THE FIRST wires from the US Embassy in Bratislava have surfaced after a cache, believed to contain around 250,000 American dispatches, was obtained by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. However, the cables, dated August 2008 and concerning the armed conflict between Russia and Georgia, were published neither by WikiLeaks nor by one of the five world media organisations that have been given access to all the messages. The publisher was instead a Moscow-based magazine, Russian Reporter.
The documents reveal some rather ambiguous Slovak diplomacy after the war in Georgia, the Sme daily reported. Then-prime minister Robert Fico’s comments, as reported in the documents, that the war was provoked by the Georgians were described by American diplomats as somewhat unfortunate.
In one of the dispatches, the US Embassy in Bratislava reported on a talk with Slovak Foreign Ministry political director Roman Buzek, saying that Buzek “implied Georgian actions had caused the immediate conflict, but said it would be necessary to look back more than two hundred years to find out who started it”.
The dispatch states that Buzek’s characterisation of the situation reflected Fico’s comments to journalists on August 13.
“I wouldn't view the situation as black and white, as some see it, because someone provoked the situation, and we know who provoked it,” Fico stated, as quoted by the embassy in the dispatch. Fico reportedly continued: “Then a reaction came, and that reaction was very strong, which is why we must cross our fingers and sit down at the table and resolve things. But I refuse to adopt a black-and-white view, that one side is good and the other bad.”
In later talks, Slovak diplomats told the US Embassy in Bratislava that Fico had asserted that the press had misquoted him and/or taken his comments out of context.
“The Slovak government was united in support of all six points contained in the ceasefire agreement and believes that now is not the time to engage in a “blame game” about who started the latest round of fighting,” then-state secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Oľga Algayerová, said.
An earlier dispatch reports on a meeting between the Foreign Ministry’s director for Russia, NIS and the Balkans, Štefan Rozkopál, with the Russian ambassador to Slovakia.
“Rozkopál, who studied in Moscow and speaks fluent Russian, noted that the language used by both the Russian ambassador in his meeting with the state secretary and with him made a ‘highly negative’ impression,” the dispatch reads. “He claimed the Russian ambassador actually referred to the ‘Soviet Union’, before correcting himself and made other such verbal ‘slips’ that created a very anachronistic atmosphere.”
The messages also show that Slovakia was not among those NATO countries displaying the toughest attitude towards Russia. These included the Czech Republic, Poland and the Baltic republics. Russian Reporter published three of the 1,172 dispatches which are believed to involve the US Embassy in Bratislava. These all pertain to the war between Russia and Georgia, and describe the ambiguous attitude of Slovakia.
In reaction to the leaked documents, Fico said on December 3 that he would not change “a single word” when it came to his attitude toward the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008, the TASR newswire wrote.
“I insist on [my opinion], Georgia did the provoking,” TASR quoted Fico as saying, adding that if the then-US ambassador [Vincent Obsitnik] didn't like this opinion, then that was his affair.
The former premier pointed out that his opinion on the conflict was neither “ferreted out, wiretapped nor spied out,” as he had made the statement publicly.
“If I were to write cables, the US ambassador might not like what I wrote either,” he said, as quoted by TASR.
13. Dec 2010 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani