|08CHISINAU951||2008-09-23 14:48:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Chisinau|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CHISINAU 000951
1. (C) We don't expect broad smiles from
Transnistrian (TN) "deputy foreign minister"
Sergey Simonenko, who some Chisinau officials
claim reports back-channel to Transnistrian
Minister for State Security (and all-around bad
guy) Vladimir Antiufeyev. But that's what USAID
Assistant Administrator Doug Menarchik and new
USAID Mission Director Janina Jaruzelski received
from Simonenko when they visited him on September
18. Usually, Simonenko is the quiet, stern-faced
TN official who greets embassy officers, the one
who transmits TN "President" Smirnov's asperous
decisions without any niceties.
2. (C) Simonenko started the conversation
unexpectedly, too, with an apology for Smirnov's
recent accusation that the West didn't help
Transnistria with last year's drought or this
year's floods; only Russia had provided
assistance. We had sent a letter of protest to
Smirnov, explaining that the USG had indeed given
modest aid to farmers and to flood-affected
families. Simonenko explained that the
Transnistrians had meant to direct their
accusation to European countries, not the United
States, but there had been a misunderstanding, a
problem in translation. "Here live people,"
Simonenko stressed, people who needed help because
of difficult economic times.
3. (C) In response to questions from our USAID
visitors, Simonenko said all the right things.
Transnistrians were open to working with any
humanitarian-assistance organizations; TN
officials did not interpret USG assistance as
recognition of an independent Transnistria; the
issue of independence was separate from aid to
needy people. Transnistrians didn't perceive U.S.
assistance as politicized, Simonenko continued,
unlike European assistance which generally came
conditioned on progress in 5-plus-2 discussions.
4. (C) Simonenko listed some TN problems:
unemployment, emigration (especially of youth and
professionals), low salaries and lack of social
protections for the disadvantaged population. He
identified efforts to attract foreign investment,
support for developing small- and medium-sized
businesses, and assistance to the health sector
(and thanked the USG for Operation Provide Hope
medical-equipment donations) as priority areas for
TN. "We're open to the outside world. There's no
question that we're not ready to discuss. If the
U.S. has recommendations for improving TN's
democratic development, tell us. We might not be
aware of problems that others see," Simonenko said
5. (C) Simonenko's description of TN civil society
serves as a good example of the difference in
perspective between Transnistrian and American
officials. After stating that TN had many NGOs,
Simonenko added that the government had even
created some institutions of civil society: an
ombudsman's office to provide legal assistance to
the population, for example. We smiled at the
idea of government-created NGOs or governmental
mechanisms to transmit the people's concerns to
the political leadership. "It's not true that
there isn't any democracy in Transnistria,"
Simonenko stated. "We welcome any NGOs that don't
violate TN laws and aren't involved in subversive
activities [like] questioning the legitimacy of
elected local authorities." Of course, he
continued, perhaps sensing that his definition of
democracy and civil society was at odds with ours,
it didn't mean that government didn't carry on a
dialogue with NGOs. "We understand that a
normally functioning civil society is built on
compromise," Simonenko said, unprompted.
6. (C) Simonenko was explicit about Transnistria's
view of 5-plus-2 efforts to settle the conflict:
Russia had a "leading" role and TN wanted the U.S.
and other mediators and observers to play an
active role. TN did not want any change of
negotiating format. Only through the 5-plus-2
format could Transnistria have future guarantees,
7. (C) Comment: Who knows what Simonenko believes
in his heart. Given increased contact with
representatives of Western governments, Russia-
CHISINAU 00000951 002 OF 002
allied Simonenko is saying the right things.
Perhaps Russia is urging TN officials to play nice
in advance of movement on the 5-plus-2 front. At
least, Simonenko is learning what Americans want
to hear. His open, welcoming attitude is likely
also a continuation of TN's "multi-vector" policy,
an effort to reach beyond just Russia to other
countries which can become Transnistrian partners
and provide assistance in carefully defined areas.
Simonenko did seem sincere when discussing
Transnistria's needs. The visit of USAID
officials and, in Simonenko's perception, the
possibility of future USG assistance likely
softened the deputy foreign minister's demeanor.