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Cablegate: Tfgg01: Parliament Unanimously Endorses Abkhaz,


DE RUEHMO #2545/01 2381519
O 251519Z AUG 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 002545


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018

REF: A. A) MOSCOW 2535
B. B) MOSCOW 2491

Classified By: Minister Counselor for Political Affairs Alice G. Wells;
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a solid show of support, both the
Federation Council and the Duma voted unanimously to urge
that President Medvedev recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia
as independent states. Parliamentarians blasted Georgia for
having launched a military campaign against South Ossetia,
and pointed the finger at the U.S. as having planted the
seeds for the aggression by arming and training the Georgian
military. Having ratcheted up expectations of imminent
Russian action, some observers now believe Medvedev and Putin
will wait to see if the international community meets
Russia's demands: UN confirmation of Russia's peacekeeping
role and condemnation of Saakashvili. Medvedev can be
expected to proceed cautiously, taking advantage of a
situation that, at the moment, he perceives to be in Russia's

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2. (SBU) The Federation Council, meeting August 25,
unanimously approved an appeal to President Medvedev that he
immediately recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia. In a remarkably organized and disciplined one-hour
session, Council leaders and 45 members quickly delivered
statements pillorying Georgia for having attacked Tskhinvali
August 7. Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders Bagapsh and
Kokoity also addressed the session, proclaiming the support
of residents of those territories for independence from
Georgia. The Abkhaz leader also confirmed his readiness to
sign a agreement on military cooperation with Russia.

3. (SBU) Following smartly on the heels of that session, the
Duma convened to consider a similar appeal to Medvedev. In
that larger body, popularly elected legislators took their
time to score rhetorical points. The resolution calling for
recognition was introduced by CIS Committee Chairman
Ostrovskiy. International relations Committee Chairman
Kosachev introduced a companion appeal to the UN and to
parliaments of UN member states urging them also to recognize
the two entities. Once again, Bagapsh and Kokoity led off
discussion of the appeal, charging that steps by "western
states" to arm Georgia emboldened leaders in Tbilisi to
launch its attack against South Ossetia.

4. (SBU) Speeches by Duma party faction leaders took on a
very anti-Georgian and anti-American tone. Communist leader
Zyuganov and LDPR leader Zhirinovskiy specifically accused
the U.S. of having precipitated the attack on South Ossetia
by arming and training Georgian military forces, and that
U.S. motives included destabilizing Russia and controlling
energy transit routes from the Caucasus and the Caspian
regions. Vice President Cheney was accused of coordinating
the anti-Russian, pro-Georgian campaign. Zhirinovskiy
alleged that Israel had intended to attack Iran just prior to
the U.S. elections, and that the Georgian military strike now
disrupted that plan. In the end, the lower house also
adopted the appeals to Medvedev (for Russian recognition) and
to the UN and UN member states unanimously.

Not So Fast

5. (C) In the days just prior to the special session of
Parliament, experts and academicians filled newspapers and
airwaves with concern for the political consequences of
recognition. While conceding that public sentiment has been
affected by the events in South Ossetia, esteemed figures
including former Ambassadors Adamishin and Lukin urged
Medvedev to hold off on recognition. They argued that
Moscow's diplomatic hand has been strengthened as a result of
"Georgian aggression" and Russia's decisive victory in the
war, and that now was not the time to consign the two
entities to the same fate as Northern Cyprus, i.e. to being
recognized by only one other country.

Now What?

6. (C) There was little doubt that the legislative moves were
coordinated by the Kremlin. The question remains, though,
for what purpose? XXXXXXXXXXXX that the same Duma
that had said nothing during the war, and had also not been
called back earlier from its August recess, was now being
used by the Kremlin to further muddy international waters and
to give the Kremlin another card to play with European
mediators. The Federation Council and Duma were already on

record (as of March, 2008) as supporting independence for
Abkhazia and South Ossetia. By orchestrating a solid show of
support for independence from the parliament, she contended,
the Kremlin can take a tougher line with respect to drawing
back Russian forces to pre-August 7 lines of demarcation.
Expecting that disputes over interpretation and
implementation of Point 6 of the Medvedev-Sarkozy cease-fire
agreement will continue with Europe and the U.S., the Kremlin
can now either move to recognize, declaring that it cannot
stand in the way of strong public sentiment, or it can argue
for acceptance of its interpretation of Point 6. In either
case, Medvedev will be able to demonstrate to the world and
to the Russian public that, having weathered the storm of
world criticism, he took quick action before opportunities
created by military action faded away. XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested that
factors that might restrain Medvedev from immediately
recognizing included positive signals from Europe, and a
desire to await the outcome of U.S. presidential elections.
Even if he chooses to wait, the parliamentary show will still
give Russian diplomats enough cover to take tough positions
on the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at the OSCE and
the UN for months to come.

7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX did not anticipate Medvedev approving recognition in the immediate term. Acknowledging that supporting independence
was not in Russia's objective interests, XXXXXXXXXXXX said
Medvedev's decision would be driven by other factors.
Medvedev, he argued, would use the vote to build pressure for
an international mechanism that met Russia's bottom line. In
particular, he argued that Russia sought a UNSCR confirming
its status as peacekeeper in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and
expected the international community to halt its unqualified
support for President Saakashvili. Otherwise, he intimated,
recognition of the two entities might be expedited. He cited
an interview given by Saakashvili in recent days in which the
Georgian leader reportedly declared that he would strive not
to convince South Ossetians to "come back to Georgia," but
that "Georgia would come to them (e.g., militarily)." XXXXXXXXXXXX
charged that this only further confirmed Saakashvili's future
military intentions against South Ossetia and the need to
ensure that the Georgian military never launches a military
attack against the region again.

8. (C) Comment: The Duma and Federation Council's actions
will be used by the Kremlin and the MFA in dealings with
foreign intermediaries to demonstrate strong broad support
for even tougher measures regarding the two regions, and to
further ratchet up pressure against the Saakashvili
government. Despite the unanimous votes, Medvedev and Putin
can play the recognition game out further, increasing
pressure on European allies to compromise on a
Russian-preferred UNSC draft resolution while avoiding a step
that - XXXXXXXXXXXX's bravado aside - could have unpredictable
consequences in Russian domestic terms.

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