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09KYIV858, CHERNOMYRDIN TOUR D’HORIZON

May 21, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KYIV858 2009-05-21 09:40 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO9624
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #0858/01 1410940
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 210940Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7833
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 000858 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/20/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL UP
SUBJECT: CHERNOMYRDIN TOUR D'HORIZON 
 
Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4 (b,d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) The Ambassador met on May 19 with Russian Ambassador 
Viktor Chernomyrdin.  Discussion focused on domestic 
Ukrainian politics, with Chernomyrdin regretting the "lost 
years" brought about by the conflict between President 
Yushchenko and PM Tymoshenko.  He expressed irritation at the 
EU and Yushchenko for their approach on gas pipeline issues, 
citing the absence of Russian agreement to provide additional 
gas for an upgraded transit system and underlining the 
viability of the South Stream and North Stream projects. 
Welcoming the "reset" in US-Russia relations, Chernomyrdin 
noted the potential for cooperation on issues like a START 
follow-on agreement and Iran.  He regarded the possibility of 
the US opening a diplomatic post in Crimea as highly 
sensitive and likely to generate local opposition. 
Chernomyrdin inquired whether Kyiv had approached the US with 
a request for a submarine, asking that we turn down any such 
proposal.  End Summary. 
 
Ukrainian Politics 
------------------ 
 
2. (C) Chernomyrdin lamented that Ukraine's political 
leadership (read Yushchenko) was stuck "searching for 
evidence of the first ancient Ukrainian," instead of running 
the country.  There would be no surprises in the upcoming 
presidential contest, with the three main players 
(Yushchenko, Yanukovych, Tymoshenko) possibly joined by a 
fourth contender, either former Speaker Yatsenyuk or current 
speaker Lytvyn.  Ukraine urgently needed a clear delineation 
and division of powers within the government, or the current 
"tragic paralysis" would continue.  Characterizing the four 
years since the Orange Revolution as "lost years," 
Chernomyrdin added that having Yushchenko back as President 
would not provide stability -- the other candidates would be 
able to make accommodations and take the country forward. 
 
3. (C) Yushchenko's interference in the work of the PM and 
her government -- revoking Cabinet of Ministers' resolutions, 
issuing detailed instructions for Tymoshenko's international 
trips -- was damaging and had led to four "lost years" in 
Ukraine.   He added that the 2007 early parliamentary 
elections had been a waste of money, time and effort and had 
brought no change.  Chernomyrdin stressed that he had 
personally told Yushchenko and Tymoshenko that their actions 
were destructive, but both were unable to look beyond their 
intense personal dislike. 
 
4. (C) Regarding the potential for a constitutional change 
Ukraine had two options, either returning to the pre-2004 
document, or adopting a parliamentary system that provided 
for the Rada to elect the President.  The constant discussion 
of constitutional changes was destabilizing and an outgrowth 
of continued political infighting, with each camp wanting 
"their" version to consolidate their power.  Commenting on 
the resignation of Presidential Chief-of-Staff Viktor Baloha, 
Chernomyrdin noted that Baloha had been a good administrator, 
but had far exceeded his role in his personal attacks on PM 
Tymoshenko.  If Baloha had launched the attacks on his own 
Yushchenko should have intervened, and if Yushchenko 
instructed him to attack he had done a disservice to Baloha. 
Baloha had not caused Yushchenko's precipitous fall in the 
polls, but rather should be credited with the President not 
falling even further. 
 
 
Energy/Gas 
---------- 
 
5. (C) Chernomyrdin said he was baffled by the GOU's current 
approach on its gas/oil pipeline system, noting that he had 
personally been responsible for its development in the 1980s. 
 He cited the example of President Yushchenko asking for 
Swiss involvement in upgrading the pipelines, arguing that 
they had no experience in area -- "better to ask them to fix 
your apartment than get involved in the gas sector."  The 
current situation in Kyiv was nonsensical, with President 
Yushchenko issuing decrees demanding oil be pumped from south 
to north through the Odesa-Brody pipeline -- even though 
Energy Minister Prodan has told Yushchenko that no sources 
are available. 
 
6. (C) Responding to studies that show modernizing Ukraine's 
gas transit system would be cheaper than building new 
pipelines (South Stream and North Stream), Chernomyrdin 
stated that these studies all presupposed that more gas would 
be available to Ukraine for transshipment.  He noted that 
"they (EU/Ukraine) might build, but they haven't asked for 
 
KYIV 00000858  002 OF 002 
 
 
our gas."  The EU approach on this issue had been poorly 
thought out and implemented -- "they are not impressing us - 
this approach is totally ridiculous." 
 
7. (C)  Finding future sources of gas for Nabucco was also 
not assured, according to Chernomyrdin.  Once North Stream 
and South Stream were operating at capacity there might be 
gas for Nabucco, but even that was not guaranteed.  Russia 
was committed to the two pipeline projects and the recent 
Sochi agreement between PM Putin and Italian President 
Berlusconi showed that South Stream was moving forward.
 
Building the Baltic and Black Sea pipeline projects would 
also prevent Kyiv from "pulling their tricks every December 
and January."  Commenting on discussion within the EU of the 
potential for Iran to supply gas for Nabucco, Chernomyrdin 
cited sensitivities involving Turkey and the Kurds.  These 
issues would push the Iran question into the distant future, 
while South Stream and North Stream were intended to solve 
gas issues for "today and tomorrow." 
 
Crimea/American Post 
-------------------- 
 
8. (C)  Chernomyrdin described the strong "historic and 
psychological" ties between Russia and Crimea, noting that 
much Russian blood had been spilled on the peninsula.  Crimea 
had historically been administered directly by Moscow, 80 
percent of the population remained Russian speaking, and the 
continuous presence of the Black Sea Fleet had forged special 
ties between Sevastopol and Russia.  Russia acknowledged 
Crimea was a part of Ukraine, but  its special circumstances 
required Kyiv to treat Crimea with sensitivity and safeguard 
its autonomous status. 
 
9. (C) Regarding the potential opening of a US diplomatic 
representation in Crimea (a possibility noted in the December 
2008 US-Ukraine Charter), Chernomyrdin predicted that it was 
sure to generate a negative reaction.  Current tensions over 
military exercises (Sea Breeze) indicated that locals were 
likely to obstruct a US presence.  He agreed that warming 
US-Russia relations might decrease tensions in Crimea, but 
still cautioned that the US could handle Crimea from Kyiv and 
that a move to Crimea would be "sensitive." 
 
 
US-Russia Relationship 
---------------------- 
 
10. (C) Chernomyrdin, who said he would receive an award from 
President Medvedev in Moscow on May 20, noted that President 
Obama was sending "good signals" to Moscow and that it would 
be a "sin" not to use this opportunity for cooperation.  The 
Kremlin was looking forward to the President's upcoming visit 
to Russia.  Regarding arms control, Chernomyrdin noted that 
the visit would give impetus to efforts to extend START and 
that new initiatives might be possible as well.  In this 
context US plans to place missile interceptor equipment in 
the Czech Republic and Poland were "not understandable." 
 
11. (C) Closer US-Russia ties would also benefit Ukraine. 
Moscow had never threatened Kyiv with reprisals for closer 
US-Ukraine relations.  He underlined that Ukraine should not 
be worried about the upcoming START expiration, as Russia was 
no threat to Ukraine -- "it would be like threatening 
ourselves." 
 
US Sub for Ukraine? 
------------------- 
 
12. (C) Chernomyrdin asked several times whether Kyiv had 
approached Washington and requested a submarine for its navy 
-- no context or source of information was provided.  He 
asked that the US reject this request if/when made as it 
would increase tensions. 
 
Iran 
---- 
 
13. (C) A joint US-RF approach on Iran would be beneficial. 
Iran was Russia's neighbor and Moscow believed that with the 
right approach a way could be found to work an agreement with 
Tehran.  During the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission the US and 
Russia had worked together effectively on Iran.  Russia had 
cooperated with Iran on its civilian nuclear program, but had 
been careful to avoid transfer of any military technologies. 
A number of countries had the potential to develop nuclear 
capabilities.  Trying to stop them with force or prohibitions 
would not be possible -- this situation required a new 
approach from leading powers. 
 
 
TAYLOR

Wikileaks

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