Wikileaks release: in Russia, fear of damage to future US relations
As Wikileaks prepares to release millions of confidential cables, Russian diplomats worry about their ability to talk frankly in the future – while some politicians and anti-Kremlin activists are concerned about private conversations.
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Wikileaks previous releases of massive troves of secret US documents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were intensively covered in the Western media, and got front-page attention in Russia as well.Skip to next paragraph
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Thanks to the Kremlin's near-total stranglehold on Russia's major media outlets, that is not likely to happen if the next round of revelations proves to be embarrassing to Russia.
"This is a ticklish issue, and it might cause damage to relations, scandal, refutations, and even lead to lawsuits," he says. "There are some documents that are not meant to be made public; that is a matter of strict confidentiality and ethics. One group of people might read them and say, 'We told you that [the Americans] can not be trusted,' and another group might say, 'we always knew that these people [who talk privately with US diplomats] are rascals who are ready to sell out' their country," he says.
Some Russian politicians and anti-Kremlin activists may have reasons to fear seeing their private conversations with US diplomats being splashed all over cyberspace, say experts.
"Diplomats talk to people and send cables home, that's what they do," says Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute for Strategic Assessments in Moscow. "Sometimes they report on a single conversation, sometimes they describe aggregated discussions. But I think even with no names, it will be possible [for Russian security agencies] to trace a person they have talked to. In our country, such a person may well face accusations and moral condemnations."
The damage will be done even if the contents of a particular cable are based on hearsay or misinterpretation on the part of the diplomat who wrote it, Mr. Ryurikov says.
"Once I had a chance to have a look at a report of one European diplomat about a private conversation we'd had," he says. "I was surprised to see that it was distorted. I happened to meet him a couple of years later, and conveyed my feelings to him. He blushed and said it was his ambassador who made some corrections for some reasons of his own.... These things are always very delicate and potentially explosive."
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told journalists Thursday that the US government has long known that Wikileaks is in possession of secret diplomatic cables, and is bracing itself for a storm.
"We are gearing up for the worst-case scenario, that leaked cables will touch on a wide range of issues and countries," he said.
"We are in touch with our posts around the world. They have begun the process of informing governments that a release of documents is possible in the near future.... These revelations are going to create tensions on our relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world," Mr. Crowley added.