Viewing cable 06RIGA619
Title: DAS KRAMER TALKS BELARUS, MOLDOVA AND RUSSIA WITH

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06RIGA6192006-08-02 11:59:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Riga
VZCZCXYZ0017
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRA #0619/01 2141159
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021159Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3213
INFO RUEHSK/AMEMBASSY MINSK PRIORITY 0500
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 1157
RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN PRIORITY 3915
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS PRIORITY 3702
C O N F I D E N T I A L RIGA 000619 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/01/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV EAID RS MD BO LG
SUBJECT: DAS KRAMER TALKS BELARUS, MOLDOVA AND RUSSIA WITH 
LATVIA 
 
 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Tamir Waser, Reasons 1.4 (b) 
and (d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary:  In a productive series of meetings in Riga 
July 24, DAS David Kramer discussed Belarus, Moldova and 
Russia with key Latvian officials.  Latvia is closely 
watching Belarus' relations with Russia and trying to improve 
people to people contacts.  NGO representatives who work with 
Belarus believe that the internet is an underutilized tool 
for getting information into Belarus, especially to the 
younger generation.  Latvia wants to increase its engagement 
in Moldova and use its own post-Soviet experience to help 
Moldova move closer to Europe.  The GOL feels that recent 
small steps in its relations with Russia are due to the EU 
and U.S. keeping the issue on the table in discussions with 
Moscow.  The Latvians greatly appreciated the visit for the 
opportunity to hold bilateral discussions on some of their 
highest priority foreign policy issues.  End summary. 
 
¶2. (U) EUR DAS David Kramer visited Riga July 24 and had 
meetings with MFA officials including State Secretary Normans 
Penke, U/S for bilateral relations Edgars Skuja, and Latvian 
Ambassador to Minsk Maira Mora.  He also met with officials 
from the Latvian Transatlantic Organization (LATO) and the 
umbrella NGO group Open Belarus.  Pol/Econ chief accompanied 
DAS Kramer as notetaker. 
 
Belarus 
--------- 
¶3. (C) Ambassador Mora, who has just completed six months 
representing the Austrian presidency in Minsk, said that she 
felt we were at a critical juncture in Russian/Belarusian 
relations.  Developments in the energy sector, especially 
negotiations of a new gas contract with Russia, would be a 
key indicator of what was happening.  She reported that a 
source in the ministry of economics had told her that $100 
per 1,000 cubic meters was about the highest price Belarus 
could afford for gas.  Additionally, an official in the MFA 
in Minsk had asked Mora to &help us8 before Belarus loses 
its independence to Russia.  While agreeing with Kramer that 
we needed to firmly oppose any Moscow-inspired referendums on 
union between the two countries, Mora said we should not 
exclude the possibility that Lukashenko might call a 
preemptory referendum to reject such a union and we would 
need to consider carefully how to respond to that.  Asked 
about PM Sidorsky, Mora said he was running the government, 
but not the country.  While some in the EU wanted to include 
him on the visa and/or financial bans, she advocated 
retaining him as person with whom the U.S. and EU could talk, 
especially as he is the main negotiator with Russia.  . 
 
¶4. (C) U/S Skuja said the lack of coordination between 
members of the Belarusian opposition was disheartening.  Mora 
went further, saying, &there is no longer an opposition in 
Belarus, they are just dissidents.8  Opposition, even 
underground, implies and requires some level of coordination, 
she argued, and that does not exist in Belarus. 
 
¶5. (C) Skuja said that Latvia was focusing its efforts in 
Belarus on people-to-people contacts, with State Secretary 
Penke noting that Latvia is now waiving visa fees for 
Belarusians to encourage travel to Latvia.  Latvia is 
focusing its assistance programs in Belarus on institution 
building and promoting a culture of democracy, according to 
Skuja.  The GOL hopes to build links between municipalities 
in the two countries as part of its assistance programs. 
Kramer agreed with this approach, noting the importance of 
working with the people of Belarus while squeezing the regime. 
 
¶6. (C) Kramer asked about ways to get information into 
Belarus.  Mora said that initial indications are current 
efforts are having no visible effect on public opinion within 
Belarus.  While Skuja said Latvia was keen to work with 
European Radio for Belarus (ERB), Mora said radio 
transmissions were &preaching to the converted8 in the 
border regions.  She added that satellite TV was of little 
value both because of the prohibitive cost of access and the 
ability of the government to block it.  She argued for 
greater use of printed products, including leaflets, 
distributed directly to people within Belarus, while noting 
the likely strong GOB reaction and the security issues for 
those involved in production and distribution.  NGO reps in a 
separate meeting told Kramer that they agreed that print was 
the most effective, but most dangerous for those involved, 
means of information dissemination.  They also saw some value 
to radio broadcasts, if they had greater reach than at 
present.  The NGO reps suggested making greater use of the 
internet to carry radio broadcasts and other informational 
materials.  While overall internet access in Belarus was only 
 
around 30 percent, it was much higher among youth, the NGO 
reps felt.  Open Belarus has tried using SMS text messages 
from Latvia to get messages into Belarus, but find the GOB 
can easily block those. 
 
Moldova 
---------- 
¶7. (C) MFA State Secretary Penke and U/S Skuja highlighted 
Moldova as a place where Latvia is looking to do more.  When 
PM Kalvitis travels there in early September, the Latvian 
President, PM and FM will all have been to Moldova in the 
space of a year.  Penke stressed Latvia's willingness to 
share its post-Soviet transition experiences with Moldova and 
said they were especially focused on assisting in the areas 
of border control and customs.  Skuja noted that it was the 
largest recipient of Latvian assistance in 2006 and likely 
would be again in 2007.  Kramer agreed that Latvia had a 
positive story to share with Moldova as it moves closer to 
Europe and enthusiastically welcomed Latvia's engagement on 
border and customs issues.  The EU border mission and the 
customs agreement with Ukraine were helping address the 
issues in Transnistria by squeezing the economic support for 
Smirnov, Kramer said.  The Latvians fully agreed with Kramer 
on the need to stand firm against the proposed September 
referendum in Transnistria. 
 
Russia 
-------- 
¶8. (C) Penke said that it was too early to tell if recent 
moves by Moscow signaled a real shift in Russian policy 
towards Latvia.  Perhaps there would be some movement in 
September on signing several bilateral agreements, but it was 
still unclear.  Penke stressed that the GOL feels that U.S. 
and EU pressure on Russia has been essential in improving the 
bilateral relationship. 
 
¶9. (C) Comment: The Latvians genuinely appreciated the 
opportunity to consult and discuss bilaterally these 
countries, which are at the top of their foreign policy 
agenda.  Although discussed in e-PINE and other fora with 
U.S., the Latvians often feel overshadowed in those meetings 
by larger or more assertive participants.  DAS Kramer's 
suggestion that a representative from EUR/ACE come for a more 
detailed discussion on assistance issues was warmly received 
as an indication that we are interested in working in 
partnership with the GOL on these issues.  Ukraine, because 
of the uncertain and fluid situation there, came up very 
little in the discussions. 
 
¶10. (U) DAS Kramer has cleared this cable. 
Bailey