Wikileaks - CCXCIV

Saturday, 03 September, Year 3 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu






Classified By: CHARGE MARK TAPLIN FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) & (D).

1. (C) Summary: DAS David Kramer and Ambassador to Moldova Heather Hodges shared views with leading Romanian interlocutors on recent developments involving Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Russia during a visit to Bucharest on April 3-4. Although Romanian interlocutors described growing strains in the relationship with Moscow, they reiterated Romania's commitment to encouraging positive developments in Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. Foreign Minister Ungureanu said Russia had definitely taken note of Romania's growing strategic partnership with the U.S. and was suspicious of Romania's motives, including in promoting more Black Sea cooperation. National Security Advisor Medar and others sounded generally pessimistic about Ukraine's prospects, but emphasized their determination to help Ukraine. Opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Mircea Geoana criticized President Triaian Basescu for "frivolously antagonizing" Russia, while offering few specifics as to how he would pursue regional relations differently. All interlocutors expressed strong appreciation for the visit of DAS Kramer and Ambassador Hodges, emphasizing the value and importance of regular consultation on countries that are in the top echelon of Romania's foreign policy and security concerns. End Summary.

2. (C) EUR DAS David Kramer and U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Heather Hodges consulted with key interlocutors in the Romanian MFA, presidency, prime minister's office, and civil society during an April 3-4 visit to Bucharest. Throughout his meetings, DAS Kramer expressed his appreciation for Romania's efforts to promote security and democracy in Eastern Europe and beyond. Recognizing our common interests as well as our strong bilateral relations, he emphasized that he had come both to provide a perspective from Washington on the countries under his purview as well as to hear the views of Romanian policymakers and analysts. DAS Kramer said he would try to return to Bucharest before he attends the next 5 plus 2 talks on Transnistria. Ambassador Hodges emphasized the important role Romania can continue to play in supporting Moldova diplomatically and in helping strengthen democratic institutions in Moldova. FM Ungureanu and other Romanians repeatedly expressed appreciation for the visit, with Ungureanu expressing his view that it is "critical" the U.S. and Romania "keep in close touch" on key issues and countries "we both watch closely."

FM Ungureanu: "Russia is Tightening the Screws"
--------------------------------------------- --- 3. (C) DAS Kramer and Ambassador Hodges met first with relevant senior and working level MFA officials, including Director General for "Wider Europe" Rasvan Rusu and Special Envoy for Moldova Bogdan Aurescu. FM Ungureunu subsequently joined the meeting. Concerning Romania's regional role, Ungureanu commented that Moscow was "tightening the screws" in its relations with Bucharest. He expressed the view that Romania's strong strategic partnership with the U.S. had not gone unnoticed in Moscow. He said Russia views Romania's initiatives in the Black Sea along with its interest in Moldova and Transnistria as problematic. He opined that Russia is "concerned that behind Romania, the U.S. is pulling the strings." Nonetheless, he noted that the current Romanian government has sought to engage Russia on a number of issues and is working to the extent possible to achieve a constructive relationship.

4. (C) With regard to the domestic situation in Russia, Ungureanu assessed that the Kremlin was purposefully pursuing a more authoritarian path. He added that many both inside Russia and outside are now looking ahead to the post-Putin era, although they do not know where to look yet. Russian foreign policymaking was split between career diplomats under Lavrov and the increasingly powerful intelligence services that "hold the reins." Ungureanu commented that Russian officials appear to be concentrating their attention increasingly on central European countries, after recent high-level visits to Prague and Budapest, where the Russians believe they can use their leverage on energy supplies as a tool to manage relations. He mentioned that he wouldmeet Russian FM Lavrov in Sofia on April 27-28 a the NATO informal ministerial meeting, since Lavov had asked for a "closed talk." Ungureanu proised to provide a readout of his discussion withLavrov to the Secretary, per his March 28 meetin with the Secretary in Washington. DAS Kramer exressed concern over Russia's movements in a negativ direction, even in a period in which Russia wasunder

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increased scrutiny before the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg in July, and suggested that the situation would likely worsen afterwards. FM Ungureanu agreed with DAS Kramer's assessment that the main problem is the windfall income the Russians are enjoying from high oil prices, which has prompted a more arrogant foreign policy approach.

Romania "Committed to Help" Moldova
5. (C) Turning to Moldova and Transnistria, Ambassador Hodges noted the "delicate dance" Romania sometimes has to play, given continued underlying suspicions in some corners of Chisinau about Romanian intentions towards its neighbor. FM Ungureanu and DG Rusu emphasized Romania's commitment to helping Moldova in its path toward integration with Western institutions. On Transnistria, DAS Kramer underlined that the recent implementation of the Ukrainian-Moldovan customs agreement represented a true change in the status quo. He said it could potentially spur some movement in 5 2 talks on settling Transnistria. Ambassador Hodges recalled Transnistrian "foreign minister" Litskai had commented that "this is economic war from now on," and that Tiraspol then refused to participate in the scheduled 5 2 meeting and Moscow subsequently imposed its ban on Moldovan and Georgian wine. FM Ungureanu agreed with Ambassador Hodges' positive assessment of the EU Border Assistance Mission, which was crucial to implementing the bilateral customs agreement. Ungureanu said he was pleased that the mission had been staffed by many qualified individuals, and led by a long-time employee at the SECI Center in Bucharest. With regard to the 5 plus 2 talks, Ungureanu questioned what the dismissal of Ukrainian negotiator Tkach meant for the talks and whether Ukraine would continue to stand by its customs agreement with Moldova. DAS Kramer noted it would be difficult for Ukraine to back out given its desire to further its relationship with the European Union, in particular.

6. (C) Romania's Special Envoy for Moldova Bogdan Aurescu spoke of the "need to solve Transnistria in order to advance Moldova on a European path," but cautioned that current developments "might lead to a dangerous situation" because Russians were blaming the EU for the "blockade" around Transnistria. He said that the "parties are heading in opposite directions," with an increasingly worse climate in the negotiations after four inconclusive rounds of talks. While Romania was not at the negotiating table, it would continue to express its concerns appropriately and by offering its analysis to the U.S. and EU. More broadly on Moldova-Romanian relations, Aurescu acknowledged that one irritant was what he characterized as a "lack of reaction" from Chisinau on the need to upgrade their border regime. Romania, he asserted, had been trying to get Chisinau's attention in order to update the 1961 Soviet treaty since 2003. Aurescu said Romania would raise the need for a new Border Treaty again in negotiations scheduled for April 13-14 in Chisinau.

7. (C) On Ukraine, Ungureanu asserted that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Tarasyuk, did not want the Foreign Minister position again under a new government, adding that he had indicated he "would be happier in parliament." Below Tarasyuk, Ungureanu insisted, other candidates for Foreign Minister were "all old ones," making it clear he was not optimistic about finding common ground with others in the Ukrainian MFA. DAS Kramer agreed that the Foreign Minister had played a crucial role in furthering Ukraine's western orientation. Ungureanu said Romania would appreciate hearing from the U.S. "any rumors" about Snake Island or other bilateral issues with Romania such as Ukrainian plans for the Bystroe Canal.

8. (C) On Belarus, DG Rusu emphasized Romania's view that Russia was trying to strengthen its grip on Belarus. Rusu and others emphasized that that Romania's approach to Belarus was very similar to that of the U.S., and formulated in close coordination with the EU. MFA interlocutors reported that there was agreement in the EU on extending the visa bans, but that it would take longer to develop financial sanctions. They argued against placing broad economic sanctions on Belarus and said that the West should support civil society and the democratic opposition as two distinct elements, targeting rural areas as well as Minsk. Romania, they stressed, was also "closely monitoring" Belarus as from its current position as chair of the Council of Europe.

NSA Medar: "Give Ukraine a MAP"
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9. (C) At a dinner hosted by Ambassador Taubman, DAS Kramer and Ambassador Hodges met with a core group of senior Romanian foreign policy advisors from multiple agencies, including National Security Advisor Sergiu Medar, Deputy NSA Constantin Degeratu, Presidential Foreign Policy Counselor Anca Ilinoiu, MOD State Secretary Ioan Mircea Planga, Foreign Policy Advisor to the prime minister Calin Fabian, and MFA Directors General Rasvan Rusu, Stelian Stoian, and Cristian Istrate. NSA Medar reiterated Romania's commitment to its strategic partnership with the U.S. and appreciation for the "weight" the U.S. brings to issues of mutual concern in the region.

10. (C) Dinner conversation centered on Ukraine's future, with Ambassador Taubman posing the question of whether Romania's experience getting into NATO and the EU could be instructive for Ukraine if it was still headed westward after the parliamentary elections. Medar and others argued that whatever challenges lay ahead in reuniting the "Orange team" following Ukraine's recent parliamentary elections, it was the only plausible way forward. Several guests commented that former PM Yanukovych could not be trusted. Others said the vote demonstrated the confusion of the electorate -- the tendency for people to vote based on their short-term perception of the economic situation. Romanian interlocutors viewed the risk of secession of the eastern half of Ukraine as a "red herring." Degeratu commented that the expectation of NATO membership accelerated Romania's democratization and believed the same could be applied for Ukraine. He also said it was important for Romania to reach out to Ukraine to create a better economic partnership. MOD State Secretary Planga cautioned that there was a huge difference in popular support for NATO between pre-NATO membership Romania and present-day Ukraine, with only 18% of Ukrainians currently supporting NATO membership. He labeled the parliamentary vote as a reaction to the corruption of the Orange leaders and added "it would be difficult to help Ukraine from Romania," but Romania would be "open to share with Ukraine its experience" in joining NATO and the EU.

11. (C) NSA Medar mentioned that Ukraine faced a question in 2004 -- East or West? -- which Romania never needed to decide. He supported, however, offering Ukraine a Membership Action Plan (MAP) that would make Ukrainians understand that "we're serious if they are." Medar commented that the West's biggest mistake in Kosovo was that "we didn't educate young Kosovars," and argued, "we need to do it in Ukraine." Presidential Counselor Ilinoiu surmised that "Ukraine's only way to the EU is through NATO," and that "Ukraine is the test case for how the West handles Russia." She stated, "it is no one's right to deny...Ukraine of the hope of reaching the borders of democracy." She said that Russia's bases in Crimea "cannot be a disqualifier to NATO membership -- otherwise we give Russia a veto." DAS Kramer noted that the West should deal with Russia by helping its neighboring countries establish themselves as democracies. He pointed out that Russia had spent hundreds of millions of dollars in Ukraine while the West had focused on getting the democratic process right, which in the long term would support our interests in Russia as well. One of the Romanian MFA officials reported that Russia had encouraged Romania to reach out to the Transnistrians to promote a more positive dialogue. Ambassador Hodges discouraged the idea, suggested that it might be a trap; instead, she offered to work with the Romanian Ambassador to Moldova on ways to reach out to Transnistrian civil society.

Opposition Leader Geoana: Basescu's Russia Policy "Off Course"
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12. (C) Kramer and Hodges also met with former FM and leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Mircea Geoana. Adding a partisan tinge to their visit, Geoana accused President Traian Basescu of steering Romania's policy towards Romania "off course" and "disrupting diplomatic ties" with the Kremlin. He compared Basescu with a boy shouting at a schoolyard antagonist because his older brother -- in this case, the U.S. -- was around to protect him. He complained that this "frivolous antagonizing" of Russia had caused Romania to have the highest gas prices in Europe and an Ambassador to Russia who had not been able to received by President Putin in six months. Geoana argued that Romania's Black Sea strategy should court Russia more, in part on the basis of the two countries' common concern with terrorism. He concluded that Romanians were "intoxicated by anti-Russian themes" and that President Basescu was "speaking for the polls" instead of building better regional relations. Geoana

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said he would like to see more coordination with other countries in eastern Europe and less emphasis on the Black Sea; greater engagement on Moldova but without playing a "stupid game...because we are concerned we are left out" of the negotiations; and less "strategic overstretch" and more consensus building on Romania's national objectives now that it had achieved NATO and (almost) EU accession.

13. (C) Comment: By all accounts, the Romanian foreign policy team, including advisors from the President's and Prime Minister's offices as well as the Foreign Ministry, greatly appreciated this visit by Ambassador Hodges and DAS Kramer. Such broad engagement -- senior interlocutors cleared schedules on short notice when they heard of their visit -- demonstrates the importance they ascribe to consultations with the U.S. on these countries. The Romanians are eager to play an active role in their strategically important corner of Europe, as a NATO and nearly-finalized EU member. The most common Bucharest metaphor for the country's future geostrategic role in the region has Romania watchfully gazing over the ramparts, guarding Western civilization from instability and chaos to the East. Yet Romanian policymakers, as well as local NGO representatives like those Kramer and Hodges met informally, understand that the type of subtle and patient engagement it is going to take to promote democracy and stability in this part of the world in the long-term will belie that type of watchtower imagery. End Comment.

14. (U) This cable has been cleared by DAS Kramer and Ambassador Hodges.

15. (U) AmEmbassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are available on the Bucharest SIPRNet TAPLIN

Category: Breaking News
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