Cablegate: (C) Eur Das Kramer's Meeting with Xxxxxxxxxxxx

Published: Thu 6 Dec 2007 03:03 PM
DE RUEHC #4120/01 3401604
O 061545Z DEC 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 164120
EO 12958 DECL: 12/06/2017
Classified By: EUR DAS David Kramer, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: On December 4, EUR DAS David Kramer met with XXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXX was highly critical of the recent Duma elections, alleging the Kremlin had resorted to all methods to secure an overwhelming victory for United Russia. XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX speculated that Putin would not remain a third term as president, but is nervously trying to secure his future immunity from potential law enforcement investigations into his alleged illicit proceeds. XXXXXXXXXXX argued that the recent anti-western rhetoric that featured in the election campaign did not reflect the views of most Russians and urged the West to continue to assist Russian society in its transformation into something more open, tolerant, and Western. END SUMMARY.
Election Results
2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX expressed pleasant surprise at the sharply critical assessment of the elections leveled by OSCE PA and PACE. XXXXXXXXXXX noted that from everything he had heard prior to the elections, PA and PACE were prepared to offer a positive assessment. XXXXXXXXXXX pointed to tension between OSCE PA and ODIHR, XXXXXXXXXXX He commented that given the many irregularities and fraud that took place during the campaign and on election day, the elections were not legitimate. He acknowledged that the U.S. could not say this, but welcomed any strong public statements the U.S. might make.
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX said the reaction across Russia shows that for the educated electorate, the elections left a bad taste and smell. He said the Communist Party was justifiably upset about fraud, as the party,s real results should have been closer to 20 percent in some regions. XXXXXXXXXXX added that the Kremlin had resorted to all methods to secure the vote for Putin and United Russia, mobilizing the homeless, police, falsifying results in regions such as Tatarstan, Bashkiria and the North Caucasus, controlling the media and whipping up hysteria against foreign enemies. However, despite these efforts, Putin, according to XXXXXXXXXXX, suffered poor results, garnering 7 million fewer votes than he did for his presidency four years ago. He argued the regime was undergoing a real crisis as nearly 70 percent of the population, according to Levada polls, did not believe the elections to be free, and the support was one based on loyalty, not genuine support.
4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX explained the success of LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovskiy by the fact that the Kremlin had forced all other charismatic politicians out of the race (naming Rogozin, Khakamada, and others). He argued that those who didn,t want to vote for United Russia or the Communists voted for Zhirinovskiy as a protest vote. He said that some protest votes also went to Just Russia.
6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX said that popular opinion in Moscow believes that Sergey Ivanov is out of the running for President. He commented that Putin was afraid of Ivanov, deeply distrustful, and that he needed a weaker figure to succeed him instead. He argued that Putin understands that under the system he has created there is no real rule of law and that at any time anyone can be arrested or businesses destroyed. Since Putin reportedly had secret assets tied up abroad (working through proxies like XXXXXXXXXXX) he worried that with a strong successor like Ivanov the tables could be turned on Putin, making him the object of law enforcement investigations and Interpol warnings. XXXXXXXXXXX rejected speculation that Putin would attempt to stay a third term, saying that Putin did not want to be seen as a Central Asian dictator. He asserted instead that Putin would become the head of United Russia and that the party would transform into something akin to the former Communist Party. He noted that the campaign for President had begun and United Russia was, according to Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov, prepared to nominate a candidate on December 17. XXXXXXXXXXX dismissed the recent Putin8 demonstrations breaking out across the country as long-planned and financed events that were meant to preempt any attempt at a revolution8 in Russia.
7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX noted the effect of a law on the Duma passed two years ago that would allow Putin to decide to take or refuse the Duma mandate not only in the next five days, but also anytime in the next four years. He speculated that this could be done in the interest of gaining immunity as a Duma deputy should Putin want security from his successor. XXXXXXXXXXX argued that this issue, e.g., security, was the driving motivation behind the Kremlin,s heavy-handed approach to electoral manipulation during the Duma elections. XXXXXXXXXXX commented that politically, Putin only trusts his spokesman Aleksey Gromov and Presidential Administration aide Sergey Sobyanin, and possibly the head of the presidential security force, Viktor Zolotov.
Anti-Western Rhetoric
8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX acknowledged the large volume of anti-Western rhetoric that has figured prominently in the recent months leading up to the election. However, he said that the Russian public does not necessarily share these sentiments, and is rather more neutral, if not positive, toward the U.S., despite the drumbeat of propaganda. XXXXXXXXXXX argued that Russian society is not aggressive, but instead suffers from passivity and apathy. Nonetheless, XXXXXXXXXXX added, he was optimistic that while the leadership was moving backwards in many senses, society was advancing and transforming into something more open, tolerant, and Western. He encouraged the U.S. to continue to work with society to progress in this direction for the long term. RICE
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