Posts Tagged ‘diplomacy


How Wikileaks’ release might harm US-Russia relations

Wikileaks is to release 3 million confidential diplomatic communiques. Some of these cables had to stay confidential… Especially those depicting in an “unflattering” manner some Russian officials.

Frantic behind the scenes wrangling was under way last night as US officials tried to stem the fallout from the expected release of up to three million confidential diplomatic communiques by the Wikileaks website.  Over the past 48 hours, American ambassadors have had the unenviable task of informing some of the country’s strongest allies that a series of potentially embarrassing cables are likely to be released in the coming days.

The latest tranche of documents, described by Wikileaks as being seven times as large as its last exposé – the 400,000 secret war logs from Iraq that were published last month – are thought to be cables taken from SIPRNet, the Pentagon’s global secret-level computer network which is accessible online for those with clearance.

US officials say the publication of such reports, which often contain candid assessments from embassy staff and ambassadors about foreign governments and leaders, has the potential to harm relations between Washington and its allies.

Downing Street yesterday confirmed that the US ambassador in London had already briefed the Government on what might be contained in the files. Similar meetings were also reported in Turkey, Israel, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia.

Wikileaks has made no official confirmation other than through brief messages posted on its Twitter page claiming that the Pentagon was “hyperventilating again over fears of being held to account”. It is not clear whether the whistle-blowing website will black-out the names of people who might face persecution if they were known to be co-operating with American embassies abroad.

A source at Wikileaks said that the website was “proceeding with caution, as always” with regard to the details it would put into the public domain, suggesting that some form of redaction would be used. But US officials have nonetheless reacted angrily, arguing that any publication of the cables would make diplomacy in sensitive parts of the world much more difficult.

“WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people,” said James Jeffrey, US ambassador to Baghdad. “I do not understand the motivation for releasing these documents. They will not help, they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here.”

Early indications suggest the communiqués – thought to be from the last five years – could be a major source of embarrassment both for Washington and its allies, shining a light on the kind of candid opinions and policies that governments like to keep secret. Quoting a Wikileaks “administrator”, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat said some of the cables suggested that Turkey had been turning a blind eye to fighters from the group Al-Qa’ida in Iraq slipping across into Turkey from the south.

According to the same report, separate cables also reveal that Washington has been allowing fighters from the Kurdish separatist group the PKK safe havens in northern Iraq to stage attacks on Turkey. Sources familiar with the US State Department reports told Reuters that some of the missives are thought to contain allegations against politicians in Russia, Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations.

The Russian daily business newspaper Kommersant said that the cables will contain general assessments of the political situation in Russia and “unflattering characteristics” of Russian leaders. Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, also admitted yesterday during a Cabinet meeting in Rome that the Wikileaks documents could have “negative repercussions” on the country’s embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

That Wikileaks is in possession of the secret communications has been suspected by US officials ever since Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was arrested six months ago on charges of leaking confidential information to the whistleblowing website. In an online chat with former hacker Adrian Lamo, who eventually turned Manning in to the authorities, the Iraq-based analyst boasted how he had handed over a cache of secret foreign policy documents that revealed “almost-criminal political back dealings” by US officials.

In the online chat made available by Lamo, Manning added: “Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public.” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has always denied receiving any information from Manning, although the website has campaigned for his release from detention.


Ukraine: whoever wins, it will be a victory for Russia

It’s nothing to say that Russian governement (and probably especially Vladimir Putin) is very happy about presidential elections in Ukraine. First, it means of course that they won’t have to deal anymore with pro- Western incumbent Viktor Yushchenko. But the second source of satisfaction is to see that the two contestants are much more friendly and warm toward their big Russian brother.

Russia will be the only certain winner in Ukraine’s presidential election on Jan. 17, as pro- Western incumbent Viktor Yushchenko is expected to bow out to rivals seen as more friendly toward Moscow, analysts said.

“For Russia it can be called a win-win situation, since any result is better than the current situation,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine. “Whoever becomes the next president will be much less ideological and more businesslike.”

Viktor Yanukovych, backed by Russia in Ukraine’s 2004 election, is the front-runner with 33.6 percent support, followed by Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko with 19.2 percent, according to the Kiev-based Democratic Initiatives Foundation. The two are likely to face off in a second round on Feb. 7 if no candidate wins 50 percent of first-round votes.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who as president promoted Yanukovych in the last election, is abstaining from an endorsement this time as polls show support for Yushchenko, the hero of the 2004 Orange Revolution, at less than 4 percent.

Russian-Ukrainian relations deteriorated under Yushchenko, who needled Russia with a push to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and appeals to Ukrainian nationalism. The Kremlin has curbed natural-gas deliveries to Ukraine three times in five years, withheld a new ambassador to Kiev and accused Yushchenko of supplying arms to Georgia during Russia’s five-day war with its southern neighbor in August 2008.

‘Sincere Policy’

“We expect the candidate chosen by the majority of Ukrainian voters to carry out a responsible, open, respectful and sincere policy toward Russia,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in televised remarks today.

Putin, who traveled to Ukraine to campaign for Yanukovych in 2004, has since forged a close relationship with Timoshenko, personally negotiating an end to last year’s gas cut with her. President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s protege, froze relations with his Ukrainian counterpart in August, blaming Yushchenko for “anti-Russian” policies.

Putin said in a live call-in show last month that he wasn’t supporting Timoshenko in the elections and reminded viewers that his United Russia party has “special relations” with Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

“Timoshenko knows that Ukraine is turning back toward Russia and that if she does not join the pro-Russian movement, she will be crushed by it, like Yushchenko,” Stratfor, the Austin, Texas-based intelligence consultancy, said in a report today. “Russia knows that she is not a true believer in the pro-Russian cause, like Yanukovych, but that if they make it worth her while, she will support the Kremlin.”

Russia, which traces its statehood to medieval Kiev, shares close economic, linguistic and religious ties to its neighbor. Without Ukraine, Russia stops being an empire with a foothold in Europe, former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his 1997 book “The Grand Chessboard.”

Gas Exports

Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based in Crimea and 80 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe go through Ukrainian territory. After Yushchenko’s election, Putin began to push Nord Stream and South Stream, pipeline projects to Europe designed to bypass Ukraine.

Still, Russia shouldn’t expect Ukraine’s next president to be a pushover as gas contracts and the future of the Black Sea fleet will continue to be contentious issues, according to Lukyanov.

“Anybody will be more flexible and not provoke Moscow as much as Yushchenko,” Lukyanov said. “But even Yanukovych won’t turn out to be a puppet meeting Russia’s every demand.”