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06MOSCOW10309 2006-09-15 09:02:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
Cable title:  

RUSSIAN MFA UNCLEAR ON TRANSNISTRIAN REFERENDUM

Tags:   PREL OSCE PBTS MD RS 
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1. (C) Summary: In a meeting with Embassy three days before
Transnistria's September 17 referendum, MFA Transnistrian
negotiator Valeriy Nesterushkin provided no clarity on how
Russia will treat the referendum result. While acknowledging
that whatever the result, Transnistria would not be
recognized by the international community, Nesterushkin
contended that the referendum should at minimum be accepted
as an expression of the will of the entity's population. He
saw no direct link between the referendum and the negotiation
process, but thought that negotiators, especially those
representing Transnistria, will behave differently after the
referendum and that change of attitude, in turn, will affect
the course of further discussions. Nesterushkin advised that
all parties of the 5 Plus 2 should study the post-referendum
situation carefully and avoid imposing a one-sided
resolution. End summary,

Smirnov not Saddam Hussein


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2. (C) Nesterushkin began his September 14 conversation with
Poloff with a "simple example." An internationally
recognized state -- Iraq-- was "destroyed" by another country
because of the alleged existence of WMD, without the
international community's approval. A referendum then was
carried out by the newly-created government so that "the
people of Iraq" could decide their future. Smirnov,
Nesterushkin said, is not Saddam Hussein, and the planned
referendum is an acceptable way to collect information about
Transnistrians' opinions and should be taken as such.
Nesterushkin argued that Transnistrian authorities felt
compelled to hold a referendum after Ukraine introduced a new
customs regime in March (reftels). A more constructive U.S.
role, Nesterushkin said, would have been to help formulate
the wording of the two choices instead of belatedly
criticizing it. He denied that Russia was directly involved
in the wording of the referendum, repeatedly saying that "It
was their work." Transnistria, isolated and in a dire
economic condition, appealed to Russia and Moscow provided
humanitarian aid and financial support (not to help Smirnov,
he added). Nesterushkin repeatedly insisted that the
referendum was not Russia's idea and Russia would have
preferred the status quo.

Terrible Mess, Terrible Divorce


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3. (C) Nesterushkin characterized the Transnistrian dispute
as a terrible mess. His "partners (i.e., the 5 Plus 2
negotiators)" tend to oversimplify the situation and impose
their own ideas of an acceptable settlement. He stressed
that although Transnistria was part of Moldova under the
Soviet Union, Transnistria declared its independence in 1990
before the republic of Moldova was established in 1991. One
cannot call Transnistrians "separatists" when they were never
part of Moldova. Nesterushkin said the EU, the U.S. and the
OSCE all fail to understand the complicated history and
dynamics and simply continue to pressure Transnistria with
their own solution. He considered this too confrontational.
According to him, the situation is like a broken marriage.
The couple went through a bloody divorce in 1992. All sides
including Russia, however, keep telling them that they should
live under the same roof. As the couple keeps fighting, we
must present a new marriage contract that is attractive to
both parties.

What Next?


--------------------------





4. (C) Despite prodding, Nesterushkin would not speculate on
what role Russia ascribed to the referendum. He insisted
that he could not be concrete because he did not know but
thought the future negotiations would be tough. Despite the
wording of the questionnaire, he saw no likelihood of the
immediate annexation of Transnistria to Russia. It may join
Russia's economic sphere with the same currency at some point
but beyond that, he did not want to hypothesize.
Nesterushkin said that he was puzzled why he was not invited
to a meeting among DAS Kramer, OSCE Moldovan HOM O'Neil and
the EU representative last week. He was willing to listen if
they have a new workable solution.

Comment


--------------------------




MOSCOW 00010309 002 OF 002




5. (C) This was vintage Nesterushkin. While Duma Chairman
of International Relations Committee Kosachev told the
Ambassador on August 31 that the GOR would not endorse the
referendum results, Nesterushkin's comments reflect the
ambivalence Russia has shown about the referendum -- by turns
supportive of the Transnistrians while recognizing that the
referendum is unlikely to affect the course of the
negotiations. Moscow has been comfortable with the status
quo and the referendum will do nothing to change that. We
will be seeking GOR reaction next week after the referendum
results are announced.





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BURNS