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09KYIV605, STRAINS WITH ROMANIA “SURPRISE” UKRAINE

April 7, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KYIV605 2009-04-07 13:36 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO1595
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #0605/01 0971336
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071336Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7588
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 000605 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/31/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV UP RO
SUBJECT: STRAINS WITH ROMANIA "SURPRISE" UKRAINE 
 
REF: 2008 KYIV 1454 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Colin Cleary for reasons 1.4 (b,d). 
 
Summary 
-------- 
 
1. (C)  Ukrainian officials express surprise at recent 
strains in Ukrainian-Romanian relations.  They blame Romania 
for making "unacceptable" last-minute demands on a 
trans-border travel agreement that resulted in the abrupt 
cancellation of a visit by President Basescu in February. 
They also voice consternation at Romania's much-publicized 
expulsion of two Romanian defense attaches (which Ukraine 
reciprocated).  Many Ukrainian observers suspect that Basescu 
is posturing against Ukraine for domestic political advantage 
in advance of Presidential elections.  Some contend (but 
produce no evidence) that Russia is somehow fanning bilateral 
tensions.  End Summary. 
 
Scuttled Presidential Visit 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (C) Ukrainian officials point to the abrupt cancellation 
of the visit of President Basescu, which had been scheduled 
for February 23, as a barometer of strains in bilateral 
relations.  Bohdan Yaremenko, Deputy Head of the Foreign 
Policy section of the Presidential Secretariat confirmed to 
us that Basescu's cancellation surprised the GOU. 
Arrangements were well advanced when, ten days before the 
visit, the Romanian side demanded "new and unacceptable 
conditions" for an agreement on trans-border travel.  The 
agreement was to have been a centerpiece deliverable the 
meeting of the Ukraine-Romania Presidential Commission (the 
second meeting of this forum; the first was in October 2007 
during a Yushchenko visit to Romania).  Yaremenko added that, 
not only had the Romanians forced the visit's cancellation, 
they also deliberated for five days over a one-sentence joint 
statement announcing it.   MFA Director General for Central 
Europe Sergey Mishchenko told us that it was clear that the 
Romanians had been putting up obstacles and had wanted to 
kill the visit. 
 
Defense Attaches Expelled 
------------------------- 
 
3. (C) On March 4, Romania announced the expulsion of two 
Ukrainian defense attaches.   Yaremenko told us that as far 
as he knew, the attaches had done nothing wrong.   Whatever 
the case, he argued that Romania should have dealt with the 
matter quietly.  Rada Defense Committee Chairman (and former 
Minister of Defense) Anatoliy Hrytsenko termed it an 
"unfriendly act" and called for reciprocal expulsions (which 
took place on March 5).  Ihor Smeshko, former head of the 
Ukrainian Security Service, termed the press coverage 
surrounding the expulsion "extraordinary." 
 
4. (C) Yaremenko suspected -- as did former FM Boris Tarasyuk 
and other Ukrainian officials and observers with whom we 
spoke -- that President Basescu, with upcoming presidential 
elections in mind, was looking to score political points by 
taking a tough line on Ukraine.  Yaremenko admitted that the 
expulsion, like the cancellation of the Basescu visit, caught 
Ukraine "totally by surprise."  He said the GOU was "looking 
at options" for how to deal with Romania. 
 
"Greater Romania" 
----------------- 
 
5. (C)  Political analyst Oleksey Haran told us that 
Ukrainians were worried about Romanian activities in and 
designs on the Bukovina region, which includes parts of 
western Ukraine.  Indeed, the Romanian diplomat and attache 
expelled in the tit for tat expulsions were serving in the 
Consulate in Chernivtsi Oblast, on the Romanian border, where 
Romania has been accused of agitating among ethnic Romanian 
civic organizations. 
 
6. (C)  Analyst Natalya Bilotsir from the US-Ukraine 
foundation told us that, at lower political levels and 
academic levels, Romania is pushing Ukraine to reclassify 
Romanian and Moldovan minority groups in Ukraine into one 
"Romanian Speaking" minority group.  She said that there are 
currently 250,000 self-identified Moldovans in Ukraine, and 
only 100,000 self-identified Romanians.  Combining the two 
groups would result in a "Romanian Speaking" minority that 
outnumbered all other minority groups in Ukraine except 
Russians. 
 
7. (C) Yaremenko told us that the GOU was concerned that the 
current Romanian government seeks to follow a "Greater 
Romania" policy.  This did not involve territorial ambitions, 
 
KYIV 00000605  002 OF 002 
 
 
but it did involve asserting Romania into the affairs of 
neighboring regions where there are Romanian minorities. 
MFA DG Mishchenko told us that EU rules on minorities gave 
Romania more prerogatives where there were more ethnic 
Romanians.   Hence their desire to inflate the number. 
Mishchenko asserted that there are 141 Romanian language 
schools in Ukraine but only one Ukrainian language school in 
Romania - even though there are 70,000 Ukrainians living 
there. 
 
 
Snake Island Decision 
--------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) On February 3, the UN International Court of Justice 
(ICJ) unanimously ruled that Snake Island was a Ukrainian 
island, but that the surrounding sea shelf would be spl
it 
between Romania and Ukraine at a line between their 
respective claims, with Ukraine gaining a 12 nautical mile 
exclusion zone around the island itself.  Both the GOU and 
the Romanian government have said they would accept the 
court's decision as final, and both have portrayed the 
decision as a victory for their respective sides.  Ukrainian 
political analyst Haran told us that it was unclear who won 
in the ICJ decision, but that opponents of Ukrainian western 
integration were pushing the idea that Ukraine lost.  The 
Presidential Secretariat's Yaramenko confirmed to us that 
while the GOU "does not like" the court's decision, it would 
abide by it. 
 
Not Much Help 
-------------- 
 
9. (C)  Serhiy Horopakha, MFA desk officer for Romania, told 
us that, despite hopes that Romania would assist Ukraine in 
its preparations for NATO membership, Romania had done 
little.   Analyst Bilotsir contended that the bilateral 
relationship was "neither close, nor strategic."  She said 
that Bucharest's approach to Ukraine had changed once Romania 
gained EU membership.   After that, Romanian counterparts 
became "overbearing," she contended. 
 
Rumors of a Russian Hand 
------------------------ 
 
10. (C) Yaremenko told us that some in the GOU suspected 
Russia might be trying to stoke tensions between Romania and 
Ukraine to diminish Ukraine as a candidate for the NATO and 
EU.   Prominent political analysts Volodymyr Fesenko and 
Haran also told us they suspected that Russia was behind the 
tensions, particularly regarding the Ukrainian Defense 
Attaches.  While none of our contacts had evidence to back up 
such suspicions, press commentary alleged that the Ukrainian 
attaches might have been working for Moscow. 
 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
11. (C) Ukraine's current testy relationship with Romania 
stands in contrast to the productive relationship Romania has 
forged with Poland.  While historical baggage with Poland was 
heavy, common interests propelled the relationship forward. 
The same should be true with Romania.  The ICJ's decision on 
the Snake Island dispute should remove that as a point of 
contention.  As elections cycles move forward in both 
countries, opportunities should arise to press the re-start 
button on bilateral relations. 
TAYLOR

Wikileaks

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