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Cablegate: Tfgg01: Effects of Russia-Georgia Conflict On Gor

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9492
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002411

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/14/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS GG RS UP
SUBJECT: TFGG01: EFFECTS OF RUSSIA-GEORGIA CONFLICT ON GOR
RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE

REF: A. KYIV 1557
...

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002411 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/14/2018 TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS GG RS UP

SUBJECT: TFGG01: EFFECTS OF RUSSIA-GEORGIA CONFLICT ON GOR RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE REF: A. KYIV 1557 B. MOSCOW 2351 Classified By: Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Alice G. Wells for reason s 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: The war of words between Russia and Ukraine has intensified with the war in Georgia. Russia has decried Ukrainian announcements, including a presidential decree, calling for the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) command to notify Ukraine about ships and aircraft returning to the Ukrainian border. FM Lavrov said President Yushchenko's August 13 decree could damage all aspects of Russian-Ukrainian relations. Moscow also has admonished Kyiv for providing Georgia with weapons, particularly air defense systems that posed complications for Russian planes, with the Deputy Chief of the General Staff saying the deaths of Russian boys were on Ukraine's conscience. Experts believe that although Russia is not using the conflict in South Ossetia to threaten Ukraine overtly, it has sent an implicit warning to Ukraine over its NATO aspirations, and do not rule out Russian economic pressures or the stoking of irredentist sentiments in Crimea. End Summary. --------------------------------------------- --------------- GOR Officials Blast Ukraine on Black Sea Fleet Announcements --------------------------------------------- --------------- 2. (U) Responding to an August 10 statement by the Ukrainian MFA that said Ukraine "reserved the right" to bar entry into Sevastopol of BSF ships that took part in actions off the coast of Georgia because their participation would effectively entangle Ukraine in the conflict (ref A), the Russian MFA said it was "bewildered" by the tone and content of the Ukrainian statement. The Russian MFA pointed out that the 1997 "Treaty On Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership" and the "Agreement Between the Russian Federation and Ukraine On the Status and Terms of the Presence of the Black Sea Fleet On the Territory of Ukraine" do not give Ukraine the right to limit the scope of BSF activities. Attempts by Ukraine to do so, the Russian MFA said, would be "unfriendly" to Russia (ref B). 3. (U) In an August 11 telephone call initiated by the Chair of Ukraine's Supreme Rada Arseniy Yatsenyuk, FM Lavrov reiterated the GOR's points that elements of the BSF had been dispatched to the waters off the coast of Abkhazia in an effort to protect Russian citizens and render humanitarian aid. Lavrov said that any changes in the agreements governing the BSF (that would allow Ukraine to limit BSF activities) would have to be agreed upon by the Russian-Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet Subcommittee. (Note: Experts here agreed that the subsequent offer of Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Konstyantyn Yeliseyev to sign such a deal would be ignored by GOR officials.) An August 12 MFA statement noted that DFM Karasin expressed his concern to Ukraine's Ambassador in Russia Grishchenko about Ukraine's "pretensions" toward the BSF's involvement in the conflict in South Ossetia. 4. (U) In an August 13 press conference, Russian Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Anatoliy Nogovitsyn argued that BSF ships were deployed off the Georgian coast to provide security and support Russian peacekeeping operations. As for Ukraine's announcement that it may try to block the return of Russian ships to the port of Sevastopol, he confidently declared, "They are our bases; we will return there." --------------------------------------------- ------------- BSF Ships Return to Sevastopol; MFA Responds to Yushchenko --------------------------------------------- ------------- 5. (U) On August 13, Interfax reported that three BSF warships, including the escort vessel Smetlivy, returned to their base at Sevastopol from the coast of Georgia. That same day, President Yushchenko issued a decree that Russia's BSF command must inform Ukraine's General Staff 72 hours in advance about any BSF warships or aircraft returning to the Ukrainian border. The Russian MFA accused Ukraine of taking a "serious, anti-Russian step," and "creating serious complications for the BSF's practical operation, in direct contradiction with the basing agreements between Russia and Ukraine." In addition, the MFA argued that Ukraine's actions "contradict the letter and spirit of the 1997 Agreement on MOSCOW 00002411 002 OF 003 Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Russia and Ukraine," and warned that they could have broader consequences for bilateral relations. 6. (U) Foreign Minister Lavrov attributed Ukraine's latest move to the "permanent crisis that is evident in Ukrainian politics." He claimed the decree was just another manifestation of "external factors" influencing Russian-Ukrainian relations, particularly by those in Kyiv who have a desire to pander to NATO. Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin went even further, implying that outside powers were actively trying to drag Ukraine into the "anti-Russian 'International.'" ------------------------- Arms Transfers to Georgia ------------------------- 7. (U) In its August 10 statement on the BSF, the Russian MFA argued that, if Ukraine was concerned about being drawn into the conflict in South Ossetia, "it should have thought of this when it was supplying arms to the party that started this conflict." On August 13, Minister of Emergency Situations Sergey Shoygu expressed his disappointment that Ukraine sent weapons to Georgia only a week after Russia sent a humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine to assist victims of a flood. At a press conference the same day, Russian Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Anatoliy Nogovitsyn focused heavily on the use of Ukrainian weapons by Georgian forces. He accused Ukraine of being the primary weapons supplier to Georgia. Nogovitsyn paid particular attention to Georgia's use of anti-aircraft defense systems, which Ukraine allegedly supplied. These systems caused Russian aircraft to face considerable difficulties, and as a result, a number of Russian planes were lost. Furthermore, he claimed that if Kyiv had not "armed Saakashvili to the teeth," Georgia never would have taken such aggressive measures against South Ossetia. Nogovitsyn also chastised Ukrainian (and American) specialists, who trained Georgian forces before the war commenced. He asserted that "the death of our boys, in particular, is on the conscience of these two countries." -------------------------------------- Russia Not Overtly Threatening Ukraine -------------------------------------- 8. (C) Dmitry Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center told us that he did not anticipate any "unprovoked attacks" by Russia against Ukraine, but he did not rule out "incidents" in Crimea if Ukraine blocked the Black Seat Fleet from returning to Sevastopol. This is a "very serious issue" in Russia, he said. He added that if the West "pushed Ukraine toward NATO membership now," he feared for the stability and security of Ukraine. Deputy Editor-In-Chief of the Independent Military Overview Viktor Litovkin said that Russia did not aim to use the conflict in South Ossetia to discourage opposition to Russia in Ukraine or other CIS states. He added, however, that this may be a message these states take away from this. 9. (C) Vladimir Yevseyev of the Russian Academy of Sciences agreed, adding that Russia therefore will most likely take a more nuanced approach in its relations with Ukraine. "Ukraine's political elites are anti-Russian, and they have been agitated by the conflict in South Ossetia," he argued. Yevseyev predicted that Russia would concentrate more on economic levers of influence in its dealings with Ukraine. Litovkin and Yevseyev both said Russia may somewhat harden its stance by increasing its verbal assaults. Director of the Center for Military Prognosis and a member of the Ministry of Defense's Civilian Council Anatoliy Tsyganok thought the GOR did not need to use events in South Ossetia to threaten Ukraine's pro-Western policy. "Ukraine was divided enough internally that Moscow did not have to interfere actively to derail Ukraine's NATO aspirations," he said. According to Tsyganok, a NATO MAP offer would split Ukraine in two, regardless of Moscow's role. ------------------------------ Arms Transfers and Mercenaries ------------------------------ 10. (C) Media reports have made much of Ukraine's arms transfers to Georgia prior to the conflict, and alleged MOSCOW 00002411 003 OF 003 Ukrainians were fighting in Georgia. The experts argued that the GOR has never been comfortable with Ukraine arming Georgia, and was now venting its anger. The experts also did not rule out the possibility of individual Ukrainian mercenaries fighting in Georgia, but admitted that they were unlikely to have been sent there by the Ukrainian military. ------- Comment ------- 11. (C) Russian foreign policy experts believe that Russian consolidation of control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia has changed the strategic landscape and restored Russia as the preeminent regional power. Ukraine's obvious unwillingness to accept this fate sets the stage for continued jousting that has the potential to escalate, particularly if Russia draws the wrong lessons from its military foray into Georgia. RUBIN

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