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06KYIV4425, UKRAINE/RUSSIA: DEFENDING NATIONAL INTERESTS

December 1, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KYIV4425 2006-12-01 14:02 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO3963
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #4425/01 3351402
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011402Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0546
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KYIV 004425 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2016 
TAGS: PREL MARR PBTS PINR RS UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE/RUSSIA: DEFENDING NATIONAL INTERESTS 
WITHOUT THE RHETORIC 
 
REF: A. KYIV 4415 
     B. KYIV 4295 
     C. KYIV 4302 
     D. KIEV 2590 
     E. KIEV 1913 
     F. KIEV 1062 
     G. 05 KIEV 4908 
     H. 05 KIEV 4478 
     I. 05 KIEV 4462 
     J. 05 KIEV 4149 
     K. 05 KIEV 1354 
     L. MOSCOW 12666 
 
Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4 (b,d). 
 
1. (C) Summary/comment:  PM Yanukovych came to office on a 
campaign promise to improve relations with Russia, but, 
although he has toned down the rhetoric towards Russia, like 
his predecessors, he must find the right balance between 
close ties to Moscow and protecting Ukrainian sovereignty. 
While some joked that Yanukovych's unscheduled November 30 
visit to Russia to meet with Putin was an effort to "get 
instructions" for his December 4-7 U.S. visit, it is more 
likely that the quick trip was intended to reassure Russia 
that he intends to maintain this balance between Ukraine's 
eastern and western interests.  The effort to balance each 
step toward the West with a nod to the East, without 
sacrificing Ukrainian national interests, is a tried and true 
pre-orange Ukrainian political tradition. 
 
2.  (C)  In recent weeks, as plans for the PM's U.S. trip 
unfolded, Russian PM Fradkov and FM Lavrov have come to Kyiv 
to re-energize the dormant bilateral commission, and the 
long-postponed Putin visit to Kyiv is now scheduled for 
December 22.  Despite these small steps forward on the 
diplomatic front and the corresponding warming up of the 
rhetoric between the two countries, we believe that 
Ukraine-Russia bilateral friction will continue, albeit at a 
reduced level, even with a Yanukovych government in control 
and in the absence of outspoken Russia critic Borys Tarasyuk 
as Ukrainian foreign minister (although this Rada decision 
will be challenged in court).  Despite, or perhaps because 
of, the close historical and cultural ties, differences 
between the two countries will continue to arise due to 
intractable problems that are the legacy of the break-up of 
the Soviet Union, conflicting and competing national security 
interests, and fundamental differences in outlook.  End 
summary/comment. 
 
No Mirror Images 
---------------- 
 
3. (C) When many Ukrainians describe Russian attitudes toward 
Ukraine, they suspect Russians see a country that they firmly 
believe does not exist.  They accuse Russians of holding 
revanchist views, regretting the separation of Ukraine (and 
Belarus) from the Russian motherland, and scheming to keep 
Ukraine in the Russian orbit.  While the Orange Revolution 
was a major setback for the Kremlin's designs on Ukraine, 
some knowledgeable Ukrainian officials claim that Putin's 
team has not given up and are using every available tool to 
circumscribe Ukrainian independence.  They argue that the 
Kremlin wants to keep Ukraine out of NATO and EU, delay WTO 
accession, maintain the Russian Black Sea fleet presence in 
Crimea past 2017, gain control over valuable Ukrainian 
infrastructure (especially the natural gas pipeline system) 
and other assets, and persuade Ukraine to join the Single 
Economic Space joining Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and 
Kazakhstan.  Allegedly, the Russians are also intent on 
removing Ukrainian FM Tarasyuk from government.  Ukrainians 
claim the Kremlin not only is willing to use natural gas 
supply arrangements but also black propaganda "dirty tricks," 
ties to political parties, and even the Russian Orthodox 
Church to influence and destabilize Ukraine (note: septel 
will focus on related elements of the situation in Crimea). 
 
4. (C) Ukrainians, whether from East or West, ethnic 
Ukrainians or not, stoutly affirm their sovereignty and 
independence.  They recognize the importance of friendly 
relations with Russia, a country with which they share 
important economic, cultural, and historical ties.  However, 
they insist that Ukraine will shape its relationship with 
Russia on Ukrainian national interests and, above all, refuse 
to be Russia's puppet.  (Refs D-J report on meetings with a 
range of Ukrainians during which these views were expressed.) 
 The discrepancy between Russian views that there is a 
special relationship and common interests with Ukraine and 
Ukrainian insistence on their own sovereignty remains the 
underlying cause behind continuing friction between the two 
countries. 
 
 
KYIV 00004425  002 OF 004 
 
 
PM Seeks A Balance 
------------------ 
 
5. (C) Whenever asked about ties with Russia, the PM and his 
team consistently argue that while the new government wants 
both good relations with Moscow and progress on Euro-Atlantic 
integrati
on, Ukrainian national interests drive the 
government's policies.  When asked about Yanukovych's 
decision to make an unscheduled November 30 trip to Russia to 
meet with President Putin and PM Fradkov, nearly on the eve 
of the his departure for the U.S., the PM's top foreign 
policy advisor Konstantin Gryshchenko told the Ambassador 
that this was all about "defending Ukrainian national 
interests."  It certainly was an attempt by Yanukovych to 
reassure his counterparts in the Kremlin about his intentions 
in the U.S. -- in line with a traditional pre-orange 
Ukrainian political strategy of publicly balancing each step 
toward the West with a step toward Moscow. 
 
6.  (C)  Ukrainian conspiracy theorists have mooted the 
possibility that PM Yanukovych and the cabinet ministers 
involved struck a deal with Moscow to keep down the price of 
Russian natural gas.  The deal purportedly involved a 
Ukrainian commitment to slow progress toward WTO membership 
or to consider the possibility of maintaining the Russian 
Black Sea Fleet's presence in Crimea past the 2017 deadline, 
which PM Yanukovych mentioned publicly in early November 
after meeting Russian PM Fradkov in Kyiv.  Others, including 
Regions MP Leonid Kozhara have linked the price of gas to 
Ukraine's interest in a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), 
and Yanukovych's September 14 speech at NATO declining to 
pursue MAP at this time.  When Yanukovych was asked point 
blank in a November 11 Inter television interview, Yanukovych 
categorically denied that any deal linking Ukraine's NATO 
aspirations and energy supplies had been struck. 
 
7. (C) In fact, Yanukovych is unlikely to sell out Ukraine 
and its national interests.  Ukrainian politicians and 
political analysts generally agree that, while Yanukovych 
wants better relations with the Kremlin, he is not prepared 
to hand over control of his government -- and his country -- 
to Russia.  In addition, there are business interests within 
the Party of Regions that are encouraging Yanukovych and his 
political backers to keep their distance from Russia because 
they see Ukraine's economic future with the West (and perhaps 
even more importantly because they do not want Russian 
business competition in Ukraine).  In their view, Yanukovych 
should satisfy Russia's interests only when doing so clearly 
provides the Party of Regions and Ukraine with a political or 
economic advantage.  One example of an area in which the PM 
has not responded might be the Common Economic Space, about 
which Yanukovych and his government have continued the line 
of the orange government and at most given polite lip 
service, including during Yanukoyvch's November 30 visit to 
Russia, in response to entreaties to increase Ukraine's 
involvement beyond a free trade area. 
 
8. (C) Yanukovych told EUR A/S Fried November 16 that he and 
President Yushchenko did not materially differ on the goals 
of European and Euro-Atlantic integration, but just on the 
timing and tactics to reach the goals (ref C).  Yanukovych 
also claimed to Ambassador November 19 that the Kremlin had 
difficulty arriving at a more nuanced approach to Ukraine, 
taking into account Yanukovych's greater popularity in 
Russia, to substitute for the overt pressure directed against 
his "orange" predecessors.  Former President Kuchma told the 
Ambassador that Yanukovych's assertion was probably right. 
 
The Diplomatic Front 
-------------------- 
 
9. (C) Meanwhile, Russia is taking steps to warm up the 
bilateral relationship.  Russian FM Sergei Lavrov's November 
7-8 visit to Kyiv was productive and non-contentious, at 
least on the surface.  MFA First Territorial Department 
(responsible for relations with Russia) Counselor Oleksandr 
Kushnir told us the primary purpose of Lavrov's visit had 
been to hold the first meeting of the sub-commission on 
international cooperation, chaired by the respective foreign 
ministers, which was a subordinate element of the 
"Yushchenko-Putin Interstate Commission."  The meeting was 
intended to pave the way for Putin's visit to Kyiv as head of 
the Russian side in the first session of the plenary 
interstate commission (note: this commission had not met 
since its inception in 2005).  The sub-commission on 
stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet had met three times 
and the sub-commission for economic cooperation, chaired by 
Ministers of the Economy, had met October 24 in Moscow.  Only 
the remaining two sub-commissions, for humanitarian 
cooperation and for security, needed to meet prior to Putin's 
visit to Kyiv. 
 
KYIV 00004425  003 OF 004 
 
 
 
10. (C) Kushnir said the sub-commission meeting had taken 
place over two-and-a-half hours in a constructive and 
friendly atmosphere, since Foreign Ministers Tarasyuk and 
Lavrov had met briefly November 7 and decided to exclude any 
contentious issues.  The two sides agreed on a plan of 
action, or as Kushnir noted, a kind of "roadmap," for 
2007-2008 that carried forward activity on 20 priority areas 
addressed in the 2005-2006 plan of action.  The foreign 
ministers heard updates from the chairs of the 
sub-commission's six working committees -- for land border 
issues, delimitation of sea boundaries in the Azov Sea and 
Kerch Strait, cooperation in international organizations, 
regional conflicts, new challenges and threats, and consular 
cooperation. 
 
11. (C) As evidence of the constructive engagement in the 
sub-commission, Kushnir said the Ukrainian side had been 
pleased the Russians agreed to form a joint committee on land 
demarcation issues, a step that the Ukrainians had long urged 
and which the Russians had resisted.  On maritime boundaries, 
however, the Ukrainians and Russians were still deadlocked. 
The Russians proposed the Sea of Azov be considered an 
internal body of water subject to joint use, except for a 
narrow coastal strip, while Ukrainians continued to insist 
that the Sea of Azov be divided according to the old Soviet 
administrative boundary. 
 
The President-Prime Minister Tug-of-War 
--------------------------------------- 
 
12. (C) When we asked, Kushnir said Lavrov, a seasoned 
diplomat, had been completely professional in all of his 
meetings in Kyiv, and there had been no evidence that he had 
attempted to "divide and conquer" by turning the Prime 
Minister's office against the Foreign Ministry.  First Deputy 
Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko had sat in on Lavrov's 
meeting with PM Yanukovych.  Kushnir said the fact of the 
visit belied the claim of some that the Kremlin was again 
targeting Tarasyuk for removal (note: Tarasyuk was dismissed 
as FM in 2000 by Kuchma after Kuchma met Putin in Yalta, and 
was again dismissed by the Rada -- although a presidential 
challenge is pending, December 1 after Yanukovych returned 
from his own meeting with Putin).  Nonetheless, Ukrainian 
suspicion over Russian motivations prompted some to see 
darker motives behind the visit.  Political anal
yst Viktor 
Nebozhenko claimed to daily newspaper Gazeta po-Kievski that 
Lavrov had visited Kyiv to lobby for Tarasyuk's removal and 
his replacement by someone who would demonstrate "the Party 
of Regions' wish to move closer to Russia." 
 
13. (C) Unclear is whether, in forcing Tarasyuk out of 
government, Yanukovych is pandering to Russian desires as 
well as meeting his own political agenda.  Regardless of 
Russian views, Yanukovych displayed a clear hostility to 
Tarasyuk in what could be political theater.  Yanukovych 
attacked Tarasyuk in a November 13 Inter interview in 
personal terms, saying that, "if you are a man, if you have 
principles," then he would leave the cabinet, since 
Tarasyuk's own Rukh party was in opposition to the 
government's platform.  Surprisingly, Tarasyuk was supportive 
of Yanukovych during his November 15 meeting with EUR A/S 
Fried and suggested Yanukovych had moderated his attacks on 
"orange" ministers after meeting with President Yushchenko 
(ref B).  Tensions continued to rise and finally December 1, 
the Party of Regions-led ruling coalition voted Tarasyuk out 
of office -- at the PM's request.  However, a lack of 
constitutional clarity and a constitutional court challenge 
to the dismissal could restore Tarasyuk in office (and may 
end up keeping him as Acting FM until the legal issues are 
resolved). 
 
Flashpoints: Black Sea Fleet, Holodomor, and More 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
14. (C) Whatever government is in power or whoever is foreign 
minister, and no matter how friendly the public chatter 
between the two governments is, there will continue to be 
points of tension in Ukraine-Russia relations despite, or 
sometimes perhaps because of, the close historical and 
cultural ties between the two countries.  One set of issues 
involves the intractable and still unresolved problems that 
resulted from the break-up of the Soviet Union and 
disentangling ex-Soviet structures.  These are the issues -- 
such as the future of the Russian Black Sea fleet, 
demarcation of the maritime boundary, apportioning of 
Soviet-era debts -- that Tarasyuk and Lavrov probably decided 
to remove from the table during the November 8 sub-commission 
meeting. 
 
15. (C) Other problems, often economic and trade-related, 
 
KYIV 00004425  004 OF 004 
 
 
result from conflicting and competing national interests. 
Russia demands prices at Western European levels for natural 
gas and suspends importation of Ukrainian dairy and meat 
products; Ukraine responds by threatening to raise rents for 
the Russian Black Sea Fleet or suggesting greater 
compensation for operation of early warning radars. 
(Ukrainians also suspect Russia uses these economic levers to 
achieve political ends.)  The GOU also has been very nervous 
about suggestions, including from Fradkov during his visit, 
that Russia and Ukraine coordinate their WTO accession. 
After the U.S. completed its WTO bilateral with Russia, the 
MFA, probably reflecting concerns high in the GOU, asking us 
to confirm the USG did not support such "synchronization" 
(ref A).  Worries that Russia might accede before Ukraine 
seem to be one factor driving the GOU's recent energetic push 
to pass remaining WTO legislation. 
 
16. (C) Another set of issues results from Ukrainian 
resistance to what Ukrainians see as unwarranted Russian 
interference in Ukrainian domestic affairs and infringements 
on Ukrainian sovereignty, particularly in Crimea (see 
septel).  Senior Ukrainian officials told us that they were 
convinced that the Kremlin quietly supported the anti-NATO 
demonstrators that disrupted joint U.S.-Ukrainian military 
training related to the Sea Breeze exercise in June 2006. 
Ukrainians react by banning the entry of certain Russian 
citizens, provoking Russian protests, and obtaining legal 
judgments on the status of lighthouses used and operated by 
the Russian Black Sea Fleet. 
 
17. (C) Finally, an increasing source of friction is the 
different world view between Russia and Ukraine, an 
indication of growing Ukrainian independence and 
self-confidence.  Ukraine declares the 1932-33 Holodomor 
famine was a form of Soviet genocide; Russia responds that 
Ukraine is being hostile to Russia when it campaigns to have 
the international community define the Holodomor as genocide. 
 Ukraine and Russia also find themselves increasingly on 
opposite sides in how to address the frozen conflict in 
Transnistria, in regional organizations such as the OSCE, as 
well as at the UN as Ukraine continues to align itself with 
the European Union on most major issues, regardless of how 
Russia is voting. 
 
18. (C) In spite of Ukraine's continued independent foreign 
policy stand, we have seen some evidence that the MFA, 
uncertain of the Cabinet of Ministers and ruling coalition's 
response, is more cautious and not as forward-leaning on 
positions that might irritate the Russians.  The MFA endorsed 
a GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova regional 
organization) statement, for example, critical of the South 
Ossetia referendum and "election," but did not post its own 
statement on its website.  In another example, Ukraine broke 
with its normal practice of adhering to EU policy positions 
by voting against the Australian amendment at the UN to the 
Cuba embargo resolution, although EU countries voted in 
favor.  (Note:  The Ukrainian parliament passed a resolution 
a few days earlier condemning embargoes on Cuba.  Ukraine 
remains grateful for ongoing Cuban medical assistance for 
victims of Chornobyl - see ref K.) 
 
19. (C) Prime Minister Yanukovych and his cabinet might be 
more conciliatory toward Russia than the previous two 
"orange" governments, but the underlying differences between 
Ukraine and Russia will continue to result in minor, and 
perhaps sometimes major, conflicts of interest between the 
two neighbors.  The recurring tensions might threaten to 
overwhelm any good intentions and reservoirs of good will 
that exist on either side, before the two neighbors patch 
things up yet again. 
 
20. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

From → CONFIDENTIAL

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