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Cablegate: Minsk: Open to Road Map Discussion with the Usg,

VZCZCXRO4599
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHKV #1822/01 2931254
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201254Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8620
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 001822

SIPDIS

EUR FOR UMB - JOE WANG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2019
TAGS: PREL BR
SUBJECT: MINSK: OPEN TO ROAD MAP DISCUSSION WITH THE USG,
IF ONLY TO REDUCE ITS DEPENDENCY ON RUSSIA

Classified By: Political Counselor Colin Cleary, Reason 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: The President's Chief of Staff, Vladimir
Makey, reaffirmed to Charge on October 14 the desire of
Belarus to craft a Road Map with the USG on improving
US-Belarus bilateral relations. He said they welcomed a
fluid discussion with the PA in the lead on the Belarusian
side. Makey underscored that Belarus needs to decrease its
economic dependence on Russia; he has seen no change in GOR's
preference for dictating to its "partners." He personally
believes that recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by
GOB will not change Russia,s heavy handiness towards Belarus
although some in the GOB, he said, have a different view. He
believes the President is committed to economic reform,
including privatization. He said GOB will be seeking USG
support to expand IFI lending to Belarus in 2010, and
understands there will be economic conditionality. He
appeared to imply that they saw it as the lesser evil of
having to turn to Russia for help, yet again. Political
liberalization, on the other hand, is something more
difficult for Presidential Administration to stomach, but he
said they are open to discussing our different perspective on
this issue within the context of the Road Map. End Summary.


2. (C) On October 14, Charge met with President's Chief of
Staff, Vladimir Makey, at his request. In an hour and twenty
minute meeting, Makey apologized for the lack of progress on
flushing out a Road Map (RM) agreed upon with A/S Gordon on
August 14. He said that between the summer break, other
pressing matters, including a number of high level meetings
involving Russia, the issue had fallen by the wayside. He
said he asked for the meeting with the Charge to reaffirm
Belarus, interest in moving the process forward, and indeed,
called it a historic opportunity to improve relations between
the two countries.

3. (C) Having sought clarification on how the RM should
proceed, Makey said that unlike Foreign Minister Martynov's
comments to DAS Russell on the margins of UNGA, the
Presidential Administration (PA) would take the lead on the
discussion and include the MFA and other Ministries as
necessary. He also agreed that the process should not be
wedded to a document but instead be a fluid back and forth
discussion. He instructed Valentin Rybakov, his Foreign
Affairs Advisor, to begin the discussions with Charge ASAP.
Rybakov volunteered that perhaps it would be best to launch
the process with a senior level meeting for Makey in
Washington. Charge responded he would forward the proposal
but believed Washington would be inclined to elevate the
discussions once real progress had been made on the RM.
Makey and Gordon had set out the goal, laid out the
parameters, and blessed the process, but to date no progress
had been made. Makey agreed and said he would be happy to
meet with Charge once a month or as need be if problems
arose.

4. (C) In response to Charge's comment that he heard from the
IFI Resident Representatives that despite progress with their
counterparts in the Central Bank, MinFin and even MinEcon,
everything had to go through the PA for final approval and
the PA economic decision makers would override or distort the
agreements that had been reached. Makey argued that it was
actually the opposite and that PA was the driving force for
economic change in Belarus. (Note: Both IMF and WB Res Reps
found his response baffling. End Note.) PA fully supports
economic liberalization and the privatization and often has
to push the government, Makey said, to move more quickly. PA
favors large scale foreign direct investment from the West.
He said they were talking to Poland about the refineries and
would welcome and strongly support US companies interested in
purchasing refineries, banks or factories in Belarus,
although they would not to be sold at fire sale prices. It
was critical (a theme he repeated often) that Belarus
diversify its economic relations. Its dependence on
Russia,s market and capital served only to undermine the
independence and sovereignty of Belarus. He said they were
well aware that they would have financial shortfalls in 2010
and he asked that the USG support funding through the IMF and
WB to Belarus so they would not have to rely on Russia.

5. (C) He reported that at the Chisinau CIS summit, when
other members tried to engage in a serious discussion on how
to improve economic coordination between the countries,
"Medvedev just sat there and smiled" knowing full well the
other countries were dependent on Russia. Unlike in western
organizations were there are genuine friendships and
partnerships Russia preferred to dictate. Saying this was
his opinion and thus only the three of us would hear it (he

KYIV 00001822 002 OF 003


used this phrase a number of times) that even if Belarus
recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia would continue
to press Belarus; it would never be its real partner. All
the same, he did warn that there were elements in the PA and
government who were predisposed towards recognition. He said
this was not a negotiating tactic on his part, but just a
fact he wanted to share with us.

6. (C) Charge mentioned that through USAID we were exploring
efforts at initiating a program to promote the growth of
small and medium size businesses in the private sector as
well as work with the Latvians on establishing a English
language Riga MBA program in Minsk. He said PA welcomed and
supported both. The growth of the private sector was
inevitable, and it was important that Belarus be prepared for
it. He said that PA was interested in engaging directly with
the Charge on the MBA program. The response was that despite
the USG being the largest funder in this joint effort with
the Latvians, the Latvians had the lead on this effort and we
respected that and supported their role. Makey responded
with a chuckle and said, see the difference (a reference to
the Chisinau CIS meeting).

7. (C) Charge concluded by expressing his appreciation for
the PA,s intervention when Charge called the evening of Oct
7 to complain about a crew showing up on the Charge,s
doorstep to film, including into the house, the arrival of
political party representatives for a dinner Charge hosted
for the visiting Coordinator of Assistance to Europe and
Eurasia, Dan Rosenblum. Charge reminded Makey that in their
first meeting Makey had assured the Charge the Embassy could
meet with anyone in society but asked that it also meet with
government figures. Charge said he had held up his part of
the bargain with his meetings, and indeed, Mr. Rosenblum had
met with the Chairman of the Central Bank. Makey apologized
and said when he heard of it he had put a stop to it
immediately.

8. (C) Makey added that elections were not far off and people
were getting nervous and that the special services in any
country had to keep track of people who were a threat to the
country. He claimed that the opposition figures were playing
into Russia,s hands by trying to isolate Belarus, which
would only increase its dependence on Russia. Charge said he
was confident the services could keep tabs on people in a
much more sophisticated way and what had transpired was just
harassment. Makey agreed. Charge continued that isolation
of Belarus was not the policy of the USG, but a by product of
the decisions GOB made in terms of how it handled issue of
human rights, freedom of the press, and elections. The
choice was not between east and west, as there were no longer
two camps, but it was about the decisions Belarus made
internally about what type of economic and political system
it would have that would affirm the sovereignty and
independence of Belarus, something the USG supported. Makey
concluded the meeting by saying our respective understanding
of these issues would be clarified in the RM.

9. (C) Comment: The theme of the meeting mirrored the
conversation with A/S Gordon, namely that Belarus had learned
during the financial crisis the harsh consequences of being
so dependent on Russia; much as in a boxing ring, Russia just
pushed harder when Belarus appeared weak. However, more so
then before, Makey, and the PA and GOB writ large, realize
that there is no going back to the economic model that
allowed them to maintain the social compact with society --
full employment, economic predictability, and consistent be
it gradual improvement in people's economic welfare; and thus
the genuine popularity of Lukashenka. The model, based on
cheap oil and gas from Russia, and a Russian market that
bought most of what Belarus produced, and that allowed
Belarus to sell finished petroleum products to the West, was
gone; and even if Belarus was offered the chance to return to
it, total dependence on Russia was no longer in the interest
of Belarus.

10. (C) Comment Continued: PA and GOB, the latter a subset
of PA, has increasingly, be it reluctantly, accepted the
economic reform criteria of accessing IFI funding as the
lesser of two evils. A potentially strong structural reform
program in a follow on Stand By Agreement in April of 2010,
as would be required under Article 4, may be the best way in
the short run to foster change of the economic system in
Belarus. To date the maintenance of a state economy has been
one of the major tools of control over the population by the
Lukashenka regime. A more relaxed approach to human rights,
independent media, and political pluralism, is something, at
least for now, the PA still looks upon with great fear.
Therefore, the continued presence of sanctions in their

KYIV 00001822 003 OF 003


current form most likely are a necessary requirement to
remind the PA of the value the West applies to these
principles, and thus push for continued incremental progress
in this sphere. This combination of carrots and sticks may
be the best approach to helping Belarus achieve what it
profess it wants to be -- an independent and sovereign
country.

11. (U) Embassy Minsk Charge d'Affaires a.i. Michael Scanlan
cleared this message.
PETTIT

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