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25th Jul 2021

Cablegate: France bullied Poland over Georgia war

France threatened to harm a flagship EU policy for post-Soviet countries shortly after the Russia-Georgia war unless the Union forgave Russia for its invasion, a freshly leaked US cable says.

The November 2008 dispatch from the US embassy in Stockholm reports that Johan Frisell, a Swedish diplomat, told US charge d'affairs Robert Silverman that France pressured Poland and Sweden into lifting the Union's only post-war sanction on Russia.

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"France threatened to stall the Eastern Partnership initiative if the Swedes and others opposed to 'business as usual' with Moscow refused to resume EU-Russia talks, according to Frisell," Mr Silverman wrote. "Once the decision on talks on the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement [with Russia] was made, Sweden and Poland, co-drafters of the [Eastern Partnership] initiative, were given a green light to 'move ahead'."

The French support for Russia came at a time when Russian troops were still parked in Georgia proper in violation of a French-brokered peace agreement.

Previously leaked cables on the 2008 war show that France, Germany and Italy tried to soften the EU's reaction at every step of the conflict.

France later cemented relations with Russia by buying a stake in its Nord Stream gas pipeline and selling it two state-of-the-art warships.

The US memo also indicates that Poland and Sweden see the Eastern Partnership as a path to EU enlargement and security co-operation.

"Frisell said that the Eastern Partnership was essentially an 'invitation' to the six states to join the EU internal market," Mr Silverman noted. "'Profound EU integration is every bit as important as Article 5 [Nato's mutual defence pact],' he added. Moscow is 'agnostic' on European Neighborhood Policy, in part because it has seriously underestimated the impact of soft power. To the extent that the Eastern Partnership's related security co-operation remains 'under the Russian radar,' it will be successful."

Another cable out Monday (7 March) shows the influence on German politics of Matthias Warnig, a former officer in the east German secret police, the Stasi, who runs day-to-day affairs in the Nord Stream consortium.

"The [US] ambassador asked whether the project [Nord Stream] has the full support of the German government. Warnig said yes, noting that he has regular, direct access to Chancellor Merkel's office and that Nord Stream chairman Gerhard Schroeder also meets frequently with Merkel," the November 2009 dispatch from the US embassy in Moscow says.

Mr Warnig added that Russia's South Stream project, a plan to increase EU dependency on Russian gas, is a no-go, however: "He said that although he is a 'de facto employee of Gazprom,' he personally believes South Stream is unlikely to be built anytime soon."

A third fresh cable gives a peek into what Ukraine's new foreign minister, Konstantin Gryshenko, really thinks of Russia.

"Gryshenko said that the Kremlin wants a 'regency' - someone in power in Kyev who is totally subservient. He noted that Putin ... has a low personal regard for Yanukovych," Mr Yanukovych's minister told the US embassy in Kiev in January 2009.

"He observed that everyone in [the Russian government] government seemed to be part of the 'security brotherhood.' People are afraid to tell jokes; it is 'back to the USSR'," he added on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his allies in Russia's FSB security service.

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