Zimbabwe cost Russian President Medvedev his reputation- Wikileaks

The issue of Zimbabwe and what to do about President Robert Mugabe following his uncontested June, 2008 victory, which was not recognised by most Western governments, cost Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dearly as his actions gave the West the impression that he was not totally in control, a cable released by Wikileaks says.

Medvedev took over from Vladimir Putin on 8 May 2008 and two months later he was at his first G8 meeting in Toyako on the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan. The G8 is made up of the eight richest, industrialised nations of the world- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The summit issued a statement on 8 July expressing grave concern about the situation in Zimbabwe and deploring the Zimbabwean authorities that they had gone ahead with presidential elections when it was clear that these could not be free and fair because of the “systematic violence, obstruction and intimidation”.

Mugabe was beaten by Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the 29 March 2008 elections but Tsvangirai failed to gain an outright win necessitating a run-off. The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front embarked on an orgy of violence which resulted in Tsvangirai pulling out of the race leaving Mugabe to score an easy victory.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people,” the G8 statement went on, adding: “We strongly urge the Zimbabwean authorities to work with the opposition to achieve a prompt, peaceful resolution of the crisis. It is important that any mediation process respect the results of the March 29, 2008 election.”

Though Medvedev was a signatory to the statement, he changed his mind a day later and his government vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for sanctions on Zimbabwe three days later.

United States ambassador to Moscow, John Beyrle, said in a cable dispatched on 26 August 2008 though Medvedev was now Russian President, his predecessor, Putin “remained the real foreign policy helmsman, who used informal relations and the creation of new White House entities to forge his own policy team”.

Putin had won two terms as president and was barred from contesting a third term but had become Russian Prime Minister.

“The newly appointed Director of the Russian Institute for Democracy in NY, Andranik Migranyan, judged to us that even before the Georgia crisis, Medvedev had taken a beating in foreign policy, with the appointment of Ambassador Yuri Ushakov to the White House a clear sign of Putin's encroachment on Kremlin turf,” the cable said.

“Medvedev lacked a foreign policy team, and his hesitancy, or "lack of tonality," on important issues was apparent in the diplomatic mishap at the G8 over Zimbabwe. Migranyan predicted that Putin would continue to dominate the policy milieu through his connection to the intelligence services and deployment of Ushakov.”

Below is the full cable and statement from the G8:

 

 

 

 

Viewing cable 08MOSCOW2563, MEDVEDEV LOSES OUT IN RUSSIA-GEORGIA WAR

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Reference ID 

Created 

Released 

Classification 

Origin 

08MOSCOW2563

2008-08-26 14:02

2010-12-01 21:09

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Moscow

Appears in these articles:
http://www.spiegel.de/

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB
 
DE RUEHMO #2563/01 2391404
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261404Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9706
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 002563
 
SIPDIS
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/22/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR RS
SUBJECT: MEDVEDEV LOSES OUT IN RUSSIA-GEORGIA WAR 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John R. Beyrle: Reasons 1.4 (b, d).
 
¶1. (C) Summary. Unlike Putin, whose leadership during the
Chechen war strengthened his political power, Medvedev's
performance to date has reinforced his status as junior
member of the tandem. Two anecdotal reports suggest that
Putin was displeased with the President's performance at the
start of the conflict; Putin, not Medvedev, set the tone and
tenor of Russia's war policy. The conflict exposed Medvedev's
weaknesses, his lack of a "team" of advisers, and the paucity
of levers that he holds to influence policy, particularly in
foreign affairs. While most Russians have yet to calculate
the long-term consequences of the Georgian war, a near term
conclusion is that the conflict has reinforced Medvedev's
need for a "regent" and validated Putin as the man most
Russians trust to protect their national interests. End
Summary.
 
Medvedev Stumbles
-----------------
 
¶2. (C) The war in Georgia capped Medvedev's first 100 days in
office, and provided him the chance for a defining moment as
the country's military and political chieftain. Yet, two
anecdotal reports suggests that Medvedev blinked when the
Georgian conflict began. xxxxx told the German Ambassador that Putin was deeply
concerned by the failure of Medvedev to take immediate
actions and to show resolve on August 8. Putin intervened
repeatedly from Beijing, where he was attending the Olympics.
Several phone calls took place between the Prime Minister
and Medvedev, with Putin using a meeting with Kazakh
President Nazarbayev to set the initial Russian public
hard-line. Similarly, in either an indiscretion or a
deliberate slight, FM Lavrov confided to the French
Ambassador (on the margins of Sarkozy's August 12 visit to
Moscow) that Medvedev had come in for significant criticism
among the ruling party elite for his handling of the initial
hours of the crisis.
 
¶3. (C) At first glance, the interaction between the two
during the Georgia war appeared a confirmation of the
"regency" model of leadership posited by many Kremlin
observers about the tandem, with Putin taking charge when his
protege faltered and then stepping back once he had righted
the ship of state. Putin, not Medvedev, made the first
strong public Russian address on the conflict after his
return from China. His bristling speech in Vladikavkaz on
August 9 set the tone and message of Moscow's approach:
accusations of genocide, promises of aid to mitigate the
"humanitarian disaster," and an explanation of Russian action
as justified and legitimate. In the days that followed, a
pale and tired Medvedev met with various military and
government officials before the television cameras, but he
never addressed the people directly -- in part because Putin
had already done so. Olga Kryshtanovskaya of the Academy of
Sciences Institute for the Study of Elites characterized
Medvedev's performance during the first days of the war as a
schoolboy who learned his lessons by rote, but without the
vehemence of true conviction. Indeed, at one of the few
public meetings between Putin and Medvedev, the Premier
resorted to "suggestions" that the military prosecutor should
look into evidence of "genocide" in South Ossetia, and
Medvedev duly agreed to give the order.
 
¶4. (C) As the conflict cooled down and Medvedev took a
visible role in hammering out a ceasefire agreement with
French President Sarkozy, the public portrayal of the tandem
began to shift back to its "proper" balance, even as the
French told us it was Putin who joined the meeting to broker
the "Medvedev-Sarkozy" agreement. Medvedev moved to the
forefront of Russia's government controlled television stage
and Putin returned to focus on other matters. According to
the newspaper Kommersant, Levada Center polls in August
showed a slight increase in popular perceptions of Medvedev's
position in the tandem, with 14 percent of respondents
agreeing that real power is in the President's hands, up from
9 percent in June, but still far below the near 20 percent
figure at the time of Medvedev's inauguration. Tellingly,
nearly half of respondents saw Medvedev and Putin sharing
power.
 
100 Days Leaves Medvedev Poorly Prepared
----------------------------------------
 
¶5. (C) Few are surprised that Medvedev was unprepared for the
Georgian war. Before the conflict, Medvedev had focused on
domestic issues that had been his forte as Deputy Premier.
He had taken initial steps in his first three months in
office to define himself: promoting the domestic themes of
anti-corruption, economic modernization, and, in foreign
policy, a new European security architecture. He also went as
far as indirect criticism of Putin's attack on the Mechel
coal company in late July. Pro-Kremlin commentators like
lawyer Pavel Astakov and analyst Dmitriy Orlov in recent
weeks penned paeans to what they claimed were Medvedev's
successes in launching judicial reforms, promoting small
business, and tackling the thorny issue of pervasive
corruption.
 
¶6. (C) While debates have continued over whether Medvedev is
a "liberal" or a Putin flunky, there is general consensus
that Medvedev remains circumscribed in his ability act
independently. xxxxx conceded
that Medvedev had ambitions and was being pushed by his inner
circle (largely remnants of the Yeltsin team) to be "more
liberal," but he had no capacity to carry them through.
xxxxx attributed this to Putin's shift of Kremlin cadre to
the White House -- a move that left Medvedev largely adrift
in his own administration. Editor/owner of the independent
xxxxx judged Medvedev
politically naive, despite 17 years in the inner circle.
xxxxx who with eight other prominent editors attended a
long, liquid dinner with the President, described Medvedev as
saying the right things, but with no clear ability to
translate them into practice.
 
¶7. (C) While Medvedev spoke vaguely of new European security
structures, some argued that Putin remained the real foreign
policy helmsman, who used informal relations and the creation
of new White House entities to forge his own policy team. The
newly appointed Director of the Russian Institute for
Democracy in NY, Andranik Migranyan, judged to us that even
before the Georgia crisis, Medvedev had taken a beating in
foreign policy, with the appointment of Ambassador Yuri
Ushakov to the White House a clear sign of Putin's
encroachment on Kremlin turf. Medvedev lacked a foreign
policy team, and his hesitancy, or "lack of tonality," on
important issues was apparent in the diplomatic mishap at the
G8 over Zimbabwe. Migranyan predicted that Putin would
continue to dominate the policy milieu through his connection
to the intelligence services and deployment of Ushakov.
 
Looking Ahead
-------------
 
¶8. (C) For those who see Putin as protecting and developing
his successor as "regent" -- including xxxxx and Gleb
Pavlovskiy -- the conflict gave some indication of Medvedev's
strengths and weakness during times of crisis. Medvedev
stills needs Putin, according to Pavlovskiy, as the primary
source of the President's legitimacy. If Putin were to leave
office today, Medvedev would have a tough fight; in the eyes
of half the Russian public, trust of Putin constitutes
Medvedev's writ. Kryshtanovskaya argued that Putin cannot
afford to allow Medvedev to lose his legitimacy as president,
in that Putin has staked his reputation on his successor.
 
¶9. (C) For others, the war showed that Medvedev is not up to
challenge of leadership. Russian Caucasus experts told DCM
August 21 that Russia could not show weakness in the face of
Georgia's challenge in South Ossetia for fear of both
external and internal security consequences. Putin, not
Medvedev, understood that and orchestrated the required
action to meet the challenge, they argued.
 
¶10. (C) While most of our contacts agreed that 100 days is
too short to draw conclusions, xxxxx and Kryshtanovskaya
predicted the war could hasten a shift towards a
parliamentary system. xxxxx characterized Putin's public
persona as Russia's CEO, rolling up his sleeves on issues
that matter more to Russians while Medvedev handles the
ceremonial duties of President. He likened the situation to
the German model, which Putin well understands, and posited
that the Premier may aspire to play Chancellor to Medvedev's
German President. Kryshtanovskaya likewise sees Putin as
laying the foundation for a parliamentary republic, by taking
the lead of Russia's most politically powerful party and
shifting many formerly presidential functions to the White
House.
 
Comment
-------
 
¶11. (C) After the Georgian conflict, nobody questions Putin's
dominance of the political system. What remains to be seen
is whether he intends to transfer the power mantle to
Medvedev, as the "regency" school predicts, or to further
consolidate his power as Premier. Putin's modus operandi is
to create options and to avoid picking one particular path,
suggesting that we will see him continue to follow both
options as he waits to see how things play out. Among the
populace, there is a sense of national pride and patriotism
as the vast majority of Russians rally around the Kremlin.
The success of Moscow's "short, victorious war" accrues to
the tandem team, although we assess more so to Putin than the
President. The Russian elite, highly attuned to signals from
the Kremlin, are likely to see the Georgian war as evidence
that it is too early to dismiss the influence of the silovik
wing or its captain, Putin. And in light of the Kremlin
wagon-circling we expect to follow the independence
recognition decision, Medvedev's agenda of economic
modernization, anti-corruption, and European security focus
will lose any sense of urgency that it might have had. End
comment.
Beyrle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

08 July 2008

G8 Leaders Statement on Zimbabwe

Leaders urge appointment of U.N. special envoy, dialogue

 

(begin text)

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
(Toyako, Japan)

For Immediate Release
July 8, 2008

G8 LEADERS STATEMENT ON ZIMBABWE

1. We expressed our grave concern about the situation in Zimbabwe. We deplore the fact that the Zimbabwean authorities pressed ahead with the presidential election despite the absence of appropriate conditions for free and fair voting as a result of their systematic violence, obstruction and intimidation.

2. We do not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people.

3. We strongly urge the Zimbabwean authorities to work with the opposition to achieve a prompt, peaceful resolution of the crisis. It is important that any mediation process respect the results of the March 29, 2008 election.

4. We support the African Union (AU) as it expresses deep concern with the negative reports from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the AU and the Pan-African Parliament observers on the elections and the loss of life that has occurred in Zimbabwe. We also support the AU’s call to encourage Zimbabwean leaders to initiate dialogue with a view to promoting peace and stability. We encourage regional bodies, including SADC and the AU, to provide strong leadership toward a quick and democratic resolution of this crisis, including by further strengthening the regional mediation process.

5. We are deeply concerned by the humanitarian dimension of the situation in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean authorities must allow the immediate resumption of humanitarian operations and full and non-discriminatory access to humanitarian assistance to prevent the suffering of the most vulnerable people in Zimbabwe.

6. We will continue to monitor the situation and work together with SADC, the AU, the UN and other relevant organizations for a prompt resolution of the crisis. We recommend the appointment of a special envoy of the UN Secretary-General to report on the political, humanitarian, human rights and security situation and to support regional efforts to take forward mediation between political parties. We will take further steps, inter alia introducing financial and other measures against those individuals responsible for violence.

(end text)

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