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Cablegate: Finland Supportive of Coordinated U.S-Eu Efforts

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/27/2015

REF: STATE 188900

Classified By: PolChief Gregory Thome, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: The GOF welcomes U.S. efforts to coordinate a
robust Belarus strategy with EU partners. It views a strong
message to Lukashenko as desirable and welcomes democracy
promotion and outreach to civil society. However, the GOF
cautions that the U.S. and EU must commit for the long-term
because, over the near term, Lukashenko is likely to stay in
power and already-beleagured opposition groups and civil
society may face violence in the run-up to next year's
election. Finland understands it must take on a leadership
role regarding Belarus, given the fact that elections will
take place there during Finland's EU presidency. End Summary.

2. (C) PolChief delivered reftel points to Tuula Yrjola,
Counselor in the Finnish MFA's Unit for Ukraine, Belarus and
Moldova. Yrjola welcomed U.S. efforts to initiate a robust
Belarus strategy in coordination with EU partners, calling
coordination the best chance for promoting change in a very
difficult country. Yrjola agreed on the importance of a
tough message delivered directly to Lukeshenko. She
expressed pessimism that he would be moved by a demand that
he not run in the upcoming election; however, she agreed that
our statements to him should emphasize that last year's
referendum was "illegal;" that we are deeply disturbed by the
deteriorating human rights situation and by Lukeshenko's
crackdown on the opposition; and that we are "not going away"
on these issues and are prepared to maintain pressure on him
as long as abuses continue and reform is ignored.

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3. (C) Yrjola did express some concern regarding the
uniformity of the overall U.S.-EU joint policy of high-level
contacts with the GOB. Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, for
example, have immediate needs to discuss pressing issues such
as the environment and border security with the GOB, and they
often cannot secure cooperation unless these are addressed on
a ministerial level. For its part, the GOF is willing to be
flexible regarding these member states' bilateral contacts,
but will continue to staunchly support the overall EU policy
proscribing high level contact. The GOF, Yrjola added, also
believes that the EU should bolster its no-contact policy by
toughening visa sanctions and travel restrictions against
members of the Lukeshenko government, especially if it
engages in any form of anti-opposition violence.

4. (C) Yrjola also welcomed efforts to build democracy and
reach out to the opposition and civil society. She
highlighted our joint radio outreach as a very positive step,
adding that she hoped Poland would soon add programming of
its own to complement the Deutsch Welle broadcasts. Finland
is also preparing to make a bilateral donation of Euros
100,000 to the European Humanities University currently "in
exile" in Lithuania until a larger EU grant through the
Nordic Council kicks in during January, Yrjola noted.
However, she cautioned that direct outreach to NGOs and
political parties inside Belarus would remain problematic.
Neither is strong, Yrjola said, and both face the grim
prospect of Lukeshenko's using violence to crush them as the
elections approach. She was also not enthusiastic about some
EU members' willingness to "hand bagfuls of money" to the
opposition or civil society, noting that it was often
difficult to determine exactly who was running what NGOs and
in whose hands the funds were actually ending up. (Yrjola
opined that the soon-to-be-opened EU aid office in Minsk will
go a long way toward ensuring that no assistance ends up in
the hands of "former KGB officers masquerading as heads of

5. (C) Comment: The Finns understand that, with Belarussian
elections scheduled to take place during their EU presidency,
they must take a leadership role. They have no illusions
about the difficulties we face on Belarus, but are clearly
willing to adopt long-term strategies and stick with them.
End Comment.

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