrytsenko noted that Maltsev could potentially provide 
a positive influence within Lukashenka's inner circle.  He 
asked rhetorically, what was more productive in the case of 
Belarus, Uzbekistan, and other countries -- isolation or 
engagement?  Ukraine, under Kuchma, had been in danger of 
being isolated but continuing engagement with the West 
through the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program had laid 
the groundwork for the Orange Revolution.  Had Ukraine been 
isolated, we would not be talking about a NATO Membership 
Action Plan (MAP) now, argued Hrytsenko.  When Hrytsenko had 
spoken to then-NATO Secretary General Javier Solana about the 
Belarusan Defense Ministry's interest in improving 
interoperability with NATO and perhaps making a contribution 
to U.N. peacekeeping operations, however, Solana had been 
clear that NATO would not escalate Belarus' relationship with 
NATO to a Planning and Review Process (PARP). 

9. (C) Hrytsenko stressed the need for good relations with 
the Belarusan military due to the two militaries' 
interdependence dating to the Soviet period.  For example, he 
said, the Ukrainian military purchased "tens of millions" 
(either liters or possibly Ukrainian hrvynia) of jet fuel 
from Belarus.  The only other source of the fuel had been a 
refinery in Russia that was now formally prohibited from 
selling its product for use by military, vice civilian, 
aircraft.  If the Belarusan source for fuel were closed, 
Hrytsenko noted, the military fleet would be grounded, with 
attendant consequences for Ukraine's ability to meet its NATO 
commitments.  Furthermore, the Ukrainian military sent its 
aircraft to a repair facility located in Minsk, and Ukrainian 
industry sold military aircraft to the Belarusan military. 
Hrytsenko said that, in addition to these particular 
examples, other cases of Ukrainian military and industrial 
reliance on Belarus could be cited. 

10. (C) Kramer noted the U.S. had opposed a suggestion from 
some European NATO allies that Belarus be removed from PfP. 
He reiterated that Hrytsenko should take care that the Minsk 
propaganda machine not exploit the meeting of defense 
ministers to suggest that a rift had occurred between Ukraine 
and the United States.  The USG had praised the Ukrainian 
decision not to hold a presidential summit, but Kramer said 
he understood that a defense ministerial was a different 
level.  The USG had recently criticized an Interpol decision 
to hold a meeting in Minsk, but it would not speak out 
against the Hrytsenko-Maltsev meeting. 

KIEV 00002039  003 OF 003 

11. (U) OVP DNSA Wood cleared this cable. 

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

 

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